|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (01/08/2005)|
|Place File No||5/12/010/0103|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
Fremantle Prison (1852-1859) is an
example of a nineteenth century convict establishment which continued to be
used as a prison until 1991. It is the most intact such complex in Australia.
Fremantle Prison is a major component of the British convict system constructed in Australia. The system is an example of a 19th century European colonial strategy of exporting prisoners and using their labour to establish a colonial economy. In Australia, this strategy impacted on early colonial development and on the overall Australian psyche.
Fremantle Prison, in conjunction with other Australian convict sites, exemplifies a world-wide process of colonial settlement. The British colonial penal system, evident in post-1788 Australia and demonstrated at Fremantle Prison, progressed 18th and 19th century European colonisation.
Transportation, which had ceased in the other colonies by 1853, due to increasing hostile opposition and immigration stimulated by the gold rushes, commenced in Western Australia in 1850. Fremantle Prison tells the national story of the last period of convict transportation to Australia, and the final expression of British convict migration. Its history reflects the changes in Australian and British views about the use of forced labour as a basis for empire. After the gold rushes the Australian colonies, rather than being seen as an extension of British interests, were increasingly seen as self sufficient members of the empire.
Fremantle Prison with its integrity clearly demonstrates in its fabric many aspects of penal design and reform that developed in Britain in the nineteenth century. It demonstrates aspects of the system and the conditions in which convicts lived. The place allows the closest observation of the conditions in which many convicts served out their sentences in the nineteenth century.
Fremantle Prison, the central convict establishment in Western Australia, functioned as a public works prison, a convict distribution depot and the main Imperial convict administration and workshops. Fremantle Prison and Hyde Park Barracks together illustrate the national story of the control of convicts on public works.
Fremantle Prison contains major surviving physical evidence of an imperial convict public works establishment and of its adaptation for subsequent colonial (1886) and state use. The fabric of Main Cell Block, perimeter walls, the Henderson Street Warders Cottages and three of the cottages on the Terrace are little altered from the imperial convict era.
New elements added to the Prison after the transfer of the establishment from imperial to colonial and later state control, include the Western Workshops (1900-01) the New Division (1907) and conversion of service building to the Female Division and addition of an eastern range (1889-1909).
Fremantle Prison is an exceptionally intact architectural ensemble due to 133 years of continuous use as a prison.
The British colonial penal system, evident in post-1788 Australia, is demonstrated at Fremantle Prison. London’s Pentonville prison, one of the first model prisons erected between 1840 and 1842, was based on changes in British penal philosophy which advocated reform rather than punishment. The design of the Main Cell Block at Fremantle Prison was adapted from Jebb’s design at Pentonville.
Fremantle Prison has research potential because of the place’s integrity and authenticity and the ability of the material culture present to provide insight into the convict experience throughout the imperial, colonial and state periods.
In combination, the oral tradition, documentary evidence, collections, structures, engineering relics and archaeological features at Fremantle Prison have potential for community education.
Fremantle Prison’s buildings, engineering relics and other structures contain, within their fabric, evidence of construction technology, available materials and adaptation to suit local conditions.
The Fremantle Prison records and collections, including archaeological, provide a research resource which, in conjunction with documentary evidence, have the potential to reveal and present much of the Fremantle story.
Australia’s convict sites share patterns of environmental and social colonial history including classification and segregation; dominance by authority and religion; the provision of accommodation for the convict, military and civil population; amenities for governance, punishment and healing, and the elements of place building and industry. Fremantle Prison demonstrates the principal characteristics of an Australian Convict Site because:
• It presents aspects of Australia’s convict system including changing attitudes to punishment, reform, education and welfare;
• The Prison in its present form demonstrates with some precision the facilities, conditions and attitudes prevailing in a major Western Australian prison – an experience rarely available to the public and made more immediate by the retention of graffiti, murals, signs, notices and recent evidence of use;
• The form and location of elements at Fremantle Prison display deliberate design and arrangement, reflecting the order and hierarchy of the place’s history and function as a Prison;
• The built environment at Fremantle Prison displays a large, surviving concentration of 19th and early 20th century structures characterised by a homogeneity of form, materials, textures and colour;
• Substantial parts of the site include archaeological deposits of material culture, which can be analysed to yield information about the site unavailable from documentary sources alone; and
• Fremantle Prison, its artefacts, furnishings and fittings, written and painted graffiti and records, including published material, photographs, historical, archaeological and architectural records, and databases, provide an extensive resource for a broad range of historical and social research.
Fremantle Prison symbolises the period in which Western Australia was developed using convict labour. For Australians broadly, particularly those of Anglo-Celtic background, Fremantle Prison is a place to reconnect with their colonial roots, real or imagined, and reflect on the meanings of the past. For some, the search for early family associations and identity has led to Fremantle Prison and the rediscovery of personal links with convictism.
Fremantle Prison dates from the early years of European
settlement, when it was constructed as the centre of the British Imperial
Convict Establishment in Western Australia. It is located in a raised and
dominant position overlooking the port city. The buildings and perimeter
walls were constructed by convict labour from limestone quarried on the site
and timber cut from Mount Eliza, now known as Kings Park. |
The site experiences considerable changes in ground level, natural and man-made, as a result of its location and former use. The ground level is considerably higher in the south-western corner of the site with what remains of the natural landform, formerly known as ‘Church Hill’, now referred to as the South Knoll. The eastern portion of the site is also considerably higher than the ground level established around the main cell block. It is a comparatively level terrace and is the highest part of the precinct.
Fremantle Prison comprises substantially intact convict era structures, including the limestone perimeter walls of exceptional heritage significance. Other structures, dating from the time the precinct was in use as a colonial and state prison, are also significant.
The convict era complex includes the 1859 main cell block, chapel and wards, yards and refractory cells; perimeter walls, gate house complex and prison officer residences on the Terrace; service buildings and hospital; south-eastern workshops; ramp access tramway (Fairbairn Street) and Henderson Street Warder's Cottages. Other elements which contribute to the site's overall significance include the western workshops (1900); new division (1907); and conversion of service building to the female division and the addition of an eastern range (1889-1909).
Based on the English Pentonville Prison design model of Joshua Jebb, the site's key feature, the Main Cell Block, designed by the Comptroller of Convicts, Captain Henderson and completed in 1859, is 145m long and four storeys high is the longest and tallest cell range in Australia that was originally constructed to accommodate up to 1,000 men. The 1859 main cell block has an impressive facade and is built of limestone ashlar blocks quarried from the site. It is significant for the ways in which its scale, position in the precinct, simplicity, material and near pristine character ensures that it is the focal and dominating feature of the prison; the evidence of its fabric, internal configuration and spaces reveals its functioning as a convict depot and subsequent prison and its atmosphere. It has come to symbolise the imperial convict era in colonial Western Australia.
The Protestant Chapel occupies a prominent position in the projecting wing in the centre of the facade. It retains its original painted and stencilled wall patterns beneath later paint layers and is the most intact early prison chapel in Australia. Its interior features include an early and substantial example of a laminated arch construction in the colonies and the first in WA, handsome decalogue boards and some original and elegant joinery. The Roman Catholic Chapel is located in a former association ward, designed for communal prisoner accommodation, converted for use as the chapel in 1861. The floor has evidence of its former use in the form of mortices for hammock rails and a convict painted mural decorates its wall.
The new division, completed in 1907, continues the façade alignment of the main block and completes the northern zone of the prison. The building, L shaped in plan, is three storeys high of regular coursed pale ashlar limestone blocks with rock-face. Openings are set in brick and freestone and it has a handsome lantern range above the main atrium. The building is visually significant as it complements the main cell block and completes the northern zone of the prison. It makes a distinctive contribution to the precinct. The interior configuration and cells are significant as an example of an attempt to introduce the separate system to Western Australia.
The single storey 1855 refractory block is on the same axis as the main cell block to its east. It consists of twelve punishment cells and six dark cells with no light. The gallows chamber, built in 1888, is between this and the main cell block and relates to the colonial use of the prison.
The prison is surrounded by limestone perimeter walls, which define the extent of the depot and its original topography to the south, east and north. The walls are of random rubble limestone and lime mortar and range in height from 1.2 to 5m. The additional four courses added in 1898 are of dark stone with a coping. Attached piers occur at approximately 6m centres on the lee sides of the walls. There are a number of openings including both vehicular and pedestrian gates. The walls are of exceptional significance being a vital part of the precinct defining its character. Sterile zones, inside the main perimeter walls and the walls encircling the female division and outside the prison wall, were standard prison practice for surveillance and contribute to the austere character of the prison.
The entry complex, built of limestone, consists of a combined gate house and quarters, an entry court and military and civil guard houses with embrasures flanking the inner gate. The two storey limestone gatehouse, with a central clock, presents an imposing entry to the former prison. The complex was expanded and altered successively throughout the use of the entry complex for prison’s functions. The entry complex was extended north to the female division as a workshop range, the western workshops, leaving a sterile zone beside the perimeter wall. The five workshops are a single storey squared limestone rubble building with openings dressed in brick, with an open saw-tooth roof with southern skylights, concealed behind a parapet wall. The western workshops building is handsome and contributes to the character of the main cell block forecourt.
An 1855 services building in the north west corner of the Prison compound was converted for use as female prisoners’ accommodation and the area walled off for the female division. The single storey limestone building has a distinctive monitor roof and an upper storey addition to part of the eastern range in red brick. The female division and four of the western workshops have been adapted for TAFE use as a visual arts facility. The Fremantle female division is significant to Western Australia as the first and only self contained nineteenth century women’s prison in the colony – a gaol within a gaol.
The hospital building, built in 1857, is located in the north eastern corner of the prison compound. The building is H-shaped in plan, single storey with rendered and painted limestone walls. It features a wide verandah with timber posts. Adjacent to the hospital building is the east reservoir. The brick vaulted reservoir and reticulation system, constructed in 1890 and about 1895, appear as a low brick structure. The reservoir roof consists of with five rendered vaults each side of a central vault raised 600mm above those each side. The centre of the eastern terrace contains the subsurface remains of the 1850s bathhouse and well.
At the south eastern corner of the eastern terrace is the former pumping station, associated tunnels and a set of 1850s workshops within an enclosing wall. Underneath parts of the eastern terrace, the adjacent Hampton Road, the pumping station and the workshops there are a complex series of shafts, drives and weirs cut from the rock during the 1890s and early twentieth century. The east workshops is a single storey limestone building on the western side with an enclosed area to the east. The entire workshops yard was roofed using a light steel truss on steel supports in 1960.
Buildings in the area south of the east workshops were used for a shower block, helmet workshop and associated sheds. The structures are recent and, with the exception of some terrace walling, are the last of a series that have been erected and dismantled since World War I. South Knoll comprises the remains of the high, natural ground level which at least by 1896 had been terraced to form flat, grassed areas. The former playing fields and tennis courts are still in evidence. There is a brick- vaulted reservoir located under the Knoll.
A flat area, to immediate west of the prison, is called The Terrace and was formed from rubble resulting from the levelling of the prison site. Adjoining the western perimeter wall, but outside the prison on the northern side of the terrace compound, is staff accommodation. Three adjoining residences were built in the 1890s as quarters for prison staff. No 2, incorporating parts of an 1857 guard room and converted in the 1890s to quarters, when Nos 4 and 6 were built alongside as a duplex. No 2 is a single storey house with random rubble limestone walls and corrugated iron roof separated from the perimeter wall by a rear yard. Nos 4 and 6, the pair of single duplex units with random rubble limestone walls, corrugated iron roofs and front verandahs, separated from the perimeter wall by a rear yard. Four two storey residences, Nos 8, 10, 16 and 18 The Terrace, were built during the 1850s for officer accommodation. No 8 (also known as the Chaplain’s House) is a two storey house with rendered and painted limestone walls. The plan is roughly square with verandahs and balconies along the west and south sides. A single storey building connects the south-east side of the house to the main prison wall. No 10 (also known as the Superintendent’s House) is connected to the gatehouse with limestone walled buildings. The house is two storey with rendered limestone walls and a corrugated iron roof behind parapet walls. The plan is roughly square and there is a door from the house into the prison from the northeast room of the ground floor. No 16 is a house is two storey building, roughly square in plan, with painted limestone walls and a corrugated sheet metal roof behind a parapet. No 18 (also known as the Surgeon’s House) is a two storey structure with limestone walls. A single storey limestone structure (former stables) is located to the south of No 18.
The open spaces of the precinct are significant as they provide impressive settings for the structures. They are also important spaces in their own right retaining the stark open character of a penal institution required for surveillance. The extensive forecourt of the main cell block, with its scale and secure location within the perimeter walls, is particularly impressive. Paths are bitumen with grassed garden beds delineated by raised brick edging.
The significant landscape presents an austere and formal quality within the perimeter walls. Generally the landscape is sparse and simple, comprising unobtrusive elements such as lawn, low plantings and pavement. Landscape elements outside the walls include the exotic almond and pine trees on the Terrace.
Archaeological zones and sub-surface remains of varying levels of significance are found throughout the area of the convict grant. In particular, the sites of the three former cottages to the east of the perimeter wall in the Hampton Road reserve, the site of the former ‘cage’ in the New Division courtyard and the features upon and under the knoll terraces. Other site features include those associated with the water supply system constructed in the 1890s: the brick-vaulted underground reservoir, the associated pumping station, a complex series of rock cut shafts, drives, weirs and the one kilometre underground tunnel network. Graffiti and a tablet records the progress of the excavators. The shafts, heavily polluted with oil in the late twentieth century, have been decontaminated and in 2004 were opened to the public.
An inclined tramway, the ramp, was built from the front of the terrace, on the axis of the gatehouse, down towards the port area of Fremantle. The ramp, constructed between 1852-53, is of limestone rubble from the cut and fill activities required to create the prison site and the terrace. The ramp is an integral part of the original design of the prison complex and is of exceptional significance (Kerr, Fremantle Prison, p28). It is now cut at its western end by a modern road which severs the historic visual link with Fremantle. On each side of the alignment of the ramp, where it intersects with Henderson Street, are three terrace houses for the accommodation of prison warders. These were erected between 1851-58 and mark the boundary of the Convict Establishment at this point. The limestone used for the early prison and its associated housing was quarried on the site.
Other surviving elements of the early convict establishment include Henderson’s house, ‘The Knowle’, the three Henderson Street cottages (terrace housing), 19-29 Henderson Street, 31-41 Henderson Street and 7-17 Henderson Street, a range of terraces at 3-9 Holdsworth Street, paths, roads and ramps, garden sites, walls, sub surface works and the more distant routes to the Asylum (Arts Centre), the Commissariat Store (Maritime Museum) and wharf site.
Artefacts, furniture, furnishings and equipment relating to the site should be retained in their original location, or on site. Objects of significance which have left the site should, where possible be located, recorded and recovered. Wall paintings, written graffiti, signs and notices form a significant part of the Fremantle Prison collection.
From its establishment in 1829 until 1850, the WA Colony was a free settlement without convicts. However, prior to 1850 pastoralists began lobbying the colonial administration for convicts to solve a labour shortage in the pastoral industry. They argued that the colony would benefit from the capital and labour for the building of roads, bridges, jetties and other infrastructure that would come with the establishment of a convict centre. While there does not appear to have been general community support for the proposition, transportation to WA was legislated in Britain in 1849, for an unlimited number of male convicts.
The first transportation of 75 convicts, on the barque Scindian, arrived at Fremantle on 1 June 1850. Work on the Imperial Convict Establishment (or Fremantle Convict Establishment), commenced in 1852 and was completed in 1859. Ultimately, nearly 10,000 male convicts were sent to WA between 1850-68.
The WA convict system differed in a number of ways from the systems operating in the eastern Australian colonies. Pensioned military personnel called Pensioner Guards and their families accompanied the convicts to Australia and served as convict guards in the colony. The convicts were used to develop colonial infrastructure such as roads, buildings and other public works and were hired to free settlers through regional Hiring Depots for work in agriculture and mining, though most Hiring Depots were closed down by 1857 because of the cost of maintaining the service. The Pensioner Guards were provided with land grants in the area in which they were sent and were often among the earliest settlers in the district. A system of ticket of leave allowed eligible convicts to work on their own account under closely supervised conditions, further enhancing the labour force of the growing colony.
The role of the Fremantle convict depot complex was to receive, house and closely observe new arrivals, to provide long term imprisonment and severe punishment for escapees, repeat offenders and those who had committed more serious crimes, and to house the main Imperial convict administration and workshops.
Captain E Y W Henderson, the first Comptroller General of Convicts in WA recommended Fremantle as the location for the central convict depot because of the long term labour requirements for works to improve the port. He selected the site for the convict establishment on rising ground, ‘a healthy and elevated spot’ removed from the town yet not far from the harbour. Other considerations were the need for a considerable area to accommodate the depot, its structures and adjacent garden, and the availability of adequate building stone. He was probably also aware of the contemporary practice of choosing dominant sites to set off major public buildings for symbolic impact on the settlement below.
An area of 39 1/4 acres was vested by an Act of Council for the convict establishment. Major portions were later alienated for hospital, administration, recreation, housing and traffic uses but fragments of the early development remain over the entire site.
The site development involved the creation of a broad level terrace by a process of cut and fill, using limestone quarried on and near the site to provide the building material for the depot and its associated housing, using the spoil to commence in 1852 building up an inclined tramway (Fairbairn Street Ramp) which by 1853 reached Henderson Street (the current batter bank ramp to Holdsworth Street) and the wide esplanade known as The Terrace.
Henderson designed Fremantle Prison, based on the designs of Joshua Jebb, the British Controller of Prisons and in particular on Jebb's Pentonville Prison, London and Portland Works Prison. Henderson’s first (1851) design for the permanent Fremantle depot was based on Jebb’s design for Pentonville Prison. Both had four radiating wings which enabled all corridors to be kept under surveillance from a central point. Imperial demands for economy and the exigencies of the site resulted in a revised design, omitting the diagonal wings and increasing the length and height of the remaining linear range to 500 feet and four storeys. In section the Fremantle range, with a longitudinal corridor open from ground floor to roof flanked by narrow galleries giving access to the cells, was similar in concept to those proposed by the English inspectors of prisons in 1837 and introduced to Parramatta and Sydney in 1838-39 and at Pentonville in 1840-42.
The plan, approved and commenced in 1852 and completed in 1859, had four tiers of cells of the exceptionally small size of 7ft x 4ft. These cells were small because they were intended to be used for night time accommodation only, the convicts working outdoors during the day. Although the Portland Prison used corrugated iron cell partitions, Henderson economised used the local limestone which made the Fremantle cells cramped and poorly ventilated. The prison exhibited Jebb’s iron cell dimensions in Henderson’s masonry, while all the fittings, cell doors, gallery railings etc were ordered from England. The fabric however demonstrates the use of refashioned ship’s iron for the gallery railings in the older southern galleries as the iron fittings on order had not arrived. The Fremantle main cell block was the last in the Australian colonies to be fitted with such small single cells and today it is the only one to retain an intact and substantial sample.
Henderson stated that ‘…all the buildings connected with prison, either built or proposed, are of the simplest and plainest construction, and that all ornamental expense has… been carefully avoided’ (Kerr, Design for Convicts, p 166). This restraint contrasted notably with Jebb’s design for Pentonville Prison and almost all of the Pentonville system ‘prison palaces’ built in the decade after 1845 were in one of other of the approved architectural styles.
Former Comptroller General of Convicts in Tasmania, John Stephen Hampton, was appointed Governor of WA in 1862 and he set about introducing a more repressive penal regime. Cells were made more secure and communication with the corridor blocked, reducing ventilation. The dormitories (known as association wards) flanking the cell block did not remain in their original 1850s use, the southern ones being converted into a cookhouse, store and storeroom and later library. The upper northern ward was converted into a Roman Catholic chapel in 1861 or 1862. The ward below became a store, briefly a hospital and finally a combined concert room, recreation hall and cinema.
Several developments of the design during the construction in the 1850s are of interest including the lack of water closets in the cells and associated wards for night use. To avoid the health hazards of large and stinking urine tubs a WC was attached to each of the wards and a supply cistern placed in the roof. A 70 ft well was cut through the limestone for a water supply and 25 stone baths laid in a bath house on high ground on the eastern terrace in the 1850s. The water from the baths drained into a rock cut reservoir, to be released by sluices to flush the privies in the main cell yards below and into a dilution tank before being used on the prison garden. Sewage was conducted to cesspits in what is now the Parry Street car park and the Fremantle Oval.
The Protestant chapel, completed in 1856-57, forms the centrepiece of the main cell block occupying the key axial location in the precinct. The 41 ft clear roof span was made possible by an exposed laminated timber (jarrah) arch structure. The system was already in occasional contemporary use in England and the United States and was introduced to NSW and SA for bridge building. Kerr considers it to be the first construction of its type in WA. The ten commandments (decalogue), Lord’s prayer and the creed were painted on four ‘boards’ by Charles Hamilton, a lifer, some time before 1874. Although repainted they were in reasonably good condition (Kerr,1998).
Governor Fitzgerald insisted on the construction of specifically designated punishment cells. The refractory cell block and gallows chamber, completed in 1855, were in a compound behind the main cell range. They consisted of twelve cells with windows and six slightly larger ‘dark’ cells with ventilation only. All had double chambers with both an inner and outer door to prevent communication, and in the case of the dark cells, eliminated all light. Following the transfer of the prison to the colonial government in 1886, hangings were removed from Perth to Fremantle. The present gallows, erected in 1888, was dismantled in 1972 at the request of the chief secretary who wished to make sure it was ‘never used again.’ The mechanism was stored until it was restored some time before 1987. Kerr considers that the refractory cell block and gallows chamber are of exceptional social interest in the post-capital punishment 1990s and the latter’s intactness, rarity and theatrically awful atmosphere render it a potent attraction for most visitors (Kerr, p 56).
The exercise yards east of the main cell block had been excavated from the hillside by 1857. Except for additional east-west dividing walls, bituminous paving and ‘improved’ facilities the character of the yards changed little throughout the use of the establishment as a prison.
The limestone perimeter walls were built in the 1850s with minimal excavation and hence define the extent of the depot and its original topography to the south, east and north. The walls exhibit an eccentric feature for a prison, namely internal buttresses, which record the result of a whirlwind in 1856 which demolished large sections of the walls, which were subsequently rebuilt with buttresses on the lee side of the walls irrespective of whether they were inner or outer faces. Parts of the walls were increased in height and repaired in 1898, 1921, 1970 and 1977-78. Henderson originally placed towers on the wall at its highest points: Church Hill and adjacent to the present big reservoir to the east. The positions of the watch towers changed, generally as a result of building developments altering the field of view.
The entry complex was built of limestone in 1854-55, consisting of a combined gate house and quarters, entry court, military and civil guard houses with embrasures flanking an inner gate. It was expanded and altered successively throughout the use of the entry complex for prison’s functions.
The extensive forecourt of the main cell block, designed by Henderson in the 1850s, was to be an austere open space creating a prison atmosphere of surveillance. Vegetation provides opportunities for concealment of contraband and possibly prisoners. An 1859 watercolour by Wray shows an unembellished and levelled space which is also confirmed by prisoner memoirs and even fiction (Kerr, p 45). Henderson planned for prison vegetable gardens in the present Parry Street car park. An 1896 map shows that the gardens were still in use. Superintendent Hugh Hann (1911-1919) introduced a vegetable garden located on terraces built on the south knoll. A contemporary photograph shows that the forecourt remained open and unplanted, and that the layout of lawns and roadways were only minimally altered by the time of the prison’s closure in 1991.
The services building, designed by Henderson and completed in 1855, comprised kitchen with boilers, scullery and stores, bakehouse and ovens, washhouse, laundry and drying room, yards with privies.
The hospital, located on the highest ground to catch the wind, the ‘Fremantle doctor’ inside the eastern perimeter of the prison, was under construction in 1857 and occupied in December 1859. Nineteenth century additions were subsequently demolished, leaving the fabric close to its 1857 plan.
One of the earliest buildings on the site was a timber blacksmith’s shop erected in 1852 at the southern end of the eastern terrace. By 1858 the carpenter’s shop had been transferred to the site and both shops built or rebuilt in limestone within a new yard set against the perimeter wall. The entire yard was roofed in 1960 for use as a metal and automotive workshop.
Residences erected on The Terrace include No 2, completed in 1857 as a ‘guard room’ to accommodate 19 men. Contemporary watercolours show it to have been a gabled cruciform structure. In the 1890s it was converted to quarters, and Nos 4 and 6 were built alongside as a duplex. Residences Nos 8, 10, 16 and 18, The Terrace, were built during the 1850s for officers associated with the depot. Nos 10 and 16 were the first built followed by Nos 8 and 18 which were similar in appearance but slightly smaller. In the last years of the prison No 8 was converted to staff club use.
Beyond the perimeter walls were other elements of the convict establishment. Below the batter banks of The Terrace and the tramway lay the gardens intended to supply vegetables for the convicts. ‘The Knowle’, the mansion which Henderson designed for his own use and which was completed in 1853, became a convict invalid depot in 1867. In 1891 the colonial government replaced the invalids with lunatics and in 1895 it became a public hospital. It remains part of the Fremantle Hospital site. Similarly, the three Henderson Street cottages (terrace housing) were built of local limestone in the 1850s as warders’ quarters. The three terraces in order of construction are first, 19-29 Henderson Street, second, 31-41 Henderson Street and third, 7-17 Henderson Street. Most of the cottages remained in continuous use as warder accommodation until 1989. In 1993 they were sold to HomesWest, together with a single storey range of terraces at 3-9 Holdsworth Street, built in 1897 by the colonial administration for warder accommodation. Barracks constructed for sappers near the Henderson Street terraces were demolished in the late nineteenth century. Gibb considers that “there is a high probability that archaeological remains survive beneath or in the grounds of the 1890-1903 courthouse and police complex which replaced them” (p 66). However he regards it as unlikely that any remains survive beneath later structures on the site of the Pensioners barracks completed in 1854 on South Terrace and demolished after World War II (Gibb, p 66). The convict built Lunatic Asylum (Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre), waterfront facilities such as the Commissariat Store (Maritime Museum) and wharf site, paths, roads and ramps, garden sites and walls were built by convict labour.
In addition to the links with other convict establishment structures still extant in the City of Fremantle, the former Fremantle Prison has links to regional convict depot sites in Western Australia and to the Australian convict sites.
Gibb, in his study into the structure of the convict system in WA, found that while it had evolved from the earlier forms in Eastern Australia, it differed conceptually and physically in some ways. As most convicts’ sentences had been completed by the time they arrived in WA the custodial component was less important, and buildings and works were largely aimed towards ensuring distribution of labour and the completion of public works. The design of the Fremantle Prison cell range demonstrates the same penal philosophies current in the United Kingdom and eastern Australia. For repeat offenders it was a place of secondary punishment with the full impact of the solitary cells and chain gangs. For the majority of convicts, either recent arrivals or probationers, the cell range provided barracks accommodation. Gibb concluded that one of the hallmarks of the WA convict system was the emphasis on economy, which is manifested in the lack of ornamentation in the Fremantle Prison buildings (Gibb, p 69).
The Imperial Prison
In England legislation was passed in 1853 that substituted penal servitude for transportation for those sentenced to less than fourteen years and many prisoners were released on license in England. This effectively reduced the numbers receiving transportation sentences from the annual average of 2, 649 between 1850-52, to only 298 between 1854 -56. After 1861 the regulations changed again and men who previously served half their sentences in Britain before transportation could now be transported immediately, doubling the number eligible for transportation. As fewer were eligible for early tickets of leave the colony had greater numbers available for public works. But by the 1860s it was felt that penal servitude within Britain was more cost effective than transportation. The penal philosophies now favoured more repressive prison conditions and ideas of reform in Britain were swept away for the next thirty years. As penal arrangements in the colonies were not in line with the new philosophies and as British prisons could cope with prisoner numbers, it was announced in 1867 that transportation would cease and the last convict transport ship sailed to WA in October of that year.
In 1867 the Imperial Convict Establishment was renamed Fremantle Prison. While transportation of convicts ceased in 1868, the prison continued to be managed by the Imperial administration, housing both transported convicts serving out their sentences and colonial prisoners. With less than fifty convicts still imprisoned under the convict system in 1886, the British government passed control of Fremantle Prison to the colonial government. It then became the colony's, and later the state's, primary place of incarceration.
The Colonial Prison
No female convicts were transported to WA. However after Fremantle became a colonial prison in 1886, female prisoners from Perth were moved temporarily into the hospital and the sick were transferred to the later recreation hall at the northern end of the main cell block. At this time a continuous east-west wall was built to separate the northern zone of the prison from the precinct. After the women were moved to their permanent location in 1889 the hospital was used for invalids. In 1903-04 the building was extensively renovated for re-use as a hospital and continued in that use until 1991.
Following the conversion of the prison to a colonial establishment in 1886, the north-west corner of the precinct was set aside for a female division. By 1889 the area had been walled and the services building converted for the women including quarters for a matron. In 1898 a new single storey eastern wing with 22 cells (approximately 7’3” X 4’6”) a day room, hospital chapel, lying in room, bath and earth closet were built. In 1909 an upper range of 24 cells was added in brick to the southern half of the east wing and a new kitchen added to the west of the original building. The cells were slightly larger than the diminutive cells constructed for men but well behind contemporary Australian designs for women and men’s cells.
When completed in 1910, the female division differed from the equivalent contemporary male prisons in having smaller cells, less emphasis on security and more habitable and specific interior facilities such as day and lying-in rooms. The scale of the wash house and yard to the west suggests that only a small amount of washing was taken in.
The hospital is located on the comparatively level eastern terrace which is the highest part of the precinct. A large brick vaulted reservoir to boost Fremantle’s water supply was built adjacent to the hospital in two stages, the first half of the reservoir in 1890 and the second, together with part of the reticulation system, about 1895. The water was pumped from wells which by 1899 were becoming salty. Underneath parts of the terrace, the adjacent Hampton Road, the pumping station and the workshops there are a complex series of shafts, drives and weirs which were cut by prisoners during the 1890s and early twentieth century. Graffiti and a tablet records the progress of the excavators. The shafts, intended to trap a supplementary water supply, became heavily polluted with oil in the late twentieth century and have been decontaminated.
A pumping station was constructed as part of the water storage and reticulation system in the 1890s. It is in a discrete high-walled compound with a large separate entry from Hampton Road as it was formally excised from the prison in 1901 to enable works departments to avoid the restrictions of prison discipline. The pumping station and associated system including the underground tunnel network became the first reticulated water supply in Western Australia providing the community of Fremantle with its water needs until the wider metropolitan scheme was connected in 1910.
The State Prison
Following the urgings of the prison Superintendent George and various official enquiries, new workshops were built to provide increased useful employment for prisoners. The western workshops, located between the entry complex and the Female Division, were built from 1900-1901 of squared limestone rubble with openings dressed in brick. An open saw-tooth roof with southern skylights covered the five spaces designed for the five traditional workshops: tailors, bookbinders, shoemakers, mat makers and painters. The two northern shops were later amalgamated by removing the dividing wall. In 1993 the four northern workshops were adapted for use as TAFE art workshops.
The new division, completed in 1907 and occupied in 1908 resulted from an 1899 Commissioners’ report recommending a modified version of the ‘separate system’. The new division was similar in design to Henderson’s 1850s structure but differed in its use. Unlike the earlier building, prisoners remained continuously in their somewhat enlarged cells except when exercised in ‘separate’ yards watched by a warder in a central tower. The 30 unit radial exercise yard became known as the ‘cage’. The concept of the separate system was already over sixty years old when introduced to Fremantle. A rapid change in prison policy resulted from another commission report, the appointment of a superintendent, Hugh Hann, with recent English and colonial experience, and the election of a labour government with members interested in penal reform. One immediate result was the dismantling of the separate system at Fremantle Prison and the demolition of the separate exercise yards in 1912. It shares with Katingal Special Security Unit in NSW the record for brevity of use of a permanent Australian penal structure.
The new division is significant as a reminder of the attempted introduction of the ‘separate system’ to Western Australia and because of the way it complements Henderson’s original main cell block. The public works designer continued the façade alignment of the main block, reduced the height, changed the texture but not the basic materials and the form, thereby emphasising the simplicity and scale of the original structure without sacrificing the visual strength of the new building.
Fremantle Prison was partially used as a military gaol during both world wars. During World War II the prison became an internment center as well as for the detention of military personnel. After the second World War the prison returned to civilian use and a variety of ad hoc structures were erected on and below the knoll terraces. Female prisoners were moved out in 1970 and male prisoners reoccupied the division, with little change to the fabric but obliterating much evidence of the women’s use of the place.
From the 1920s and particularly in recent years there was a series of comparatively minor and often ephemeral adaptations and additions which were introduced to improve facilities and, in a modest way, living conditions.
Fremantle appears to have had only occasional Aboriginal prisoners in the nineteenth century. Most went to Rottnest until its closure in 1903 and many Aboriginal prisoners during the first half of the twentieth century were in provincial gaols and gangs. Greater numbers, both male and female, were sent to Fremantle from the 1950s. The males were mostly in 2 division of the main cell block and the new division. The substantial number of Aboriginal inmates is recorded in graffiti, with a number of works being either Aboriginal or combining Aboriginal and European imagery.
Fremantle Prison provided opportunities for some Aboriginal people. The art classes provided the foundation for Jimmy Pike, an Aboriginal man from the Kimberley region, to develop a career as a textile artist whose work has been exhibited internationally. The experience also had a darker side commemorated by the monument erected within the precinct to John Pat, the Aboriginal youth whose death in custody was instrumental in triggering the public outcry to address the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody.
The Female Division functioned as the only women's prison in Western Australia until 1970 when the female prisoners and staff were removed to a new facility built at Bandyup on the outskirts of Perth. The division subsequently housed male prisoners and the adaptations and décor reflected their period of occupancy. In 1992 the Department of Technical and Further Education adapted the female division and western workshops as a TAFE visual arts facility.
Prison fabric has always provided a medium for graphic expression of popular and expressive culture. The walls in the main cell block document changing attitudes to penal discipline and vulgar imagery through periodic repainting with cycles of tolerance and repression. The earliest extant graffiti was probably drawn by the forger James Walsh following his re-conviction in 1859 and was preserved by being white washed over. Drawn in pencil, the subjects include a range of religious and classical figures, a kangaroo hunt and possibly a self portrait. Recent wall painting tends to be nostalgic (particularly landscape), fantastic (tattoo motifs), totemic (clan identification) or overtly sexual, relating to the outside. Written graffiti by prisoners and warders provides interesting commentary on varying attitudes within the prison complex.
A riot and fire in January 1988 resulted in the destruction of the northern part of the roof of the main cell block which was reconstructed the same year. Most of the recent security measures were installed following this event, including Swiss made turnstile gates between some yards and the main cell block, a new tower (No 6) and catwalk to overlook the yards, eastern part of the prison and Hampton Road. Vulnerable lengths of wall and fence were surmounted with razor wire and the perimeter wall protected from ramming with heavy vehicles.
The Fremantle Prison remained in operation until 30 November 1991, when prisoners were moved to a new metropolitan maximum security prison at Casuarina and the Prison was transferred to the Building Management Authority (now the Department of Contract and Management Services). The Fremantle Prison Trust was established in 1992 to advise the Minister on the management of the site. Various new uses have been found for different parts of the prison, including as a tourist attraction. 130,000 visitors from overseas, interstate and from within Western Australia are forecast for 2004.
Fremantle Prison was listed in the WA Register of Historic Places as an interim entry on 10 January 1992 and entered as a permanent entry on 30 June 1995.
Many people have been associated with Fremantle Prison. The most substantial group is the inmates, the convicts and later the men and women of WA who were imprisoned. The most notorious of the convict inmates was Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as ‘Moondyne Joe’, whose misadventures and daring escapades have given rise to folklore and myths. During both World Wars, ‘enemy aliens’ were interned because of their nationality. Large numbers of people have worked at the gaol either as paid workers or in a voluntary capacity. Also associated with the design and administration of Fremantle Prison were the Royal Engineers, the governors and superintendents.
|Condition and Integrity|
In 1998 JS Kerr assessed Fremantle Prison as being the most
intact convict-built prison establishment in Australia. The State Government
decided prior to the Prison being decommissioned as an operating gaol in
November 1991 that it would retain ownership and manage the site as a visitor
attraction. Responsibility for the management and care of the site was
handed over to the Building Management Authority (now Department of Housing and
Works), ensuring that the site was not left to decay whilst its future was
decided. With an in-house team of heritage experts, the Prison has been well
maintained and its overall condition would be considered good. Its condition is
regularly monitored through Building Condition Assessments, which provide the
guide for regular maintenance programs.|
At the time of completing the Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct Master Plan in July 2003, the maintenance backlog was quantified at $2.289million. In response the Western Australian Government has approved a line of funding to the value of $2.810 million over three years commencing from 2004/05 which will address the backlog and create the foundation for a regular and manageable maintenance program into the future.
The tourist operation, managed for ten years under contract by a private sector business, has been managed in-house since January 2002 and developed as an integrated part of the overall operation. The annual expenditure on maintenance generated from cash flow has increased from a little over $100,000 in 2001/02 to more than $250,000 in 2003/04. This is forecast to increase in future years as the profile of the Prison as a quality attraction grows and new innovative tourism product is launched, ensuring an ongoing contribution to the long-term preservation of the heritage values of the site.
About 7ha, 1 The Terrace, Fremantle, being the area
identified on Page 38 of the Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct Master Plan
July 2003 and comprising Zones A to N, P, Q, R and S. Included is all of Lot
24042 (Zones A to N and Q), the Fairbairn Street Ramp (Zone R), and Warders
Cottages (Zone S), being 7-41 Henderson Street.|
BMA, 1992, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use
Working Paper On Future Uses. |
Campbell, R Mck, 1975, The Fremantle Prison: A Report on its Past, Present & Future, Unpublished report.
City of Fremantle, 1996, Fremantle City Centre Urban Design Strategy, City of Fremantle
Commonwealth of Australia, 1999, Australian Convict Sites, Nomination by the Government of Australia for Inscription on the World Heritage List, Commonwealth of Australia.
Considine & Griffiths Architects Pty Ltd, 1996, Fremantle Prison: Anglican Chapel; Getty Grant Investigation & Report.
Considine & Griffiths Architects Pty Ltd & Antill, C, 1997, Fremantle Prison: Master Plan Study The Terrace, CAMS.
Desmond Freeman Associates, 1999, Fremantle Prison `Living Museum Project:- Preliminary Report on Options for the Development of Fremantle Prison, Unpublished report.
Eric Martin and Associates, 2000, Fremantle Prison: Access Report- Final Report, CAMS.
Fremantle Prison Management Committee, 1998, Fremantle Prison: Draft Conservation and Management Plan, State Planning Commission (WA).
Fremantle Prison Trust Committee, 1998, World heritage Listing of Fremantle Prison as an Australian Convict Place, CAMS.
Gibbs, Martin, 2001, ‘The Archaeology of the Convict System in Western Australia’, Australian Historical Archaeology, Special Issue: Archaeology of Confinement, Journal of the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology, Volume 19, pp 60-72.
Gibbs, M, Edwards, K, McDonald Hales & Associates, 1998, Report on Historical Archaeological Investigations: Terrace House And Gardens Project, Fremantle Prison, Unpublished Report.
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Hill, S, 1999, Fremantle Prison Aboriginal Commemorative Memorial Project, Unpublished Report.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Conservation Plan, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Female Division, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Hospital, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Main Cell Block, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use New Division, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Site: Water, Walls & Yards, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use The Terrace Buildings, BMA.
Hoare, R, Bosworth, M, Harvey, E, Kiera, A, MacGill, G, Smith, R, 1990, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Workshops, BMA.
Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, 1999.
Kerr, J S, 1998, Fremantle Prison - A policy for its conservation, BMA, 2nd Edition.
Kerr, J S, 1984, Design for convicts : an account of the convict establishments in the Australian Colonies during the transportation era, Sydney, Library of Australian History.
Lewis, M, 1989, Fremantle Prison Notes of a visit of 22-25 May 1989, Unpublished Report.
Morris, W, 1991, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Urban Integration Strategy, City of Fremantle & BMA.
Palassis Architects, 2000, Fremantle Prison: Zones of Significance, A Revised Assessment of Levels of Cultural Heritage Significance, CAMS.
Palassis Architects, 1993, Limestone Conservation Study, City of Fremantle.
Palassis Architects, 1997, No. 8 The Terrace, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Report On Egress, CAMS.
Palassis Architects, 1999, Report on the Effectiveness of the 1997 Render Investigation and Facade Re-construction at the Gatehouse, Fremantle Prison, CAMS.
Palassis Architects, 1999, The Stable At The Terrace: Fremantle Prison Conservation Plan, CAMS.
Palassis Architects, 1997, 4 Division Mural, Fremantle Prison: Conservation and Future Use Proposal For Protective Canopy, CAMS.
Pearson, M and Marshall, D, 1995, Study of World Heritage Values: Convict Places, for Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 20 December 1995 (with additions 7 May 1996).
Richards, O & Landscan (WA), 1996, Fremantle Prison: Landscape Conservation Policy & Development Guidelines, BMA, Revised Edition.
Ritter, P, 1980, Soul & Sex Imprisoned: Illustrated Stories, Ballads, Verses & Proposals, Planned Environment and Education Research Institute Press.
Report Produced Tue Sep 2 23:42:57 2014