Australia’s convict history is well known but did you also know that capital punishment was still in effect in Western Australia as uncomfortably recently as 1984? On a recent trip to Perth I thought I would investigate with a trip to Fremantle Prison.
As first impressions go, Fremantle Prison does not disappoint. The striking gatehouse and perimeter walls, despite being built of what turned out to be rapidly deteriorating limestone (oops), give an impressively solid appearance.
Those convicts who thought the journey from Britain was harsh had another thing coming. When they arrived in the blistering heat of the Swan River Colony (now Perth) in 1850 the first thing the flimsy poms had to do was build the prison that would become their incarceration. They had their work cut out; Fremantle Prison is the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia and remains the best preserved in the country. The prison was decommissioned in 1991, after over 100 years of administering punishment and 44 hangings.
|One of the cell blocks at Fremantle Prison, Australia|
Fremantle Prison offers several tours. The basic tour offers a guided history, peppered with stories and anecdotes, of the arrivals and initial prisoner processing rooms, as well as the cell blocks, chapel, the gallows and various prison yards. The tour guide really brought the place to life and made the tour entertaining as well as informative.
|Artwork in cells in Fremantle Prison, Australia|
Some of the prison cells feature touching art painted on the cell walls by talented prisoners. The gallows are an arresting sight and the isolation cells frightening.
|A heartbreaking message from an inmate of Fremantle Prison, Australia|
Other tours include a nighttime ghost tour and a tour of the tunnels beneath the prison.
Apparently many of the convicts who were sent to Australia had only committed small crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread. Boy did they pay for it in the long run.
|Fremantle Prison, Australia|
Have you ever visited a prison? What did you think?