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Oh, We Weren't? Sorry. But, as long as you're here; Has anybody ever her of "Her Majesty's Convict Department"? Among my smattering of HMP insignia is a No 1 Dress belt buckle. It's quite heavy, non magnetic, and of a suspicious yellow color that resembles brand-new brass. In fact, it appears way too new. No honest wear anyplace. It's kind of cool, but I fear it's as phony as a three dollar bill. It came to me about thirty years ago from a collector in England who made no claims whatever about its authenticity. It's well made and begs the question: why would anyone take the trouble to counterfeit something that doesn't exist? Any opinions would be welcome. Thanks, Mike.

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Mike

Some quick searches on Google suggest that it is colonial. A Convict Department was certainly set up in Australia and, perhaps South Africa as well - PM Mervyn Mitton as he might like to comment on the SA connection.

Some links for you. This thread asks pretty much the same question you have,

http://www.britishbadgeforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=21042

Here is a cap badge (from the back, so the lettering is in reverse), with a similar design, from Australia,

http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=303337

Here is a newspaper article, dated 1836, concerning the setting up of the Convict Department in Australia,

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/3340027

I hope that helps.

Edited by Trooper_D
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Thanks Trooper D. Interesting reading. I did consider a Colonial origin, but with no evidentiary support, any theory is just a guess. Australia seems a likely candidate, but I'm having trouble trying to imagine the Aussie keepers, of that era, getting all dressed up in near-formal attire, which this buckle would surely suggest. It's like renting a tuxedo to enter a hog-wrestling contest. Maybe I'm just over-thinking this, or simply not thinking. Thanks again, Mike.

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... but I'm having trouble trying to imagine the Aussie keepers, of that era, getting all dressed up in near-formal attire, which this buckle would surely suggest.

Mike

I think it might be a mistake to think in terms of 'Aussies', with the informality that implies, during the nineteenth century. I'm sure that they would all think of themselves as 'Brits', with all the formality - including uniforms - that that implies!

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Trooper D is almost certainly correct  -  this will have a colonial background.  The pattern is a standard Victorian one and I suspect has been re-polished to get years of tarnish off.

I also suspect a link with South Africa  -  however, our Colonial Services tended to establish patterns that were used in many Colonies.     Mervyn

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These are two of the rarest Convict helmet plates for South Africa.  These are the Victorian and Edward 7th for Robben Island   -  which lies off Capetown.    Mandela was imprisoned there so it has become a mecca for tourists.

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Thanks Gents! Lots of good information. I still have some doubts, but I'll concede that this thing might be the real McCoy. Zeb, here's the pics you asked about:

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Edited by Mike McLellan
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  • 3 weeks later...

Collectorin the USA     -  welcome to GMIC and thankyou for sending the Parker  Field tipstaff engraved for an Inspector of Prisons.   This would have been for a Regional Appointment and he would have been in charge of a given district.   The pattern of tipstaff is around the 1870's.    H.M.Inspector of Prisons would have carried a more elaborate staff - and probably in Ivory.      Do you have any other examples  ?    Mervyn

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Collector, That is a beauty. There seem to be a lot tip staves out there, but very few of them hold any real interest to me, personally. As a prison officer with 25 years service, your tipstaff is one that I would call a "keeper". Very nice. Mike.

Edited by Mike McLellan
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With respect, not wishing to burst your bubble but it looks identical to the two I have which are brass. They are, considering Edward's short reign, surprisingly common. I don't know how many Prison Officers were employed in 1935/6 but judging by the number of these badges which are about I would guess that they must have had a good few hundred supplied.

Dave.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Mike,

 That is a very nice collection of badges you have. I wonder if you have any information on  the w/m HMP badge within the wreath it isn't UK but colonial to the best of my knowledge.

   As for the Edward VII badge they are fairly common to come across there is a female version in brass and w/m which the only examples I've ever seen  were in the Galleries of Justice Museum, Nottingham. 

 Finally the Prison Inspectors Tipstaff as you quite rightly pointed out was sold at auction in the West Midlands, UK for about £300 pounds to a dealer who subsequently sold it shortly after for £1000.00 not a bad profit. 

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Hi Oldscrew. I don't recall where that badge came from. I got it along with a small bag of colonial prison badges about 35 years ago, most of which I've long since parted with. I think that it was originally from Africa. I saved it because it's very similar to a badge I once saw on a very old woodcut print of a prison officer transporting a wagon load of prisoners. I think it started life mounted on a shako or similar head dress. It's still one of my favorites. Mike.

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These badges were apparently made in two sizes. One for a helmet/shako and the other for a cap ? I have never been able to find out which Colony they are from. That said, I have found that the prefix "HM" tended/tends to be used in the Caribbean Islands as opposed to the other territories who tend to use simply Prison Service prefixed by the name of the territory. See the two examples which I have in my collection. I suspect that they were somewhat "generic" being used by more than one Colony/Territory.

 

Dave.  

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Edited by Dave Wilkinson
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Hello both,

      Thank you very much for the information and the pictures.I had hoped very much that prison service badges would have been included in British Colonial Badges vols.1 & 2 by Barry, Margaret Renfrew and Bill Cranston but once again they were omitted ,the forgotten service.

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