Convicts in the garden?

Aussie icons series

Old disused veggie garden 2012

When we moved to our land three years ago we set about cleaning up ‘the garden’. It’s 2 and a bit acres, so it’s still very much a work in progress.

Twenty year old trees needed to be thinned, some dead, most crowded. The place had been vacant for a few months so the grass was knee high and the veggie garden overgrown with weeds and blackberries. We are still uncovering and discovering some delightful finds after three years.

But the MOST exciting, the most dumb-struck-speechless-blink-eyes discovery was this:

I was removing the bricks that lined the old veggie beds and stacking them in a pile when I noticed that some I picked up looked very old and worn, handmade, with lumps and bumps.    

Old bricks found in veggie garden

Garden surprise


I’m no expert but I recognised their age straight away. And when I had a closer look I found the magic frog mark of Australian royalty … the convict broad arrow mark.

Convict bricks with arrow head markings

Convict broad arrow marking

Convict broad arrow mark?

Convict bricks are marked in a number of ways but the most well-known is the broad arrow imprint – the same shape that was printed on convict uniforms.

When I say ‘convict’ in Australia we mean from 1788 to the 1850s, the (mostly) British and Irish criminals transported to the penal colonies down under.

Australian convicts made bricks either as part of government work gangs or when assigned as servants to a land owner. It was forced labour as part of their penal sentence.

Given that I’m a little bit of a history buff, finding these bricks in my veggie patch made my eyes mist over!

Our house is a modern one but we do have some history on our place – the fence alone is ancient! And I’ve dug up bits of older metal and crockery here and there.

Convict bricks showing arrow head mark and layers of clay

Old mud pies!

But the convict period represents the first 70 years of European settlement in Australia. I know that’s not very old by European standards but it would be the equivalent of finding the foundations of a Roman villa? … Rare, anyway!

So this pile of just a few bricks – some convict bricks, also other colonial? or Victorian and Federation bricks? – is quite a find in my Aussie books!

I don’t think the bricks are original to the site? They may have been brought in as a lot of second-hand bricks to make the veggie beds. But where did they come from?

Looks like I need to do some more ‘digging’!  

If anyone knows anything about the other brick types I would love to hear your thoughts.

Old bricks with convict and other markings

Hidden treasure!


Convicts, Aussie icons series

– To mark Australia Day on January 26, my posts this week have featured Aussie cultural icons.


15 comments on “Convicts in the garden?

  1. thriftypop says:

    Wow, what a find! What are you going to do with the bricks now you’ve dug them up?

    • Yes, I was Very excited! The bricks are out of the weather for now. And I’ve joined the local historical society so I can research our block.
      From first efforts, it maybe looks like the land once belonged to Hamilton Hume the explorer! (like a lot of land around here).

  2. I love digging up old things – for me its bits of old metal from the Smithy and an inordinate amount of beautiful broken china! Rough lot maybe?

  3. pilbra says:

    Wonderful congrats on the find

  4. […] couple of years ago I found some convict bricks in my veggie patch. It got me thinking about the Australian ‘royal blood’ or convict blood in my family […]

  5. […] – I found some convict bricks in my veggie patch. […]

  6. A.D. Everard says:

    What an amazing find! I didn’t know about the arrow marks. I’ve seen old bricks, none with arrow marks, mind, but I shall keep an eye open for them now.

    Man! When I think of all the old houses we have lived in! What have I missed? What? What?!


    • I guess the previous owners of our place didn’t realise either. It’s only that I have an interest in convicts and their buildings, that I knew. They had lots of different marks apparently (didn’t know that) – diamonds, or even just the trowel imprint and also thumb prints.
      Ah love old houses! lucky you. CC

    • A.D. Everard says:

      Okay, so the trick is to look for hand-made bricks, then check them for a marker. They would certainly still be around when you think about it. Even broken bricks get reused.

      I really do love this! 😀

    • It’s now got me looking at neighbour’s retaining walls and garden edging! 🙂 There are some very old properties in town (Yass) and so many connected with Hamilton Hume. Love it!

    • A.D. Everard says:

      You realize you will get a reputation for looking over the fence. 😛 Just teasing. I can see this interest of yours building to fire everyone with enthusiasm. Makes you wonder what else is to be found. 🙂

    • Ha. No, it’s a lovely country town so every one loves to talk and tell me what they know. You just have to ask.
      And I’ve joined the local historical society. They want articles for the journal so I’ll get them on the hunt too! cheerio, CC

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