In his Report of the Commissioner of inquiry into the state of the colony of New South Wales, Commissioner John Thomas Bigge made the recommendation that any money belonging to and brought by the convicts should be taken and deposited into a savings bank account. Prior to this, convicts had been able to retain any money they brought with them for their own use, providing some convicts with the opportunity to ‘purchase’ a more comfortable life while serving their sentence in the colony.
Following the implementation of Bigge’s recommendation, the Surgeons-Superintendent of the convict transport ships were entrusted with the safekeeping of convict monies. Upon arrival, the funds were deposited into the NSW Savings Bank, established by Robert Campbell in Sydney in 1819. Once an account had been opened by an individual, friends and family were also permitted to deposit money into the account. A convict could also earn money for extra work or duties performed during their period of servitude.
Generally, the money in these accounts could not be accessed by convicts until they could show proof of reformation; receiving a ticket of leave, a pardon or completing their sentence. Only in some special circumstances were convicts permitted to apply to withdraw money from their account.
Convict Savings Bank Books 1824-1886 contains the following: Ledger A 1824-1849; Ledger B 1830-1868; and Ledger of Cash Entries 1824-1827 (with relevant correspondence from the Colonial Secretary’s Office in Sydney to the Principal Superintendent of Convicts).
Ledger Books A & B are arranged by ship of arrival and record the following information:
- Name of convict
- Interest earned
- Principal amount
- Payment information
The Cash Book is arranged alphabetically by convict surnames and records the following information:
- Ship of arrival
- Name of convict
- Amount of cash
- Remarks regarding payment information
Some of the above information was taken from the “Historical Background” section of the Index to convict bank accounts, 1837-70, State Records Authority of New South Wales