Friday, 12 October 2012

12th October 1812: The prisoner, Thomas Holden, writes from the prison hulk, HMS Portland at Portsmouth

On Monday 12th October 1812, the convicted Luddite prisoner Thomas Holden wrote to his family from aboard the prison hulk HMS Portland, at Langstone near Portsmouth:
An opportunity at last offers itself of sending you a faint description of the place I am in.

In the first place we are ironed on both legs, which irons we must wear for five or six years, and then we will have a lighter iron on one leg until our time is out.

As to our living, it is very bad. We have nothing but oatmeal and barley boiled for our breakfast and supper night and morning for our whole time; and we have about half a pound of very bad beef and a pound and a quarter of brown bread four days a week for dinner, and the other three days we have the same bread and seven ounces of very bad cheese. This is our living. I can buy an allowance of bread for three-halfpence from a fellow prisoner, but we are not allowed the least communication with free people.

This is from Tomlinson (1967, p.105).

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