Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fremantle Prison Again

One thing Mom had not yet seen was Fremantle Prison, so, about a week ago we decided to head to the prison and take the regular day tour. You may remember that early in the semester I accompnied the students on the ghost tour and I was interested to see the place in the daylight and try to decide which tour would be the most interesting. (Also I wanted to see the exhibit on the Fenian escape - which I was only able to visit for a short time, because of the schedules of the tours.)

The prison is an impressive sight in the day time: White and massive and on a hill so as to be conspicuous.

Fremantle was never a penal colony like the Eastern cities, so they did not have significant prisoner populations until after the 1850s when the city started begging for prisoners to use as cheap labor. These are buildings that now house the toilet facilities.

Once beyond the black iron gate, one has a nice view of the front yard.

Here you see the interior of the cell block from the ground floor. The metal netting was added late in the prison's history to help prevent suicides (and it took years after the particular suicide that motivated this to get anything in place.)

Here is a kitchen - on the ghost tour we heard about a cook who was murdered in the kitchen.

The yards for the prisoners have guard towers overlooking them.

In some yards they let the prisoners paint on the walls when they knew they would be closing the prison.

We could see the prison better during the day tour and the tour was much more factual than what we heard from our previous guide (but of course the atmosphere was not as intense either.)

There was a major fire which destroyed the hardwood timbers in the ceiling and the roof and so most of the original jarrah wood had to be replaced in one side of the cell block. (Here is a photo posted on the wall fromt he time after the fire.)

It must have been awful to be locked inside and see the bright daylight outside filtered through the bars and completely inaccessible.

The cells were very small (especially in the early years of the prison when prisoners slept in hammocks. On the ground floor we have examples of the changes over the years. The rooms get larger and eventually there is actual furniture. This however necessitated a change in the ways the doors would open, since furniture alsomeant objects to pile up and inhibit the opening of a door that swings to the inside.)

This is the flogging triangle. The cat-of-nine-tails was the usual form of punishment. We heard grizzly descriptions of its use and abuse.

Here you see a door into the cell for giving food.

These are the doors to death row cells. Cell number one was the cell for holding before the person was taken to the gallows.

We enjoyed the tour and decided we would come back for the Great escapes tour on another day when we were not so tired.
On the way out we noticed this tree with its amazingly contorted branches.

Then it was home to rest up from all that walking.

I think after seeing both tours that I enjoyed the ghost tour more. We heard more personal stories about individual prisoners like Moondyne Joe (a bit of a legend in these parts) although I worry about the facticity of the night tour. I also did not really need the people jumping out of cells at us - but did enjoy the spookiness and atmosphere of the darkness.


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