Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925

This website allows you to search millions of records from around fifty datasets, relating to the lives of 90,000 convicts from the Old Bailey. Use our site to search individual convict life archives, explore and visualise data, and learn more about crime and criminal justice in the past.

In December 2019 this website was updated with the addition of two datasets on convict tattoos and a new search feature allowing you to search by convict occupations. A substantial number of additional punishment outcomes have been linked to trials. We have made a number of corrections to convict genders and ages, and new visualisations have been added to the visualisation gallery.

58,002 convicts in this database had tattoos. You can now search for specific tattoos and for specific types of tattoos on specific parts of the body. You can also create visualisations of tattoo design by body location, tattoo subjects according to religion, tattoo designs by place of birth and tattoo designs by occupation.

Did male and female convicts get different types of tattoos?

Change visualisation View as hitlist

These pie charts allow you to compare the popularity of different tattoo subjects among male and female convicts in the 1830s. See all the results
Featured articles
[Anonymous], "Bow-Street Office", from The Microcosm of London (1808). From Wikimedia Commons.


The police played an important role in criminal justice throughout the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Many trials at the Old Bailey were the result of actions taken by policing agents and involved them giving testimony and sometimes acting as the prosecutor. Systems of policing were under a process of continual reform, particularly in the nineteenth century.

In the eighteenth century, many victims of crime identified and apprehended the culprits before they contacted a formal policing agent to secure the arrest. While victims of crime continued to identify and prosecute offenders late into the nineteenth century, individual responsibility for law enforcement declined in this period. Instead, increasing numbers of men were paid to carry out these tasks. London was policed by a variety of parish constables, watchmen, patrols, and officers attached to magistrates’ courts. These different "policing agents" had separate, but often overlapping, jurisdictions and roles. Find out more

See also

Before the trial
The Old Bailey criminal trial

[Anonymous], Head of a Judge. A Representation of the Ice, in the Fountain of Garden Court in the Temple (1795). © Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Judges Reports on Criminals

These records contain details of some 1,127 pardoning reports and letters written by the Recorder of London and other trial judges on individuals convicted at the Old Bailey between 1784 and 1827.

Unlike the rather closed practices of the judges’ circuit letters and the Recorder’s Report, which have left little historical record, the Home Office judges’ reports provide a wealth of information on offenders and pardoning decision-making in later eighteenth- and nineteenth-century London. The judges’ reports were nonetheless still “hidden” transcripts, written in private between powerful people who did not expect the convict to ever see the documents. In this way, the judges’ reports differ from the petitions made by, or on behalf of, the offender; public transcripts that were written by the powerless to the powerful which deliberately sought to shine the light of public scrutiny on the authorities’ decision-making. Find out more

See also

Petitions for pardon

Life of the week
Mina jury was a habitual thief whose criminal career spanned more than four decades. Mina experienced both transportation to Australia and penal servitude in England during her lifetime. Find out more
Data visualisations

You can turn any Digital Panopticon search into a visualisation by clicking the Visualise link above the search results.

You can also browse our visualisation gallery.

The Digital Panopticon is a Digital Transformations project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
A collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex and Tasmania, it is published by the Digital Humanities Institute.