Culture and heritage


The Third Great Seal of NSW 1827 - 1832

This illustration shows the Third Great Seal issued during the reign of King George IV. This seal was attached to an official document commissioning John Dight as a Coroner in NSW, dated on the King's Birthday (4th June) 1828.

The clarity of the wax impression, in which the design can be clearly seen, indicates that the shortage of sealing wax in Governor Phillip's time had been overcome. This was the last Great Seal to carry the convict design and motto in this form covering the whole of the obverse (front) of the seal. The fourth seal, issued during the reign of King William IV (1832-1837), arranged these convict elements in the bottom half of the seal, with the Royal Arms in the upper section.

As the demands in Britain and NSW for the cessation of transportation were growing, the symbolism of the seals began to reduce the emphasis on the colony's convict character and began to show the overarching relationship with the Crown. Gullick attributes this to a conscious reflection of the evolution from penal settlement to colony (1907: 7-10; 1914: 19). However, this interpretation should not be taken too literally: the seals of other British colonies were also changing to a similar, standardised Empire-wide form during King William's reign. These include the seals of Newfoundland, Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Upper Canada, which show the Royal Arms above a colonial emblem. This is sometimes referred to as the 'Newfoundland Pattern' (Swan 1977: 89)

Upon Queen Victoria's accession in 1837 the Great Seal of NSW retained the form of King William's seal, but omitted the convict motto: Sic fortis etruria crevit. No explanation was given, although the anti-transportation campaigns were having an effect in Britain and NSW. Convict redemption symbolised in the seal of 1790 had been replaced by an emphasis on reform and punishment, and the end of convictism itself was now being demanded.

Some questions to research:
  1. What were the symbols used by the growing anti-transportation movement in NSW during the 1830s and 40s?
  2. How much can the changing forms of the NSW seals be attributed to local demands, and how much to Imperial needs?

Image Source: State Library of NSW, Digital a1328002 State Library of NSW, Picman

Page last updated: 01 September 2012