Australian convict history in London – a memorial (aka Plaque in park)

Towards the end of 2010, my husband and I were in London for the final week of an overseas holiday. We had made various plans for the day ahead, but a beautifully clear and sunny day caused us to revise our plans and we decided ultimately to stroll across Vauxhall Bridge towards Westminster. Shortly after crossing the Thames we came to this unprepossessing park and happend to notice a plaque on a ballard which we stopped to look at. We were so surprised to discover that it commemorated the departure point for “all” prisoners who were transported to Australia  -departing from nearby Millbank Prison. http://www.victorianlondon.org/prisons/millbankprison.htm

The plaque states:

London County Council

Near this site stood Millbank Prison which was opened in 1816 and closed in 1880. This buttress stood at the head of the river steps from which until 1867, prisoners sentenced to transportation embarked on their journey to Australia.

This was especially exciting for my husband since he had a young convict ancestor, James McKenna, who had been transported after the relatively “modern” and tolerant re-training at Pentonville Prison.  http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/convicts/

James McKenna’s mother, Elizabeth and his siblings emigrated to Australia almost immediately after his transportation so it seems they may have made arrangements to come as soon as his sentence was passed. Although the family originated in Ireland, they had been living in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire for some time previous to his offence.