Fremantle Prison - modern era
The prison was handed over around 1868 for 'everyday' crimes from stealing through to murder. And it remained so for the next century - a prison built in the 1850s in use until 1991.
Prisoners were tough, wardens were tough and it became the most notorious of all prisons. Over time modernisation took place - the combining of two cells to make one for single use (other than when it was overcrowded),kitchens, exercise yards, modern sanitation. A women's prison was also built in the grounds, converting one of the larger halls and surrounding it with high walls. But the basics remained the same and when the prison finally closed (or opened....) its doors, the original buildings were nearly 150 years old.
In 1886, the prison had become a major high security prison and, with the building of the gallows, took over from Perth Gaol as the only place of legal execution in the State until the policy was outlawed in 1984. 44 people were hanged - 43 men and one woman, the last being serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke in 1964.
Visits to the prison are by tours only - 75 minutes, one or two run by former guards. They're fascinating, being taken round a place of incarceration with so much history and includes cells (original and new), kitchens, chapel, exercise yards, the isolation block and, most horrific of all, the execution cell.
There are several types of tours - including the 'basic' (Doing Time) there's also the prison walls, underground caverns (Tunnels), escape routes (Great Escape) and the like - plus a nighttime tour (Torchlight). All last between 75-120 minutes and most can be added on to each other, thus spending virtually a whole day in the Prison.
Stay with your group - there's a story (maybe for truth) of a tourist who wandered into a room with a self-locking door who spent the night in Fremantle Prison!
Doing Time & Great Escape are $19 (full)/$16 (concession)/$10 (child 4-15 yo)/$53 (family of 2 adults and 3 kids) (combined - $26/$23/$17/$81)
Tunnels $60/$50/$40 (no family ticket)
- Historical Travel
Fremantle Prison - convict era
A World Heritage listed building, WA's one and only, Fremantle Prison was built by convict labour between 1852 and 1859 from limestone quarried on site. By 1855, enough of the prison was completed for convicts to be moved into the premises, moving from temporary accommodation near the present day Esplanade Hotel (The Round House being far too small). They also built the houses on the outside of the prison walls and the grand houses (the verandahs were added 20 years or so later) marked the importance of the prison staff in the town.
The early convicts were not newly arrived from England - the first were shipped from NSW and the like to help shore up the small local population and be, essentially, slave labour - up until 1850 the colony was made up of freemen and the military.
But more and more were sent from England and by the time the deportations came to an end in 1868, more than 9,500 were processed through Fremantle.
Working 14 - 16 hours per day, whatever the weather, the convicts would be marched off to their place of work before being brought back to their cells. Interestingly, they were not locked up in the cells as they would be today.
As a result of the change of policy, the prison was no longer needed and instead passed control into the hands of the colonial government. Fremantle Prison was to remain the main prison for WA for another 100+ years and become one of the most feared gaols in the country.
- Historical Travel
Fisherman's Memorial (The Jetty)
Down in the fishing docks, the Fisherman's Memorial is a celebration of the men and women who have contributed to the development of the fishing industry in Fremantle, one of the single most important industries that contributed to the growth of the town.
It was unveiled in 2005 and features 608 names (and one nice aspect of the memorial is that it is not simply a list of those lost at sea and the fact it recognises the role of women on land as well as sea), created as it was by local sculptor Greg James and Jon Tarry who designed the jetty itself.
The Terrace, Fremantle
The most feared address in Fremantle and one of the most feared in the whole of Australia - The Terrace being the entrance to Fremantle Prison.
Yet The Terrace itself is lined with delightful Victorian and Edwardian houses backing on to the prison walls. Built mostly in the late 1800s, the buildings were used for the prison staff - including the Governor, Prison Superintendent, Gatekeeper and Guards.
Renovated in the 1990s, today the buildings are utilised by, among others, the University of WA but all of which provide an impressive facade to the prison and surrounding the famed gatehouse and entrance.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
It was blowing a gale, rain was constantly threatening and I'd already chased my sunnies across the park as they were blown off my head. So I cannot say much about the beach other than there's a nice little strip of sand between the mouth of the river and the old fishing port. Photos I've seen usually make the seas aquamarine, the sands almost white. Not today :)
Part of the Maritime Museum, the Shipwreck Galleries are housed in former government port stores from the 19th century and form part of one of the most important maritime archaeological research and display centres in the world.
To be honest, I am not the greatest fan of maritime museums but the Shipwreck Galleries are astonishing. Not only are there displays of salvaged items and treasures from the numerous wrecks from along the treacherous WA coastline, but there's also studies of early exploration, maps, instruments and equipment.
But the stand out is the Batavia Gallery and the reconstructed stern of the Dutch ship Batavia wrecked in 1629 using original timbers. It's a stunning, darkened environment.
Open daily, 9.30am-5pm, entry by gold coin donation.
- Museum Visits
The original jail of Fremantle and the oldest 'complete' building in Western Australia, dating from 1830.
It opened less than 18 months after first settlement and consisted of 8 cells built round a circular courtyard alongside administration offices. But with the arrival of the first of the convict ships to WA in 1850, it was quickly apparent The Roundhouse was too small and Fremantle Prison was duly built.
The Roundhouse remained a police lock-up for minor crimes and overnighters until the 1890s before becoming accommodation for the Water Police, cited as it is on a headland overlooking the mouth of the Swan River and the open seas.
Having fallen into disrepair as a port storage unit, Fremantle Council took over the building in 1982 and renovated it in order to open The Roundhouse to the general public.
It is open daily from 10.30am - 3.30pm and entry is by gold coin donation.
- Historical Travel
Running from the Town Hall to the ocean is the quieter end of High Street and its 19th century buildings - mostly beautifully preserved/renovated. It's walking along here and the side streets running at right-angles which emphasise the history of Fremantle and its uniqueness in Australia. It really is high-density heritage.
The usual budgetary machinations played havoc with the original planning of the Town Hall for Fremantle, with different sites selected before the current site was agreed upon.
Building finally started in 1885, with the building opened on 22 June 1887, just in time for the celebrations of Queen Victoria's 50th Jubilee. It had a sad beginning as, just after midnight, Town Supervisor W J Snook was shot on the premises having refused entry to W Conroy, landlord of the nearby National Hotel. Conroy has the distinction of being the last man to hang in Perth Gaol. It was an auspicious beginning for the building.
It's changed little since it was first unveiled.
- Historical Travel
Fremantle Chamber of Commerce
As we walked to the waterfront we came upon the building that houses the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. This is an old building from the Boom time in Western Australia. I'm glad to see that old building here are maintained and kept alive; not demolished and left to rot as they sometimes are back at home.
The Explorer's Monument is dedicated to three explorer's: Frederick Panter, James Harding and William Goldwyer;who were exploring Western Australia.
According to the plaque; the explorer's wer murdered by "treacherous" natives (aboriginals in
1864. Thei murder was discovered by Maitland Brown who was sent to look for this missing party. Brown and his men claimed they were attacked by the Aboriginals and killed them. Their is much controversy still regarding this matter in which both sides say they were attacked by the other.
Either way; people died needlessly on both sides and the battle between Aboriginal and White Australian is still present. It's the same sort of tragedy that befell the Native Americans in the United States and I feel bad for the Aboriginal people.
Ride the Ferris Wheel in Fremantle
The Ferris Wheel on the Esplanade is one of the attractions in Fremantle. The Ferris Wheel provides excellent views of the Fishing boat Harbour and surrounding area. For $12 an adult you can take a spin in Freo.
Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour
The Fishing Boat Harbour has been home to fishing boats since 1919. The Harbour is always a hub of activity with boats pulling in and out all day. Surrounding the Harbour are restuarants specializing in seafood; which makes a perfect spot to have a meal and watch the boats.
My wife and I enjoyed wandering around the Harbour, watching the boats and enjoying a delicious seafood lunch.
The Fremantle Markets are a must see when in the area. The Markets have been in Fremantle since 1897 and have become an icon. The Markets have a variety of vendors selling their wares out of stalls. There is something for everyone from food, jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, hone goods and plenty of prepared food. The Great Hall of the market showcases their dining venues and Market Bar. The food is international with Turkish, French, Japanese and Vietnamese blending in with the local fare.
The Markets are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Vasco da Gama Monument
While strolling through the Esplanade Park we found a strange fin like sculpture. Upon further inspection the sculpture reads "Vasco de Gama". The sculpture commemorates the explorations of Vasco de Gama especially the voyages that linked Europe with the Indian Ocean.
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