Traveling Down Under- Day 3, Perth- Fremantle Prison

by Camellia Staab January. 13, 2020 250 views

Fremantle Prison was built on a land grant of about 36 acres (15 ha) from limestone quarried on-site. A 15-foot (4.6 m) tall boundary wall encloses the prison grounds, with a gatehouse in the center of the western wall.

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. Beyond it is the Main Cell Block at the center of the site.

Main Cell Block

Main Cell Block

Entrance to Main Cell Block

Entrance to Main Cell Block

The prison was administered by a comptroller general, sheriff, or director, responsible for the entire convict or prison system in Western Australia, and a superintendent in charge of the prison itself. Prison officers, known as warders in the 19th century, worked under stringent conditions until they achieved representation through the Western Australian Prison Officers' Union.

At first only imperial convicts were confined at Fremantle Prison. By 1886 less than 60 convicts remained inside a prison built to hold 1000 men. Perth Gaol closed and Fremantle Prison became the colony’s primary place of confinement for men, women and juveniles. With the population boom of the 1890's gold rush, Fremantle Prison became busy once again.

The design for Fremantle Prison was based on the Pentonville Prison in Britain, but with diagonal cell blocks replaced with a four-story linear structure, which would be the longest, tallest prison cell block in the southern hemisphere.

Prisoner beds

Prisoner beds

Prison life at Fremantle was extremely regulated. Meals were an important part of the day, eaten in the cells throughout the operational life of the prison. Convict or prisoner labor was used on public infrastructure works until around 1911; subsequently, only work inside the prison was allowed, though there was never enough to fully occupy the inmates.

Chapel Ceiling

Chapel Ceiling

Chapel #1

Chapel #1

Chapel #2

Chapel #2

Punishments varied over the years, with flogging and time in irons eventually replaced by lengthening of sentences and deprivation of visitors or entertainment. More than 40 hangings were carried out at Fremantle Prison, which was Western Australia's only lawful place of execution, between 1888 and 1984.

Fremantle Prison was partially used as a military prison during both world wars – for the detention of military personnel, as well as an internment center. From 1940 until 1946, it was one of more than 50 military prisons across Australia holding a combined total of more than 12,000 enemy aliens and prisoners of war. Fremantle accommodated up to 400 military prisoners and up to 160 civilian prisoners by October 1945 .

Solitary confinement section

Solitary confinement section

The state government made the decision to decommission Fremantle Prison in 1983, but it remained in operation until November 30th, 1991. Prisoners were moved to a new metropolitan maximum security prison at Casuarina. There were divergent views in the community over the site's future, whether it should be preserved or redeveloped.

The following photos were taken five months before the closing of the prison by photographer Karin Calver-Borshoff who had been contracted by the State Government to document the facility, its routines and customs before the site was decommissioned.

After its closure the WA state government embarked on a long-term conservation plan to ensure the Prison’s preservation for future generations. Fremantle Prison is one of the largest surviving convict prisons in the world today.

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There are 13 comments , add yours!
Buster Bruce 1 day, 8 hours ago

Photos enjoyable, but I also appreciated all the effort you put into creating the informative narrative for us. Well done Camellia

1 day, 8 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Buster Bruce 1 day, 5 hours ago

Thanks Buster. I've always been the researcher even at work. You know that old commercial from Kellogg, I believe, where the kid brothers say " Let's have Mickey try it, he'll eat anything" ? Well in my case my co-workers always used say " Let Camellia look for it, she can find anything" 🙃🙃

1 day, 5 hours ago Edited
Buster Bruce Replied to Camellia Staab 1 day, 5 hours ago

You know what's sad... I remember that [email protected]#$%^&*  Let Mikee try it! came on right after "where's the beef" commercial LOL

1 day, 5 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Buster Bruce 1 day, 4 hours ago

OH Yeah! Your memory is much better than mine...I had forgotten "Where's the beef" one.😂

1 day, 4 hours ago Edited
Antonio Gil 2 days, 16 hours ago

TFS such a report about this prison. great pictures as always. I'm always learning with your posts

2 days, 16 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Antonio Gil 2 days, 13 hours ago

Thank you. I am learning as well smile

2 days, 13 hours ago Edited
Jay Boggess 3 days, 3 hours ago

Wonderful photo report! Love the variety & captions. Fascinating historic photos, as well!

3 days, 3 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Jay Boggess 3 days, 2 hours ago

Thank you Jay smile

3 days, 2 hours ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Camellia Staab 3 days ago

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My Pleasuregrinning

3 days ago Edited
Abigail Gossage 3 days, 8 hours ago

If you ever come up to Kingston, Ontario you can check out the tours of the Kingston Pen😃

3 days, 8 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Abigail Gossage 3 days, 5 hours ago

Thanks Abigail, your area is on my list smile

3 days, 5 hours ago Edited
Heike 3 days, 15 hours ago

Very interesting. I like such history-stories about old buildings. Great photos, especially #8 and #15!

............ #22 - but why the hell did they imprison Jonny Cash??????? smilelaughing

3 days, 15 hours ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Heike 3 days, 13 hours ago

He could pass as Johnny's twin.  I did look up to see if Johnny was ever imprisoned, only because I do remember seeing some photo of him in jail. Apparently, he was several times but only for one night stands smile

3 days, 13 hours ago Edited