PortCities London
UK Bristol Hartlepool Liverpool London Southampton
You are here:  PortCities London home > People and places
Text Only About this Site Feedback
Explore this site
About maritime London
Early port
Tudor and Stuart port
18th-century port
19th-century port
20th-century port
People and places
Port communities
Crime and punishment
Leisure, health and housing
Thames art, literature and architecture
The working Thames
London's docks and shipping
Trades, industries and institutions
Port of science and discovery
Historical events
Ceremony and catastrophe
London in war and conflict
Fun and games
Things to do
Timeline games
Matching games
Send an e-card

Prison hulks on the River Thames

The English penal system and transportation to the colonies
Establishment of the prison hulks
Hard labour
Life on board
George Barrington
Escapes and revolts
Penal reform and the end of the hulks
Send this story to a friend Send this story to a friend
Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version
View this story in pictures View this story in pictures


Transport to North America

Vaisseau monte par le capitaine Cook dans son dernier voyage. T.1er P.219. 2eme Edition 1838 Album Maritime
View full size imageThe Discovery convict ship at Deptford, c. 1829. © NMM
From the early 18th century until the American Revolution, Britain transported convicts each year to Maryland and Virginia.

The North American colonies declared their independence in 1776 and closed their ports to British prison ships. A crisis in the British criminal justice system followed.

Floating prisons

The hulk Warrior (1781) anchored off Woolwich
View full size imageThe hulk Warrior (1781) anchored off Woolwich. © NMM
Britain started converting old merchant ships and naval vessels into floating prisons known as hulks. Many of these were on the River Thames.

Convicts spent time on the hulks before being transported to Australia, the new destination for Britain's criminals.

Page 1 of 8. Next page


Find out more
StoriesThe 18th-century port
London becomes a centre of finance, commerce and industry
StoriesThe 19th-century port
Docks and industry transform the Thames
StoriesDeptford and Woolwich: London's Royal Dockyards
The rise and decline of Henry VIII's Dockyards
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
Legal & Copyright Partner sites: Bristol Hartlepool Liverpool Southampton About this Site Feedback Text Only