Prison hulks were floating prisons used from 1776 as temporary accommodation for prisoners from overcrowded jails.

A hulk is a ship that is still afloat but unable to put to sea. The ships were decommissioned and converted warships.

Conditions aboard the ships were unhealthy and unhygienic.

Prisoners in the hulks were generally employed during the day on public and building works.

Physician standing next to convict on a bed in the prison hulk Justitia

Attributed to G. Cruikshank by Rex Nan Kivell, [Death of a convict on the hulk Justitia], 183?, nla.obj-135886659

After sentence, some convicts spent time on a prison hulk awaiting transportation. A prison hulk was a decommissioned ship used for housing prisoners. Hulks moored in the Thames, Plymouth Harbour or other ports.


Australian Joint Copying Project

Register of convicts on the Cumberland, 1830 - 1833 (File 418. AJCP Reel No: 1760)

IND 10706/1 Convicts on the Cumberland: alphabetical list, 1830 - 1833 (File (419). AJCP Reel No: 1761)

Register of convicts on the Dolphin, 1819 - 1830 (File 420. AJCP Reel No: 1760)

Register of convicts on the Dolphin, 1819 - 1834 (File 421. AJCP Reel No: 1760)

Convicts on the Dolphin: description book, 1819 - 1834 (File 422. AJCP Reel No: 1760-1761)

IND 10706/2 Convicts on the Dolphin: alphabetical list, 1819 - 1834 (File (423). AJCP Reel No: 1761)


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Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849

This record set includes lists of prisoners on the hulks. Information about prisoners may include:

  • name
  • date received
  • age
  • birth year
  • date convicted
  • where convicted.

Microfilm and other resources

Criminal: Convict prisons, miscellaneous registers [HO 9] 1802- 1849

The Prison Hulk Registers and Letterbooks have also been microfilmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP).

Prison Commission Registers: Index to reels 5971-5991 & Prison books [P Com 2] 1779-1871

Lists of prisoners on hulks are also available in the records of the UK Prison Commission at Prison books [P Com 2] 1779-1871 in the AJCP collection. The records are indexed by name in Prison Commission Registers: Index to reels 5971-5991.

Information in the Prison Books includes:

  • name, age, marital status, number of children
  • ability to read and/or write and trade or profession
  • when received and from which prison
  • place and date of conviction
  • description of crime and previous convictions
  • special remarks and accounts of visits
  • references to Misconduct Book and Governor's Journal
  • when removed and to where.

Accounts of visits can sometimes include names, addresses and ages of family members.

You can view the index and microfilms of the AJCP in the Library's Newspapers and Family History zone. If you can't make it to the Library, you can Ask a Librarian.