|Location||Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia|
|Closed||8 November 1991|
|Designated:||2010 (34th session)|
|Part of:||Australian Convict Sites|
Fremantle Prison is a former Australian prison on The Terrace, Fremantle, in Western Australia. The 6-hectare (15-acre) site includes the prison, gatehouse, perimeter walls, cottages, tunnels, and prisoner art. The prison was one of 11 former convict sites in Australia inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010 as the Australian Convict Sites. 
The prison was built by convict labour in the 1850s, and transferred to the colonial government in 1886 for use as a gaol for locally-sentenced prisoners. It closed as a prison in 1991 and reopened as a historic site. It is now a public museum, managed by the Government of Western Australia with daily and nightly tours being operated. Some tours include information about the possible existence of ghosts within the prison. There are also tours of the flooded tunnels and aqueducts under the prison.
The prison is also widely referred to as Fremantle Gaol.
- 1 Architecture
- 2 History
- 3 Prison operation
- 4 Restoration and tourism
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Fremantle Prison was built on a land grant of about 36 acres (15 ha) from limestone quarried on-site. A 15 feet (4.6 m) talk boundary wall encloses the prison grounds, with a gatehouse in the centre of the western wall, facing The Terrace. Cottages, which housed prison workers and officials, are located outside the wall either side of the gatehouse. Inside the walls, the parade ground is located east of the gatehouse, in between it and the Main Cell Block at the centre of the site, which contains two chapels. North of the main block is the New Division cells, and west of that, in the north-western corner, is the Women's Prison, formerly the cookhouse, bakehouse and laundry. The hospital was located in the north-eastern corner, while workshops were located in the south-eastern corner, as well as to the north of the gatehouse. A system of underground tunnels run under the eastern edge of the site.
Houses on The Terrace
North of the gatehouse, located at 2, 4, and 6 The Terrace are cottages built in Victorian style. Number 10 is a double-story house, initially built in 1853 for the Chaplain, but was taken over by the Superintendent in 1878 and was later part of the prison administration. Number 12, and adjoining single-story finished in 1854, was the home of the Gatekeeper. Number 16 The Terrace is a double-story house that accommodated first the Prison Superintendent, and later on the Resident Magistrate. It remained in-use as housing for prison officers until the 1970s. Number 18 is the southernmost house on The Terrace, and a mirror image of number 8, the northernmost of the initial buildings. The design of these houses featured two sitting rooms, three bedrooms, two dressing rooms, as well as a kitchen, water closet and shed.
The Gatehouse and associated entry complex was constructed between 1854 and 1855 using convict labour. It was designed by Royal Engineer Edmund Henderson, and constructed out of limestone. It has remained a significant feature and landmark since the closure of the prison, as the main entrance, and housing a café and office areas.
Main Cell Block
The Main Cell Block was designed to hold up to 1000 prisoners. It wa constructed by convicts in the 1850s, and there have been few changes since that time. The central, four-storey high cell block is flanked on either end by large dormitory wards, called the Association Rooms. Here, as many as 80 men slept in hammocks, either as a reward for good behaviour or because they would soon receive their Ticket of Leave. In contrast, the cells were a confining space measuring just 7 by 4 feet (2.1 by 1.2 m). While each cell initially had a basin connected to running water, the installation was before the advent of S-bends; the smells coming up the pipes lead to their removal by the 1860s. In the 1890, the cells were made larger by removing a dividing wall from between two cells. Electric lighting was installed in the 1920s, but there were never any toilets – buckets were for the duration of the prison's operation. Since the prison's closure, six cells have been restored to represent the varying living conditions at different times in the prison's history. The main block also houses solitary confinement, the gallows and two chapels.
At the centre of the Main Cell Block is the Anglican Chapel, whose windows were the only ones without bars, while the Catholic Chapel was put into the upper northern Association Ward in 1861. Behind the Anglican chapel altar, there is a painted representation of the Ten Commandments. The words to the sixth commandment use the unusual translation of "thou shalt do no murder" rather than "thou shalt not kill," the more common interpretation in the Church of England. Given that the gallows were still in regular use, it was felt that "thou shalt not kill" would have been hypocritical.:27 The most notable feature in the church is the face of child-murderer Martha Rendell, which can be seen on the outside of the window but not on the inside.
Fremantle Prison's New Division was constructed between 1904 and 1907, as a response to overcrowding. It also allowed prison administrators to implement the "separate system", whereby prisoners were completely isolated for the first three months of their sentence. The divisions exercise yard initially used a panopticon to facilitate this concept during the prisoners' hour of exercise each day. The system wasn't successful, and considered a dated prisoner management strategy, leading the removed within five years. The New Division was the first to have electricity, with underground wiring. During World War Two, the Australian Army appropriated the New Division, to keep prisoners separate from the main population, and for those condemned to death. In 1994 the building was retrofitted to cater for offices, small business premises, and meeting rooms.
The north-western complex was originally a service area with a cookhouse, bakehouse and laundry, built in the 1850s. A place for women prisoners was needed following the closure of Perth Gaol and the transfer of prisoners to Fremantle. The buildings were converted to a prison, and a wall built around them, creating Western Australia's first separate prison for women. Population and crime growth saw them extended in the 1890s and 1910s. The construction Bandyup Women's Prison saw Fremantle's Women’s Prison close in 1970. The space was used for education and assessment until the main prison's closure in 1991.
The hospital, built between 1857 and 1859, was a crucial component of Fremantle Prison. Public works during the convict era relied on convict labour, which could only be provided if the convicts were healthy. From 1886 to 1903, medical services were relocated to the main cell block, with the former building used to keep invalids and female prisoners. The hospital was refurbished, and reopened in 1904; it subsequently remained in continuous operation until the prison's closure in 1991.
The prison's workshops provided activities and training for the prisoners. They also reduced the cost of maintenance, repairs, and construction by providing an in-house service. The original workshop was a blacksmith's shop, one of the first buildings to be constructed on the prison site. Later known as the East Workshops, other workshops included carpenter's, plumber's and painter's, a printing office, and from the 1950s, a metal shop. The West Workshops were built at the start of the twentieth century, providing more work for prisoners through a paint shop, mat maker, shoe maker, book binder and tailor shop.
During construction of the buildings, six deep shafts were sunk into the limestone bedrock to the east of the main building to provide the prisoners with fresh water from a limestone aquifer. The quality of the water proved better than that in the town and prisoners were soon pumping, by hand, up to 55 megalitres (12×106 imp gal) of water per year from prison reservoirs to the colony and to ships berthing at the developing port. In 1888 a steam pump was installed to take over the work. In 1896, a series of tunnels or Horizontal Drives were constructed 20 metres under the prison to provide a greater surface area allowing more water to be drawn. The work was carried out using prison labour in poor conditions. The accessible tunnels run for over 1 kilometre; however, by 1910 the tunnels system was no longer needed and was sealed, leaving tools and construction equipment in place. The tunnels became the subject of many urban myths in the local area.
Within a few months of the founding of the Swan River Colony in June 1829 by free-settlers, there was a need for a prison to lock up criminals. There was little infrastructure for the settlers, let alone criminals, so the shipwrecked Marquis of Angelsea, just off the coast from South Beach, was used as a makeshift prison. This arrangement was quite arduous for the sheriff, who spent much of his time rowing a small boat, either to transfer prisoners or bring over their meals. It wasn't until September 1930 that work started on a new prison at the west end of High Street: the twelve-sided Round House on Arthur Head.:13–14
While the Swan River Colony was established as a "free settlement", by the 1840s the early reluctance to accept Britain's convicts was overcome. Cheap convict labour could overcome the significant shortage of manpower in the colony. However, the arrival of the first convict ship Scindian on 2 June 1850 was unexpected. While a sailing ship had been sent ahead to inform of the pending arrival of seventy-five convicts, it had been blown off course. The Round House was full to capacity, almost overflowing, so the convicts had to be left on the ship. There was also no prepared accommodation for the warders, pensioner guards, Captain Edward Walcott Henderson, Comptroller-General of Convicts, or his clerk, James Manning. Rents for accommodation in Fremantle quickly rose due to the sudden increase in demand, leaving Henderson paying more for his basic lodgings in Fremantle than for his house in London.:18–20 Eventually Henderson leased two properties in Essex Street for £250 per year, at the site of the modern-day Esplanade Hotel. He used his convicts to convert the buildings into a temporary prison. Meanwhile, Henderson was looking for a site to build a permanent convict establishment. Whilst he favoured Mount Eliza due to it's height, which gave it pleasing vistas and supposedly healthier air, Governor Charles Fitzgerald rejected that proposal. Henderson ultimately settled on the current site on a hill overlooking Fremantle.:21–22
Henderson's initial design for Fremantle Priosn was based on the Pentonville Prison in Britain. Pentoville, designed by Joshua Jebb, used the "separate system" that isolated prisoners in nearly complete, to encourage reflection on their crimes.:23–24 Jebb reviewed Henderson's plans in 1951, and to reduce the cost, he changed the two diagonal cell blocks that mimicked Pentonville into a four-storey linear structure, which would be the longest, tallest prison cell block in the southern hemisphere.:2 Construction began soon afterwards, supervised by Henderson, Manning, and Royal Engineer lieutenant Henry Wray, who had arrived with another convict ship. Within eighteen months of the Scindian 's arrival, the convict population had grown to almost 1000. In 1855 convicts began to be moved into The Establishment, as the prison was then known as, but the project would not be completed until 1859.:22
Works rapidly progressed following the arrival of Wray in 1951 with the Royal Engineers, known as the sappers. They trained convict to work with limestone, which was quarried on-site.:4 Soft stone was used to fill in swamps around Fremantle, and when the better quality stone ran out, quarries were opened at nearby sites such as Arthur Head.:7 The first part to be constructed was a ramp connecting the town to the prison site. The graded and limestone-capped slope would later become Fairbairn Street.:2 Once completed, the priority was the construction of accommodation for Henderson and the prison warders to relieve the expense of paying for private lodging. Cottages were built along Henderson Street in 1851, and Henderson's residence, a sizable building known as The Knowle, was completed in 1953, some distance away from the other buildings, in the modern-day grounds of Fremantle Hospital. Houses for the senior staff were also constructed in the 1950s. They were situated at the front of the prison site, along the road then known as The Esplande (modern day The Terrace).:3
The prison walls were constructed began in 1853, and the site for the Main Cell Block was excavated and levelled. Once the walls were completed in 1855, the only opening was in the western side. This gap was where the gatehouse and associated entry complex was built in 1854 and 1855. The main gate was in place in 1855, while the London-made clock for the top of the structure was installed a year later. In 1986, a mini tornado toppled most of the northern boundary wall, and extensive work was undertaken to rebuild and widen the walls.:4–5
The Main Cell Block was built in two stages. Construction of the southern half of the block began in 1953, and most of the masonry works were finished within a year. The section was finished in 1855, including the association wards, a circular jarrah stairwell, and 18 solitary confinement cells in the Refractory Block. However, iron fittings for the guardrails, which had been ordered from England three years previously, still had not arrived. Anxious for the new cell block to start being use, Henderson ordered that doors and rails be locally, with iron salvaged from convict transport ships. The obvious transition between the local and imported railing now marks the transition between the southern and northern wings Prisoners were transferred from the temporary South Beach prison on 1 June 1855.:7
Construction of the northern wing followed, and by the start of 1957, the foundations were laid, and 40% of the masonry works were done. However, the Crimean War saw Royal Engineers recalled. Prisoners were left to finish the building, under the direction of Wray as Henderson was on leave in England. Much of the work was completed that year, including the remaining masonry, basement, slating the roof, and paving the corridor. While Henderson had wanted single cells, Wray conceded to the Governor's lobying for additional capacity. He adjusted the design to include some double-width cells housing three prisoners, and triple-width cells holding five prisoners, allowing an additional 40 prisoners to be accommodated. Another measure that increased capacity was the lengthening of the northern wing by 6 feet (1.8 m). The justification was to mirror the southern wing, which had also been constructed 6 feet (1.8 m) longer than planned, due to inaccurate surveying. However, this also caused the project to run over budget. Stairs, guard railings, and doors were installed in 1858, and the prison was completed by the end of 1859, with Henderson back from leave and back in charge.:8
Gold rush era
In 1868, penal transportation ceased in Western Australia. Numbers of transported convicts gradually declined; the prison came under the control of the colonial government and was renamed Fremantle Prison in 1886. Locally-sentenced male and female prisoners were moved from Perth gaol to the site which became the largest prison in Western Australia. Transportation had already ceased in the other colonies by 1853. The old prison bakery was converted into the women's prison to accommodate this new role. It held up to 60 women until 1970, when the women's section closed and the inmates were transferred to Bandyup Women's Prison, north-east of Perth. The former women's section then became the prisoner assessment centre.
In 1907, after the gold rushes in Western Australia and the rapid population growth in the area, the prison was expanded with the construction of New Division to the north, built by contractors with stone from quarries at Rottnest Island. In the yard of this section, a panopticon was built, influenced by Jeremy Bentham's concept. This area also contains Death Row.
During World War I and World War II, the Australian Army took over part of the prison and used it as a military prison from September 1939 until June 1946. Nearby Rottnest Island was also used to hold prisoners and prisoners-of-war during war time.
Fremantle Prison was decommissioned on 8 November 1991. Prisoners were transferred to Casuarina Prison about 30 km south of Perth, which opened the same year. Casuarina Prison replaced the 130-year-old Fremantle Prison as the state's main maximum-security prison. The buildings remained the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing and Works and the complex was leased for ten years to a conservation group, the Fremantle Guardians, who successfully ran tours around the buildings. After the lease expired in 2001, the state government again took control and embarked on a long-term plan for the future conservation of the site.
The network of tunnels under the prison was opened to the public on 7 June 2005.
Thomas Hill Dixon held the position of Superintendent of Convicts for nine years, running Fremantle Prison and the convict system. Together with the Comptroller General Edmund Henderson, he created a reforming, humane convict system for Western Australia. He instituted a system of training convicts in a trade, and he adapted Western Australia's legal situation to the marks system used by Alexander Maconochie in the Norfolk Island penal system. He was opposed to flogging and favoured the introduction of female convicts into Western Australia.
Cell sizes were increased by knocking down the inner wall between two cells after changes were ordered following a Royal Commission held in the 1890s. At the same time, the prison was divided into several parts. In the main block, four divisions were created:
- One Division—Short sentences, remand prisoners, and (up until 1970) juveniles as young as 13 years old.
- Two Division—Serious crimes without violence.
- Three Division—Violent offenders.
- Four Division—Murderers and long-term men.
Once construction of the prison's wings, perimeter walls and associated buildings was complete, convicts were often used in chain gangs for other public works in the Fremantle and surrounding Perth area, for example, Perth Town Hall and Fremantle Asylum. During this period the prison was named the Convict Establishment, although known locally and informally as the Limestone Lodge.
Prisoner punishments included solitary confinement and lashings in the exercise yard. Michal Bosworth writes that staff disliked giving the lashings and reports on a remission in lashes ordered in 1853, "because no one could be found to carry out the punishment." However, the last flogging occurred in 1943.
The gallows room was the only legal place of execution in Western Australia between 1888 and 1965, with 43 men and one woman hanged in this period, the last being Eric Edgar Cooke. Aside from hanging, other punishments for lesser crimes included solitary confinement and lashings in the exercise yard.
Sixty-two members of the Fenian Brotherhood arrived at Fremantle in 1867. Many were pardoned over the years; however, in 1876 six managed to escape and fled aboard the Catalpa whaleboat to New York. John Boyle O'Reilly was a Fenian political prisoner who escaped to the United States.
A riot occurred on 4 June 1968, precipitated by the serving of allegedly contaminated food to prisoners the previous evening. Other factors that contributed were the rudimentary and deplorable state of sanitation and personal cleanliness facilities, tougher sentencing introduced with the Parole Act of 1964 which did not take rehabilitation potential into account, and the overcrowded and purposeless life of many prisoners. When the work bell was rung at 1 pm, prisoners rebelled. Refusing to go back to work, the prisoners assembled themselves in the exercise yards. The prison superintendent Mr Thorpe negotiated with two depuatations of prisoners. As well as better food, they demanded singles cells and the dismissal of specific wardens. After approximately three hours, the negotiations broke down, and that night's evening meal was withheld. That caused the prisoners to riot, breaking fittings, injuring three prison officers, three prisoners, and a detective. Additional police and warders arrived at 5 pm, but too seven hours subdue the prisoners, with the last of them locked in their cells just after midnight. The extent damage was in the order of £200 to £300. To relieve the overcrowding and reduce prisoner agitation, around 60 men who had not taken part in the riot were transferred to prisons at Albany, Geraldton, Karnet, and Barton's Hill. However, other improvements could not be udertaken without state government funding, which did not consider prison reform a priority.
On 4 January 1988, with recorded inside temperatures of 52.2 °C (126 °F), a prison riot took place. Seventy prisoners took over four and three divisions, taking 15 officers hostage. The riots led to a large fire damaging three and four divisions causing A$1.8 million of damage.
Restoration and tourism
In August 2005, work began on the restoration of the prison gatehouse area. Poor-quality concrete rendering was removed and the original stonework was revealed in October 2005. The work is the start of a three-year plan to halt the deterioration of the buildings and preserve them for the future.
Fremantle Prison is currently the best preserved convict-built prison in the country and became the first building in Western Australia to be listed on the Australian National Heritage List. The Australian Federal Heritage Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, stated that it would be included in a nomination of eleven convict areas to become World Heritage Sites.
Policy dictates the prison is used for the benefit of the community without damaging the fabric of the site. Since 1992, the prison has operated as a heritage museum, and by 2005 the prison was attracting more than 130,000 visitors every year. The Anglican Chapel is currently visited on tours and used for wedding services; New Division is used as a New Business Enterprise Centre; the hospital is now home to the Fremantle Children's Literature Centre.
Guided tours run daily through the site. Torchlight tours are also held twice weekly. Ramps are provided to enable disabled access through the ground floors of the prison; however, some upper levels are inaccessible. On tunnels tours visitors can walk and paddle through the tunnels by boat. Visitors descend 20 metres down a set of vertical ladders attached with harnesses and need to be fairly fit. A gift shop and restaurant also operate. The prison is closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.
The prison art gallery, a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Works, showcases and offers for sale the artworks of current and ex-prisoners of Western Australia. Art therapy has been used within the prison for education and rehabilitation.
Additionally many cells and areas of the prison depict prisoners' artwork, including that of the 19th-century forger James Walsh, whose artwork was hidden beneath layers of white-wash for decades. Painting or drawing on walls was originally forbidden, however, this rule was relaxed in special cases where art was found to calm violent prisoners, and was relaxed generally towards the end of the life of the facility.
A more contemporary prison artist was Dennis (NOZ) Nozworthy, who stated that he found art on death row. Some of his work currently is held in the collections of Curtin University, Perth Central TAFE, and the WA Government, Department of Justice.
Fremantle Prison Collection
The Fremantle Prison Collection contains around 15,000 items associated with the prison's site, history, or the experiences of its workers and prisoners.
- Convict era of Western Australia
- The Hougoumont
- List of allegedly haunted locations
- Round House - Also located in Fremantle, built in 1830, and used as a prison for colonial and indigenous prisoners until 1886.
- Perth Gaol
- Notable prisoners:
- "World heritage status for Fremantle Prison". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 August 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Sandra Murray (2009) pages 391, 392 of Gregory, Jenny; Gothard, Janice; Gregory, Jenny; Gothard, Jan (2009), Historical Encyclopedia of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, ISBN 978-1-921401-15-2
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Before and After Images". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 May 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
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- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Chapels". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 4 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
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- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Gatehouse". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Main Cell Block". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Ayris, Cyril (2003). Fremantle Prison: A Brief History. Cyril Ayris Freelance (published 1995). ISBN 978-0-9581882-1-0.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "New Division". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Hospital". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "East Workshops". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "West Workshops". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Appleyard, R. T. and Toby Manford (1979). The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia. Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0.
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "Building The Convict Establishment" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 5 February 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Fremantle Prison National Heritage Values. Accessed 14 January 2006.
- Things to see in Fremantle Accessed 14 January 2006.
- Fremantle - Western Australia The Age. Retrieved 18 June 2011
- Michal Bosworth (2004). Convict Fremantle: a Place of Promise and Punishment. University of WA Press: Printing Press. (book review) ISBN 1-920694-33-1
- Fremantle Prison Website Entry on The Fenians Accessed 14 January 2006..
- Stokes, Nancy P. (November 1968). Human Geography Thesis on Fremante Prison (M.A. thesis). Grayands Teachers College.
- Commemoration, Voices & Museums Report Accessed 30 April 2006.
- Fremantle Prison, a brief history Cyril Ayris ISBN 0-9581882-1-1
- WA's first National Heritage listing Accessed 14 January 2006.
- Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts: Dennis (NOZ) Nozworthy Accessed 6 February 2006.
- "Revisiting the Prison: Museums in a Penal Landscape" Dr Sylvia Kleinert, Associate Professor of Australian Indigenous Art (rtf document)
- The Department of Finance – Building Management and Works. "The Fremantle Prison Collection". Fremantle Prison. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 13 May 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Fremantle Prison official site
- Western Australian Convicts 1850-1868
- Australian National Heritage Listing for Fremantle Prison