Australia / Oceania / The Voyage

Doing Time Tour At Fremantle Prison

While we were at Fremantle, we visited the Fremantle Prison - which is a former Australian prison located in The Terrace. The 6-hectare 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 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’s now a public museum managed by the Government of Western Australia. The prison is also widely referred to as Fremantle Gaol.

This is my first visit to a prison. My sister, Vincent and Weili visited the one in Tasmania. I was thrilled that my sister has included this into the itinerary.

The Fremantle Prison offers 4 different types of tours. There is a Tunnels Tour where you discover the original blast holes, bores, oil lamp recesses and artefacts from the days when working in the tunnels was hard labour for prisoners – this tour involves climbing down and back up a 20 metre ladder. Sounds interesting? Remember to bring a pair of socks if you would like to join this experience.

Another tour that caught my attention was the Torchlight Tour which operates every Wednesday and Friday from 7pm, when it gets dark.

We went for the Doing Time Tour together with little niece. We got to explore Fremantle Prison from its convict origins in the 1850s until its closure as a maximum security gaol in 1991. I took quite a lot of pictures throughout the tour and I would like to share them with you.

As we walked through the gatehouse, we entered a room – something like an office. In the picture below shows a bench where convicts used to seat while waiting for their prison uniform. At this point, they were required to remove all their personal belongings and put them into a bag.

Moving towards the Main Cell Block including the Division Yards and Gallows.

From 1852 to 1860, single cells measured only 1.2m by 2.1m. Water was collected in tanks on the roof and supplied to hand basins installed in each cell and cells were lit with oil lamps. Cell furniture consisted of a small fold-down table, a stool, a hammock and a toilet bucket. Prisoners were allowed a Bible. The unfinished limestone walls were a haven for pests. In September 1857, Superintendent Dixon reported that the wells were “swarming with bugs”.

In 1960 to 1980, comptroller General Colin Campbell introduced bunk beds to the Prison. This gave related prisoners or those who were close friends the opportunity to share a cell. It also allowed for doubling up when inmate numbers exceeded the number of cells available. An experiment to replace the metal toilet buckets with chemical toilets was unsuccessful and electic lighting was available all year round with 40 watt globes.

The walls of this cell were painted between 1988 and 1991. Prison rules did not allow inmates to deface their cell walls but this prisoner was given special permission for therapeutic reasons.

In the last 12 months of the Prison’s operations, some prisoners were granted permission to paint on the cell walls and on the walls of the exercise yards, as a farewell gesture.

If you have an hour and 15 minutes to spare the next time you visit Fremantle, I think the Prison is worth visiting.

Thank you for reading.

Part of this entry extracted from Wikipedia and Fremantle Prison website.

4 thoughts on “Doing Time Tour At Fremantle Prison

  1. Very enlightening and quite different from the Port Arthur prison where most of Australia’s first convicts were incarcerated. Soon after the “First Fleet” from England landed in 1788 at Botany Bay – now known as Sydney – they decided because this location was too nice for a major prison, they established their first big penal institution over on the nearby Aussie island state of Tasmania which was then known as “Van Diemen’s Land – the Devil’s Island ! Nowadays, this is a fascinating tourist attraction and well worth visiting – yet, unfortunately and dramatically, it illustrates man’s inhumanity against man . . . A side note – because of a crazed killer who murdered dozens of innocent people at the Tourist Center by this Port Arthur’s prison, VERY STRINGENT gun control laws were enacted in Australia !

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