Prison hulks in Portsmouth harbour
In this powerful painting, the line of prison ships forms a dark diagonal across the image from the left foreground to the centre of the picture. Behind these ships, to the south-east, lies the town of Portsmouth, its skyline visible against the sky in the centre, with Gosport to the right and the entrance to the Harbour in the centre. The loss of the American colonies in the 1770s as a place to send prisoners condemned to transportation, created an acute shortage of prison space. There was not time to build more prisons so as a temporary measure some ships were converted into prison hulks, which could easily be made secure although the conditions aboard their often-rotting hulls were tough. It was during the French Wars of 1793 to 1815 that the greatest use of hulks was made to accommodate additional prisoners of war.
- Image reference: BHC1923
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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