Fremantle Prison

GPS 32 03 18.28 E 115 45 13.06 S

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most significant historic sites in the Perth-Fremantle area is the old prison at Fremantle.

 

Once convict transportation to Western Australia started in 1850, there was a need to house the prisoners in a secure area. Work on the buildings started in 1852 and the first convicts were housed in the main cell block in 1855.

 

Originally known as 'The Establishment', the name was changed to Fremantle Prison in 1867.

 

The prison was built to hold 1000 prisoners but by 1886 there were only 60 convicts being held there. Then in the 1890s the gold-rush started and the prison soon became very active.

 

After the Perth Gaol and the Aboriginal prison on Rottnest Island closed, Fremantle Prison became the main holding centre for law-breakers in W.A.

 

During the Second World War part of the prison was taken over by the military and was used to hold 'enemy aliens'.

 

In the 1980s there were growing concerns about conditions in the prison and this combined with a series or riots led to the prison closing on November 8th 1991.

 

The prison housed a number of notorious criminals during its years of operation but far and away the most famous was Moondyne Joe who became notorious for his escapes and daring deeds.

 

Some prisoners had talents that went beyond their unlawful behaviour. Some were talented artists and their work (now uncovered) is displayed on cell walls.

 

Today the prison houses some community and non-profit organisations as well as being a major tourist attraction where groups are taken through on guided tours. One fairly recent addition to the tours in the prison is exploration of the tunnels beneath the prison.

 

The tunnels are 20 metres underground and some are accessed by boat as they are partly flooded.

 

Night tours of the prison are also conducted. For details and pricing for any of the tours please visit the prison website.

 

The prison is Western Australia's only World Heritage listed building and as such is highly significant historically. The tours are fascinating and we recommend that you do at least a day tour if you are visiting Fremantle. Tunnel tours should only be undertaken by people who are physically fit and who are not afraid of either heights or enclosed spaces. If you are feeling brave and have the time, do the night-time tour as well. The prison is a spooky place at night!

 

 

Painting of Fremantle Prison by Henry Wray from 1859. Ct. National Library of Australia.
Painting of Fremantle Prison by Henry Wray from 1859. Ct. National Library of Australia.

 

Fremantle Prison

 

Fremantle Prison

 

Fremantle Prison

 

 

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