Tuesday, August 31, 2010


On Saturday, August 21, 2010, we had a Grand Adventure, when we journeyed to Fremantle with Helen Cope from church at the Doubleview Ward. Helen, our tour guide, had invited us about 2 months prior to spend a Saturday with her at the Prison.

Fremantle is the seaport for Perth. Sir Charles Fremantle landed there in 1829, claiming the west coast of Australia for Great Britain. The early colony experienced initial difficulties taming the unfamiliar bush and sent back to Great Britain for slave labor to help build up the outpost. Convicts were sent to Western Australia from 1850 to 1868 to assist with development.

The Fremantle Prison was built in the 1850’s by convict labor and decommissioned in 1991. Yet it had been condemned 80 years before its final closure. It was first used as a convict establishment to bed down the convicts after laboring all day constructing buildings in the surrounding area. After the discovery of gold in the 1890’s, local crime escalated and the facility became a prison for 24 hour a day incarceration.

The entrance to Fremantle Prison was wide enough for horse-drawn wagons to transport convicts into the prison, but was too narrow to allow for fire equipment inside the prison to fight fires during the riot of 1988.

Fremantle Prison was to be built on a rocky hilltop. Convicts used pick axes to form limestone blocks to build the prison structure. The 30 foot crown of the hill was leveled to obtain enough blocks for the construction. Note the 30 foot ridge in the background.

A view of cell blocks A and B from the courtyard, which was used as a vegetable garden in the early years.
John, the “jailor”, describing life in the cellblock.

The cells were less than 6 feet long and about 4 feet wide. This photo shows the typical “hammock-style bed” and slop buckets (“honey pots”). They had no running water or electricity.

A typical courtyard for a cellblock for 160 people when let out of their cells for exercise. Not much space to even move around.
The gallows chamber, where 46 men and one woman were hanged for willful murder. The last was a serial killer hung on 26 October 1964.

Prisoners were allowed to visit the chapel 15 minutes daily to help in their rehabilitation. When paint was needed for the murals, sending to Great Britain would require 12 months for the roundtrip. Instead the convict assigned to paint the Ten Commandments sought assistance from the local Aborigines for making paint. The original paint job still remains untouched after 140 years.
We finally received a “GET OUT OF JAIL” card and were released from prison. “Freedom at last!”
We completed the day with a visit to Cicerello’s for their famous fish and chips. We pause for a picture with Helen in front of the restaurant.

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