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ARTEFACT OF THE MONTH: ‘The Hated Stain’



Caiti D'Gluyas

One of the most significant finds from the 2002 Casselden Place, Melbourne, archaeological investigations (50 Lonsdale Street) was a medal struck to commemorate the Cessation of Convict Transportation (see images below, source: GML Heritage). The medal commemorates not only the victory of the anti-transportation movement but also the 50th anniversary of the founding of Tasmania on 10th August 1853.

The medal's design was approved by the Anti-Transportation League committee in 1853 before being fabricated in England. The medals finally arrived in Australia for distribution in 1855. The medal features James Wyon's portrait of Queen Victoria on one side, with the reverse showing the armorial bearings for Tasmania in a shield. James Wyon was a resident engraver at the Royal Mint and is best known for engraving the dies for sovereigns and half-sovereigns at the new Sydney branch of the Royal Mint. The shield is quartered by the Southern Cross and bears pastoral, commercial and agricultural emblems supported by the emu and kangaroo, surmounted by a rising sun motif.

The medal was cast in three different metals. One single medal was struck in gold for presentation to Queen Victoria, 100 were struck in bronze for committee members and 9000 were struck in white metal for general distribution. The medal recovered from Casselden Place appears to be a bronze issue. Many of the white metal medals went to Tasmanian school children. At the cessation celebrations, each child was given a piece of cake and a ticket enabling them to receive a medal, once they had arrived in the colony. On 3 August 1855, 9000 medals arrived in Launceston and 4000 were immediately dispatched to Hobart. Another 3000 were held in Launceston and 2000 were distributed to Green Ponds, Norfolk Plains, Ross, Evandale, Longford and other country districts.

The medal is now in the collection of Museum Victoria as part of a set of archaeological assemblages from the ‘Little Lon’ precinct. The most recent and concluding historical archaeological excavation at ‘Little Lon’ was undertaken between April and July 2017 for the 271 Spring Street development. An interpretation scheme for this excavation is currently being prepared by GML Heritage and will draw together the multiple phases of archaeological investigation that has occurred within the precinct. The medal provides an opportunity to interpret a fascinating story about ‘the hated stain’ of transportation.

References:
McNeice, R 1990, Tasmanian commemorative medals and medallions 1853–1900: A collector's handbook, Taroona.
Mint Issue September 2003, Royal Australia Mint.