Page 1

Your guide to

port arthur

Vi s i t o r

i n f o r m at i o n Please help us to conserve Port Arthur This site is now fragile. You can help to keep it and yourself safe by not walking on walls and foundations. Please leave things as they are for others to enjoy. Opening hours The Visitor Centre is open from 8.30am until after the last Historic Ghost Tour at night. Tours operate and buildings are open at various times between 9am and 5pm. Please check today’s times at the Visitor Centre and on the signs. The grounds and ruins are open from 8.30am until dusk. Site entry pass Your day entry pass is valid for two consecutive days. You can buy a 2 year pass for a small additional fee. Included with your entry pass are the following: • Interpretation Gallery On entry you will receive a playing card which gives you the identity of a real convict. Begin upstairs with the large model of the site, to understand its former size and complexity. Then go downstairs into the Interpretation Gallery, where you can find ‘your’ convict and trace his life at Port Arthur. • Introductory walking tour (40 minutes) Tours leave regularly from outside the lower level of the Visitor Centre. This tour provides a basic introduction to the most important places at Port Arthur. • Harbour Cruise (20 minutes) You will receive your tour time when you buy your site entry pass. Please be at the jetty five minutes before the time indicated, as the ferry leaves punctually. The cruise will pass the Dockyard, Point Puer Boys’ Prison and the Isle of the Dead cemetery. Those with tickets for tours at Point Puer and the Isle of the Dead will disembark at each site. • Convict Study Centre The Port Arthur database can also be accessed while you are on site. Located in the Asylum complex, this Centre provides two computer terminals, and also a small collection of useful books for you to browse in comfort. • Museum Also located in the Asylum complex, the Museum houses an exhibition of historically important material associated with Port Arthur’s convict and post-convict history. 2

Special tours Historic Ghost Tours operate after dark. Bookings are essential and may be made at the Visitor Centre. Access to the site of the Point Puer Boys' Prison and the Isle of the Dead is only available on guided tours. Tickets may be purchased at the Visitor Centre or on board the ferry. The Convict Water Supply Trail leads from behind the Hospital to the rear of the Commandant’s House. It takes about 30 minutes. Along the trail you will see the extraordinary convict-built engineering project that brought water to the settlement for power and human consumption. This trail also provides a window onto the effects of 150 years of human activity on this landscape. Services available at the Visitor Centre First Aid, wheelchair loan, stroller hire, walk-a-seat hire, raincoat sales, audio tour sales, tickets to all tours including the Historic Ghost Tours, conference information kits, wedding information kits, Tasmanian Visitor Information Network. Appropriate clothing The weather at Port Arthur can be very changeable, so it is wise to bring something warm, and a raincoat or umbrella. The ground is uneven in places, and there is quite a lot of walking to do, so sturdy footwear is advised. Disabled access We can make special arrangements to assist people with limited mobility, please enquire at the ticketing desk.

Published by: Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, Port Arthur, Tasmania 7182, Australia This book is copyright. Š Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority 2006


We l c o m e

to port arthur Prepare to be surprised Many visitors expect a sad tale of torture and misery. But there is much more to Port Arthur. The English prison reformer Jeremy Bentham described his Penitentiary as ‘a machine for grinding rogues honest’. This was the model for Port Arthur. The cogs of this machine were discipline and punishment, religious and moral instruction, classification and separation, training and education. Each building, each garden, each fence and pathway that you see today played its part in this relentless machine. It was an ambitious experiment. Its methods seem cruel today, and many men were broken. Some were absorbed into other experiments, the beginnings of the modern welfare system or of the modern asylum. But some men did leave here equipped for a future that they could not otherwise have dreamed of. All of the buildings here are a monument to the trade training they received, from the production of the building materials through to construction. In stark contrast to the convict experience, a community of military men and free officers with wives and families tried to make normal lives. They held parties, regattas and literary evenings. Their children played and went to school. Port Arthur is not just a monument to an ambitious but deeply flawed experiment that took place a long time ago. It has lessons for us today as we continue to wrestle with the need for punishment and reform within our criminal justice system.


A brief history

of port arthur The Pyderrairme people were the traditional owners of this area. Middens and other cultural sites remain from many thousands of years of occupation. Port Arthur penal station was established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp, producing sawn logs for government projects. After 1833 it became a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies. It also managed a number of outstations that produced raw material like timber and food. By 1840 over 2000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff lived here. It had become a major industrial settlement, producing ships and shoes, clothing and bells, furniture and worked stone, brooms and bricks. When the probation system was introduced in 1841, many convicts were sent to outstations around the Peninsula to work in timber-getting and agriculture. Port Arthur became a punishment station for serious repeat offenders. Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land ended in 1853 and Port Arthur began to enter its welfare phase. Increasingly it housed the wreckage of the convict system, men too physically or mentally disabled to look after themselves. Again Port Arthur became the administrative centre of a system of outstations that now housed invalids who worked at agriculture if they could, or who simply served out their time. The penal settlement finally closed in 1877. Many of the settlement’s buildings were pulled down or gutted by fire. Others were sold to private settlers and gradually a small town, named Carnarvon, was established. Tourists began to pour in immediately the settlement closed. Some of the buildings became hotels, guest houses and museums. Almost 100 years ago, the government began to acquire and manage town lots for their historic value. The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority is now responsible for the site’s management and conservation as a place of international significance. Port Arthur is Tasmania’s premier tourist attraction. What you see before you today is only a fraction of what was once here. You may need to make a powerful imaginative effort to visualise the bustling settlement as it was. This guidebook will help you to fill in some gaps. A n o t e o n d at e s : Buildings and gardens at Port Arthur were constantly being adapted. To avoid giving large numbers of dates, the date given for each place usually represents the year when it was first used. 3

1. t h e a dmi n is t r a t i o n a r e a -

C o mm a n d a n t ’ s H o u se ( b u il t

i n s t a ges 1 8 3 3 - 5 6 ) , S e n i o r M ili t a r y O f f ice r ’ s H o u se ( 1 8 3 3 ) and the Law Courts (1846).

The control room of the machine In this area all the cogs were set to work together. Here the senior administrators lived and directed the operation of the machine. Note how the Commandant’s House and the site of the Senior Military Officer’s House are set high on the hill, with the best view and aspect. The Commandant was even further protected by a wall enclosing his garden. Here he grew herbs, fruit and vegetables for his table. A garden of flower beds and trees provided a pleasant private space for his family. Commandant William Champ was a particularly keen gardener and planted native as well as imported plants. The Commandant was responsible for all areas of the settlement except the garrison. The Senior Military Officer’s role was to maintain discipline among the troops and ensure the security of the settlement. In practice, however, the lines of authority were not so clear cut and disputes between the two men often arose. By the 1850s Port Arthur was entirely run by civilian officers. Behind the Commandant’s House was a semaphore. It used a code of almost 3000 numbers, each signifying a word or phrase. These were delivered by six arms arranged in different positions. Messages could be passed from Port Arthur to Hobart within 15 minutes through six semaphore stations located on prominent peaks. 4

At the Law Courts the convicts were introduced to the regime of ‘ceaseless vigilance’, discipline and punishment which was to transform them from rogues into honest men. New arrivals were lined up in the street, where the Commandant’s clerk read out the Rules and Regulations. American Patriot Linus Miller complained that the performance took over an hour. Overseers enjoyed sending convicts to ‘the green door’ or ‘the office’, where the Commandant heard charges of misconduct and handed down punishments. During the decline of the 1860s part of this building was given over to recreation for officers and their families. They might use the library and reading room, or gather for social entertainments like literary readings and private theatricals.

Senior officers’ wives These women were expected to create a happy home and to set an example to other families. Their genteel conversation and charming manners often surprised visiting dignitaries. When Mrs Lemprière sang and played for French visitor Captain LaPlace, he described her performance as ‘a rare treat’. Another visitor marvelled at the apparently carefree attitude of these women, surrounded as they were by what he called ‘the greatest villains’. Post convict period The Commandant’s House was a hotel until 1939. The Senior Military Officer’s House became an infants’ school until it was destroyed in bushfires in 1897. The Law Courts were the police station until damaged by fire in 1897. It was rebuilt as a hotel but another fire reduced it to a ruin in 1921. tour tip Go to the top of the hill behind the Commandant’s House and try to imagine what he might have seen from there. 5

2 . T h e M ili t a r y a r e a –

the Barracks (1831, 1847), T o we r C o t t a ge O f f ice r s ’ Quarters (1854) and the G u a r d T o we r ( 1 8 4 2 )

Always on guard The military area is next door. It also sits on high ground, so that the soldiers were able to defend themselves and look out for trouble. Security was their main responsibility. They watched convicts working at the docks, in the stores and the bush and on the boats. They also hunted escapees. Most regiments posted here regarded it as a low point in their history. After 1846, the number of soldiers at Port Arthur began to decline, from a high of 115 to 41 by the final years. Guard duties were increasingly carried out by civilian guards and constables; many were former convicts. The last regiment was sent to the New Zealand Land Wars in 1863. We know little about the living conditions of soldiers here, but at similar postings their barracks had; … a door at one end and the fireplace at the other, with rows of iron bedsteads on either side, that are folded up… in the daytime; there are also tables and benches. [It] serves as a dormitory, a dining room and a washing place for the women.


Each man had about half the space allocated to a convict. The barracks became so overcrowded in the 1840s that some men slept on the floor. On similar stations each married couple lived behind a curtain in another large room. For each 100 men, twelve wives ‘of the best quality’ were allowed to accompany their husbands. Supervised by the sergeant’s wife, they washed, sewed and provided basic nursing for the men in their husband’s company. The barracks were later extended several times, with the addition of two guard towers, one of which survives today, a compound wall and several other barrack buildings. Tower Cottage provided additional officer housing. The Guard Tower contained a storeroom for guns and ammunition, a guard room and a watch tower. Three cells were provided for soldiers, civilian offenders and female convict servants. They were locked up for minor crimes like drunkenness, or waited here to be sent to Hobart for trial for more serious offences like assault. After the settlement closed, most of the military complex was demolished. The 1897 bushfires destroyed much of what remained. A soldier’s life While military officers and their families mixed with the civil officers, and enjoyed dinner parties, literary evenings and cricket matches, life was monotonous and boring for other ranks. When off-duty they had nowhere to go. Cards, music, fishing and hunting were permitted. Illegal but popular amusements included fighting, gambling, stealing food from officers’ gardens and goods from stores, and trading with convicts. Soldiers’ children went to school and played with each other, but not with the civil officers’ children. tour tip Have a look at the inside walls of the ground floor of the Guard Tower. Why do you think they stopped storing gunpowder there? Can you see another reason why you might not store gunpowder here today? 7

dine with

conviction Whether you need a quick, affordable and tasty family meal before heading out on a Ghost Tour or would like to enjoy a relaxed dinner featuring fresh local produce beautifully cooked and presented, Felons offers great value. Open from 5.00pm every evening and conveniently located in the visitor centre.

Felons, at the Port Arthur Historic Site Visitor Centre Open 7 evenings a week Fully Licensed Phone: 1800 659 101 Bookings can be made to coincide with one of the Historic Ghost Tours

3 . T h e p r is o n e r s ’ a r e a – si t e o f t h e P r is o n e r

Barracks (1830, 1834) and t h e Pe n i t e n t i a r y ( 1 8 5 7 )

Cages for lions When the convicts first arrived in September 1830 they were housed in a hastilybuilt Prisoners’ Barracks of weatherboard huts, formed around a central yard with a flogging yard nearby. Behind them lay allotments, where prisoners were allowed to grow vegetables to supplement their rations of salt meat and flour. More extensive buildings replaced these huts in 1834-5. These were arranged around 2 courtyards. In the first yard were the schoolroom and the overseers’ accommodation. The main courtyard contained 16 huts each housing 16-30 prisoners. One big room held two long tables for meals, beds for convicts along the back wall and bunks for overseers at one end. Governor Arthur thought that gardening was a privilege that convicts did not deserve and in 1833 the convicts’ gardens were confiscated. Severe outbreaks of scurvy followed. These barracks continued in use until the former flourmill and granary was converted into the Penitentiary. This mill had been completed in 1845 to try to supply all the settlement’s flour. It was powered by both a water wheel, and a convict-driven treadmill. Men dreaded punishment on the treadmill; it was exhausting and 9

could lead to serious injury. The complex never operated as hoped and by 1848 was ‘a large useless store’. The new Penitentiary had 136 separate cells on the bottom two floors for those whom one Commandant called ‘the lions’, ‘prisoners of bad character under heavy sentence’. They had to be separated from each other and from the betterbehaved. The men ate and slept here but worked around the site. Above the cells was a dining hall (which doubled as a school room at night), the prisoners’ library of ‘useful and entertaining books’ and a Catholic chapel. On the top floor was a dormitory for about 480 better-behaved men. At the western end were a kitchen and bakery. In front was a yard surrounded by a low wall. Here men were assembled to hear prayers and be counted before and after work. The laundry and toilet block lay behind the main building. It included sheltered exercise yards with fireplaces, toilets, a clothing store, laundry and drying room. As the harsh regime relaxed in the early 1860s, the big central room became a ‘day room’ or ‘smoking room’, with seating and a fireplace at one end. The Penitentiary symbolises the machine of reform at work, containing within itself both the machinery of punishment and of self-improvement. It was gutted by fires in 1897. See the site map for a walking trail that takes you ‘behind the scenes’ of an extraordinary convict-built engineering project. It leaves from behind the Hospital, on the hill above the Penitentiary. tour tip Look at the internal walls. Can you see any evidence of those fires? 10

4 . T h e i n d u s t r i a l a r e a s (1831, 1857)

Work for life The workshops played a vital role in the settlement’s survival and in the machinery of reform. They provided trade training, essential goods for the settlement and, if possible, surplus for sale. The government was very keen to keep costs down and turn a profit if possible. A range of workshops was constructed on the southern shore of the cove in 1831 for the blacksmiths and shoemakers. By 1836 the buildings had expanded to include carpenters, coopers, wood turners, tailors, shoemakers, nailers and blacksmiths shops; the bells that are on display in the Church were cast here in the 1840s. Lumber was stored in a long wing at the rear. When the Penitentiary was established in 1857, these workshops were superseded by a larger industrial complex adjacent to its western end. It housed carpenters, coopers, painters, blacksmiths and foundrymen. The workshops also contained steam-powered sawmills and a bone mill. The development of the workshops reflected the growth of skills, training and production at Port Arthur. Gradually the settlement stopped relying on imported goods and moved to self-sufficiency in manufactured goods and, eventually, to export. But as the number of able-bodied men declined after 1864, the workshops gradually wound down. Post convict period During the early 1930s shopkeeper William Radcliffe built a shop and large wooden shed over the workshops site to the west of the Penitentiary. It housed his popular museum of 19th century ‘curiosities’. tour tip Face the Penitentiary and look at the grassy space to the right. What sounds and smells might once have filled the air here? 11

5 . T h e W el f a r e a r e a –

t h e Pa u p e r s ’ D e p o t ( 1 8 6 4 ) a n d t h e Asyl u m ( 1 8 6 8 )

By the early 1860s a large number of men who were in need of care shuttled between the Paupers’ Depot, the Hospital and the Lunatic Asylum, depending on their state of health. A home for ‘old gentlemen’ The Paupers’ Depot housed men who were too old or feeble to care for themselves, like James Thomas (aged 80, weak eyes). In the Mess up to 140 men sat at benches for meals. The Barracks, a large weatherboard dormitory building in front, has now disappeared. Paupers were still treated rather like prisoners. They were made useful and obedient by being put to work if they were able. They cooked, washed, collected wood and even played the fiddle. Their number included a shepherd, a pig feeder, a lamplighter, a clock keeper and officers’ servants. Enjoyable and ‘improving’ activities were also considered important for the ‘old gentlemen’. They had a library, and weekly musical and dramatic amusements in the Mess Hall, which were also attended by staff and their families. But these old men could not keep the settlement going, and they were expensive to maintain. When the settlement closed in 1877 the remaining paupers were removed to Hobart. In making provision for helpless men, this was the birth of the modern welfare system in Australia. tour tip Have a look in the Paupers’ mess. How did the old men keep warm? 12

From cruelty to kindness Violent men like Patrick Cavanagh, ‘not to be trusted, even to prayers’, were held in the Separate Prison. But most of the men in this Lunatic Asylum would today be diagnosed with depression, dementia or mental disability. Thomas Starkey believed he was 16,000 years old. John Burns ‘kept jumping up and down because he thought he had a snake up his jumper’. The new Asylum was built to house 100 patients from Port Arthur and throughout Van Diemen’s Land. It represented the latest thinking in the treatment of ‘lunacy’. Like the Separate Prison, it tried to replace physical intimidation with mental reform. ‘Lunatics’ were to be cured in a calm, clean environment, with kindness, exercise and amusement, religious consolation and work to soothe the mind. A new building, the ‘ideal asylum’, was designed to deliver this treatment and Port Arthur’s Asylum had many of its features. The rooms were spacious and well-lighted; disruptive patients were isolated in single apartments. Attendants in the central hall had a clear view down all four wings. ‘Excellent baths’ were provided. Well-behaved men could work in the gardens or sit along the front of the building in the sun. Violent patients took ‘air and exercise’ in separate yards without disturbing others. But elements of the prison remained. Patients still had to work; they washed clothes, collected firewood, gardened and cooked. Windows were too high to see out and the building was surrounded by a tall fence. Inmates ate together in the central hall, where the frightening behaviour of the disturbed patients shattered the peaceful atmosphere. But despite its failings, the broken men here were luckier than those in Britain’s ‘madhouses’. POST-CONVICT PERIOD After closure the Asylum was badly damaged by bushfires in 1895, and rebuilt with major alterations. It was a Town Hall and community centre until the 1970s. tour tip Imagine that you are an attendant in the Asylum. Where would you sit to keep an eye on as many different places as possible? 13

6 . T h e H o s p i ta l ( 1 8 4 2 ) Malingerers beware! The Hospital was built on the hill to catch healthful breezes. It contained wards for 80 convict patients, a store, kitchen, two morgues, a wash house and waste-collection room. The most common illnesses were respiratory or rheumatic complaints, the result of working outdoors and sleeping in cold cells in wet clothing. Industrial accidents were also common. As the numbers of paupers and invalids increased, so too did the diseases of old age and chronic ill-health. Men were carefully examined before being admitted; they might try for a holiday in the Hospital by, for example, sucking copper to turn their tongue green. The Hospital was managed by a surgeon assisted by convict orderlies. Supplies were often inadequate, anaesthetic was not yet available and treatment was primitive by today’s standards. The surgeon used a stocking needle to stitch up a convict who had cut his own throat, and then applied a homemade ointment of rendered salt pork. Edward Howard was shot in the arm while escaping. It took the surgeon 10 minutes to amputate his arm; he then cauterised the wound with a hot frying pan. Despite the harsh conditions, the disease and death rate here was far lower than in a British city. And unlike urban Britons and free settlers, convicts had free and ready access to treatment. The post convict period The Catholic Church bought the Hospital for an ecclesiastical college but it was reduced to this ruin by two bushfires in the 1890s. tour tip Look down into the basement. The mortuary was here. Why do you think that was? 14

7 . S mi t h O B r ie n ’ s C o t t a ge ( l at e 1 8 4 0 s )

a private prison ‘I have quite forgotten how to laugh …’ William Smith OBrien, 1850 Originally built as a stable, this building was converted into a cottage to house one of Port Arthur’s most famous political prisoners, Irish Protestant Parliamentarian William Smith O’Brien. He was a member of a revolutionary group formed to fight for Ireland’s independence from Britain. In 1848, O’Brien was among a group of leaders arrested after a failed uprising. They were transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land in 1849. Unlike his fellow conspirators, he refused to secure a ticket of leave by promising not to escape. He was sent first to Maria Island, and then, having tried to escape, to Port Arthur. When he arrived in August 1850 he described the settlement in his journal as looking ‘more like a pretty village placed in a romantic position than an abode of misery and crime’. He was treated as a special case and lodged alone in relative comfort. He was not allowed visitors but he took solace from feeding his neighbour’s pigeons and working in a small garden. In November, grateful for a petition in which 500 Hobart residents urged him to seek a ticket of leave, he promised not to escape and was freed. As he left he farewelled Port Arthur as ‘a spot which has probably witnessed more of human suffering than almost any spot of equal size on the globe’. In 1856 he returned to Ireland. POST-CONVICT PERIOD The building was used as a private residence and then a Youth Hostel. tour tip If you were Smith O’Brien, working in his garden, what do you think you would have seen? 15

8 . T h e S e p a r a t e P r is o n (1849)

silent and solitary ‘changing the evil tendencies of the Convicts’ minds’ Commandant Boyd 1864 The Separate Prison was built on a hill at the edge of the settlement. Its isolation and high walls were designed to threaten anyone contemplating disobedience with a mysterious and awful fate. When it was built, new ideas about reforming criminals were sweeping the world. It was now thought that physical punishment only hardened a man. But in a quiet, ordered atmosphere a man could contemplate his sin and change his life. A new kind of building was to deliver this new system. The architecture and regime of Port Arthur’s Separate Prison were based on those used at Britain’s Pentonville Prison (1842). Four wings radiating from a central area allowed for close supervision. But at Port Arthur the cells were smaller and, unlike at Pentonville, here there were special punishment cells, which took solitary punishment to a new level of cruelty. For any misdemeanour a man was locked in total darkness and silence for between several hours and 30 days on bread and water. After 3 days he was taken out for an hour's exercise each day. Each new arrival spent 4 to 12 months in the Separate Prison, before being assigned to work outside on the settlement. Upon entering the Prison each man was allocated a number; his name was no longer spoken. He was only to communicate with staff. The corridors were laid with mats and guards wore slippers so that they could hear his every sound. They checked on him constantly through a peep hole in his cell door. Apart from chapel, cleaning duty and an hour’s exercise, he spent 23 hours of every day in his tiny cell in solitude and silence. He had a small table, stool, 16

bedding roll, night soil bucket and corner shelves for eating utensils, personal items, cleaning kit, Bible and prayer book. Here he ate, slept and worked at tailoring, shoemaking, picking oakum, mat or broom making. Outside his cell he was masked to prevent him from making contact with other inmates. He also exercised alone. In chapel he stood screened from his fellows in an individual booth, supervised by four armed guards. Medical Officers monitored his mental and physical health, hygiene, rations, clothing, bedding, and exercise regime. We know of no case of mental collapse under this regime; such a diagnosis was almost impossible to establish, since all convicts were assumed to be malingerers. But such breakdowns do occur in modern prisons, which have many of the elements of the separate system introduced at Port Arthur. The building was almost destroyed by bushfire in 1895. Sections were rebuilt in the mid 20th century.

tour tip Stand in the chapel; what can you see? Spend some time in the punishment cell; what can you hear? 17

Sm OBr Cot


Carnarvon Bay



Commandant's House

Officers‘ Quarters Guard Tower




Carnarvon Bay Track


Point Puer




Isle of the Dead

N Ferry Terminal

Eftpos Toilets

Canadian Cottage

Information First Aid Jetty Cottage

Post Box



To the Dockyard


Lime Kiln

Clerk of Works‘ House

Stewarts Bay Track 18

Visitor Centre

Children‘s Play Area Overflow Parking


Shipwright‘s House


Memorial Garden




Mason Cove

Visitor Car Park

Convict Water Supply trail

mith rien's ttage

Dam Laundry



Asylum, Study Centre, Museum & Coffee Shop


Paupers' Mess

Farm Overseer‘s Cottage



Memorial Avenue

Policeman's Residence



Separate Prison


Trentham Cha mp Stre et

et ay Stre Tramw

Magistrate's and Surgeon's House Roman Catholic Chaplain's House

Junior Medical Officer's House

Ta rle to n

Str ee t

Port Arthur Comfort Inn Accountant's House

St David's Church



10 nm


ad Ro tty Je

Pat Jones‘ Cottage





Scorpion Rock Church

Government Cottage

Ch urc hS tre et



Price's Kiln 19




Tours depart every night (except 25th December) after dusk for approximately 1.5 hours. Be sure to wear adequate clothing and sensible shoes - and bring a steady nerve.

Bookings are essential – FREECALL 1800 659 101

20 Port Arthur Historic Site, Port Arthur, Tasmania 7182 – Phone (03) 6251 2310 Fax (03) 6251 2311

9 . C ivil R o w ( 1 8 4 2 - 4 8 ) ,

G o ve r n me n t C o t t a ge ( 1 8 5 3 ) a n d t h e G o ve r n me n t G a r de n s ( 1 8 4 6 )

Away from prying eyes Originally free officers and their families lived on Settlement Hill, in small, often dilapidated, wooden houses. In the 1840s staff were rehoused as befitted their station. Set on high ground, Civil Row separated the private lives of bureaucrats from the prison population. This also protected them from the moral and physical pollution of the convicts. Family life was often strictly controlled. Wives were expected to obey husbands, children their parents, servants their masters; this obedience protected them from straying into sin. But wives were not always repressed. The Junior Medical Officer’s House was built for Mrs Lemprière, after she made it clear to her husband that she would no longer tolerate living in a small, damp house with their 11 children. Class barriers limited the social life of women within this small community. But in one exceptional incident, a socially diverse group of women combined to feed a baby after her mother Ann Gibbons, a soldier’s wife, died after childbirth. She survived and some of her descendants have visited the site. Although wives were supposed to promote social harmony, they sometimes caused conflict. Mrs Durham, wife of the Anglican clergyman, was generally unpopular and no servant would stay long in her house. This settlement was always the subject of intense interest and many people came to scrutinise its management or satisfy their curiosity. Government Cottage was built to house important visitors, including at least one Governor of Tasmania. The Governor of South Australia, Sir James Ferguson, strolled on its verandas in 1871. 21

Within the limits of the surrounding fence – their ‘gilded cage’ – not only important visitors but resident families could take the air in the Government Gardens, free from the disturbing presence of convicts. But here the machinery of discipline was now directed towards the free population; the gardens offered a model of civilised behaviour and idealised womanhood – ordered, peaceful and beautiful. This garden has now been reconstructed through archival research, archaeology and pollen analysis to how it may have looked in the 1860s-70s. The original plants were collected by officers passing through Cape Town, India or Rio de Janeiro. Other plants came through Hobart’s Botanical Gardens or direct from England. Commandant Champ’s mother sent wildflower seeds that she collected in the woods behind his boyhood home. In the Officers’ Allotments in front of Civil Row grew all the fruits and vegetables of Home; these were welcome additions to rations of potatoes, turnips, cabbages and salt meat. Elderly or physically weak convicts provided the labour. These gardens also tempted men to crime. Officers illegally sold surplus produce; convicts stole food to eat or to trade on the black market, and sometimes to take on an escape attempt. Samuel, an African convict, received 75 lashes for stealing from a garden and absconding.

tour tip The fence kept some people out and other people in; who do you think these people were? 22

Listen to the Stories of


Discover Port Arthur’s secrets with your personal audio guide. Explore the Site at your own pace, following the recommended path or choosing your own. Hear the stories and sounds of 19th century life at Port Arthur, including eyewitness accounts of the convict experience. The Audio Tour includes a closing message from Port Arthur’s Chairman, Dr Barry Jones AO, about the significance of Port Arthur to Australia’s past, present and future. Audio guides are available at the Visitor Centre for $6 per unit.

Take a little bit of history home. . .


Visit the Port Arthur Gift Shop in the Visitor Centre and take home a piece of history. Our extensive range of gifts includes books, clothing, soft toys,

wines, preserves, skin care and other fantastic Tasmanian and Port Arthur specific products. You’ll find the perfect gift or memento to suit every taste.

The Gift Shop is located in the Visitor Centre entrance foyer. Open daily from 9am to 6pm (May - Dec.) 23 9am to 8pm (Jan - April)

1 0 . The Church (1837) Doing God’s work Church services were originally held in the open air, weather permitting. They were held in the Commissariat Store 1834-37 until this church was built. Much of its decorative stonework and interior joinery was the work of Point Puer boys. The large windows were of plain glass, and the highly ornate three-tiered pulpit was carved by a convict craftsman. The Church and the Commandant’s House stand on the highest ground at either end of the site, expressing the absolute authority of God and the State, and their earthly representatives the Parson and the Commandant. Religion was most energetically engaged in the process of reform. Everyone had to attend church. Each Sunday up to 1100 people worshipped here. The convicts were marched to the Church by armed guards, who escorted them inside and, grounding their arms with a resounding clatter on the stone-flagged floor, remained on guard with loaded rifles until the service was over. A visitor remarked that this ‘destroyed the solemnity of worship …’ The convicts sat in the body of the building, and the free people sat on raised wooden pews to the left and right, behind a curtain. Although we do not know which sermons were delivered, sermons at this time stressed the virtues of obedience to the laws of both God and the King, for both prisoners and free people. According to Commissariat Clerk Thomas Lemprière; ‘the preacher thundered until my head ached’. A choir of well-behaved convicts‘ sang hymns and chanted the psalms ‘with considerable effect’.


Both Protestants and Catholics initially attended the same service. But in 1843, the newly-appointed Reverend Durham, a Church of Ireland clergyman, gave free rein to his hatred of Catholics from the pulpit. 185 Catholic prisoners thereafter refused to attend his services. This strike led to the appointment of a Catholic chaplain, who used spaces which had been set aside in various other buildings until a chapel was built in the Penitentiary. The Church was not consecrated so Catholics could also use it when it was available. Did religion reform convicts? It would seem not. Catholic and Wesleyan clergy enjoyed some respect from their flock since they, like the convicts themselves, stood outside the establishment. But prisoners seem to have regarded the Anglican clergy as part of the machinery of their oppression. Some might pretend to humble remorse to secure better treatment; none but the most optimistic or na誰ve observer believed that it was sincere. POST CONVICT PERIOD The wooden spire blew down in 1876 and the building was gutted by fire in 1884. Sections of the church have been rebuilt and stabilised throughout the 20th century.

tour tip Inside the Church, look up at the western face of the tower. Why do you think that the stone changes colour? 25

1 1 . T h e H a r b o u r & D o c k y a r d (1834-48)

The Port Arthur Highway Throughout Van Diemen’s Land, with its rugged terrain and dense forests, water remained the main transport route until the 1950s. In the 19th century, the sea provided an essential link between Port Arthur and the outside world. The Harbour was frequently crowded with ships. Loaded with convicts and essential supplies, they streamed in along this highway. They sailed out again with cargoes of manufactured goods for government stores or markets. On the wharf in front of the Commissariat Store ‘thousands of planks of all lengths and thicknesses, hundreds of beams of all dimensions, [were] piled in rows . . . beside heaps of tiles, bricks and lime for which Hobart Town builders paid good prices because of their good quality’. A basin was constructed so that boats could take on and discharge loads close to the jetties. The crane base can still be seen. During the 1850s the head of the bay was filled in and an extensive wharf was built along the waterfront. The harbour was also an escape route. Guards patrolled the dockyard to try to prevent convicts seizing boats. In one embarrassing lapse of security, Commandant Booth’s whaleboat was commandeered by her 8-man convict crew. They rowed out to sea before anyone realised that the Commandant wasn’t with them. They were caught in NSW four months later. The Harbour is so spacious, sheltered and deep that the great ocean liner the Queen Mary, 82,000 tonnes and 311 metres long, once anchored here. You can now travel from Hobart to Port Arthur by sea, in far greater comfort than the convicts, on the MV Marana. 26

Ships for a new colony In 15 years the Dockyard built 16 large decked vessels, around 150 small open boats, and repaired many large and small vessels. Many were 8-oared whale boats, which were commonly also used for general transport. They were the ancestors of today’s surf boat. One large vessel, the Lady Franklin, was not broken up until 1898, a testimony to the skill with which it was built. At its peak the yard may have employed up to 70 men. At Port Arthur, along with Sarah Island (and the Sydney Dockyard), convicts were employed both on building the dockyard and on building ships. Elsewhere in the British Empire convicts were only employed on public works, like excavating docks. When Macquarie Harbour closed, Sarah Island’s experienced boat-builders were sent to Port Arthur. Skilled men were always in short supply so many convicts, including Point Puer boys, were trained here. A whale boat, built by bad boy Walter Paisley, is in the Maritime Museum in Hobart. When the Dockyard was closed it was not because of incompetence or poor product. Free shipwrights claimed that it undercut their operations. There was also a shortage of labour, as the numbers of convicts transported declined and ablebodied men were sent out to probation stations.

tour tip Can you see the flat places on this site? Using the map on the information panel, see if you can tell what used to be here. 27

1 2 . T h e I sle o f t h e D e a d The cemetery ‘a secure and undisturbed resting place’ The Reverend Manton, 1833 About 1100 people were buried here. Even in death, strict social order was maintained. The lower half of the island was reserved for convicts, lunatics, invalids and paupers. Originally, no tombstone or other mark was to be placed on their graves, but some appear as regulations were relaxed after the 1850s. The high ground was reserved for civil and military burials. Convicts and soldiers were often carried off by accidents when felling trees, or by diseases like pneumonia and dysentery. Private Robert Young drowned while on escort duty. Scurvy claimed lives after convicts’ gardens were confiscated. Women commonly died in childbirth; children succumbed to whooping cough and scarlet fever. As the numbers of old men increased, so did the incidence of stroke and heart disease. Medical misadventure claimed baby Edward Carte, who was mistakenly given a large dose of opium; William Madams, a Point Puer boy, died of what was diagnosed as ‘rheumatism of the ankle’, but was probably snakebite. In later years a convict gravedigger lived on the island. John Barron grew flowers but said that ‘he could not eat vegetables grown from that soil’. The Tidal Mark A scientific outpost Many of the officers took a keen interest in science. In 1841 Commissariat Clerk Thomas Lemprière carved an arrow-like mark into the rock face on the north side of the island. It was part of a meteorological station to measure tidal variations. Scientists investigating global warming still use his meticulous records. tour tip Book a walking tour of the Isle of the Dead at the Visitor Centre or on the MV Marana. 28


&91&3*&/$& Upgrade your complementary harbour cruise with one of the following great value tours: Isle of the Dead Cemetery Tour A 40 minute tour disembarking on the tiny Isle of the Dead. Hear tales of tragic loss and loyal affection from your expert guide at Port Arthur’s picturesque burial ground.

Point Puer Boys’ Prison Tour

A 60 minute tour disembarking at Point Puer. Dig deeper into the fascinating history of Port Arthur on this tour. Your guide will reveal the fate of Port Arthur’s young convicts, sent half way across the world for trivial offences.

Purchase your tickets from the Visitor Centre within the 29 Port Arthur Historic Site, or on board the MV MARANA

1 3 . P o i n t P u e r B o ys ’ P r is o n The lost and the saved ‘little depraved felons’ Governor Arthur 1833 Point Puer operated between 1834-49. Most of the boys were aged 14-17, street kids from British slums. Unskilled and physically weak, they could not be assigned as labourers. The government launched a bold experiment to deal with the problem.

Point Puer was the first boys’ prison built in the British Empire, intended to save these boys from the evil influence of older men and teach them some skills to equip them for a law-abiding future. It got off to a bad start. The first 68 boys arrived dead drunk; they had consumed six dozen stolen bottles of wine on the journey down. Conditions were harsh. The site was barren and windswept. The timber buildings built by the boys out of poor quality materials soon became dilapidated. Trade training was a cornerstone of the reform programme and the workshops dominated the site. Here well-behaved boys were selected from the labouring gangs to be taught trades, including carpentry, shoemaking, blacksmithing, tailoring, bookbinding and stone cutting. Most visitors were impressed with their skill, industriousness and good attitude. But boys also stole goods to trade with boat crews from the main settlement. Much to the frustration of authorities, food, tobacco and pipes, tools, clothing, knives and twine passed freely back and forth. 30

Discipline was harsh and punishment was relentless. A heavily supervised gaol area lay to the southern end of the site; this included tiny weatherboard punishment cells. A boy who lost a knife and fork spent 20 days here on bread and water. Theft, absconding and assault, especially against overseers, were common. ‘Crowning an Overseer’ was a favourite pastime; the boys would empty a night soil tub over a sleeping overseer. Boys bullied each other relentlessly but any boy who informed on another was brutally beaten by his fellows. In between the gaol and the workshops lay the chapel and schoolroom, where attempts were made to teach up to 800 exhausted, hungry boys to read, write and do arithmetic. The Bible was used as a reader and for religious instruction. The boys also heard grace at each meal, had Scripture readings, prayers and hymns each morning and evening, and attended church twice on Sundays – but religion did not always soften these hardened hearts . A preacher complained; ‘My sermon on “The Due Observance of the Sabbath” was not attended with good effect, since two of the youngsters immediately after had a row’. In the early years they were given time for play, but later that was abolished. Some boys went on to successful careers, like stone mason Jeremiah Melbourne who died in 1913, a pillar of society. But many others spent years in the adult convict system and welfare institutions. By the late 1840s most young offenders were held in British prisons and the station was closed in 1849. Point Puer’s influence can be seen in juvenile detention centres of today.

tour tip Book a walking tour of Point Puer at the Visitor Centre or on the MV Marana. 31

1 4 . Am o n g t h e r u i n s :

C a r n a r v o n a n d bey o n d

After Port Arthur closed in 1877, the site was divided into town lots and offered for sale. Although bushfires between 1884-1897 gutted many buildings, eventually a town grew up among the ruins. Named Carnarvon in an attempt to ‘erase the hated stain’, the hated stain turned out to be good business. The convicts’ beds were barely cold when tourists began to flock to the site, eager to experience the horrors of convict life at second hand. These early tourists were a far cry from today’s largely respectful visitors. They souvenired anything that wasn’t nailed down and left mountains of rubbish. Some ‘old lags’ (former convicts) returned to show them around, offering gruesome tales of their sufferings. By the 1920s many Carnarvon folk had become tourism operators. Guided tours of the Separate Prison were especially popular with honeymooners. Convict-era buildings became museums, hotels and shops. Some new buildings also appeared to house the growing population. Trentham (1898-1904) housed the Trenham family and a shop. Prefabricated Canadian Cottage (c1916) originally served as staff quarters for one of the hotels. Jetty Cottage (c 1920s) has housed many fishing families. St David’s Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Tasmania in 1927. The Policeman’s Residence and station (1936) were located here to curb vandalism. Pat Jones’ Cottage (1942) was built from bits of recycled convict buildings and old benzene drums. tour tip See if you can see the prefabricated panels on the side of Canadian Cottage nearest the jetty. 32

1 5 . t h e M em o r i a l G a r de n

On Sunday 28 April 1996, the Port Arthur Historic Site was the site of a devastating violent crime. In this area, and at other locations nearby, a single gunman killed 35 people and injured dozens more. Staff from the Historic Site were among the victims. The man was captured the next day. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to imprisonment for life with no eligibility for parole.

The crime was reported around the world and caused widespread shock, outrage and grief. Many people still suffer as a result of the tragedy. In its aftermath, stringent laws to control some types of guns were passed in Federal Parliament. It was agreed that a memorial garden, incorporating the shell of the Broad Arrow CafĂŠ, would be established as a place of quiet beauty and calm contemplation. It was designed by Hobart-based landscape designer Torquil Canning and formally dedicated by His Excellency the Honourable Sir William Deane, AC, KBE, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, on 28 April 2000. In this peaceful place, open to the wind, rain and sky, we may reflect on that tragedy, and remember its many victims. 33

Port Arthur afterword

Port Arthur was the cradle of modern Australia’s adult and juvenile prisons. The principles of classification, relentless surveillance, discipline, reward and punishment, vocational education and training first expressed here as a coherent and deliberate system are still the cornerstones of modern penal systems.

Database and

e n q u i r y se r vice We are currently undertaking a project to identify all those who came through Port Arthur between 1830-77. This includes both convicts and free people. A large number have already been identified, and we are constantly adding to the list. As part of this project, we offer an enquiry service to assist those who are researching their family history. For a fee we are able to supply you with a copy of a convict record; we also offer a transcribing and advice service. Further information about this service can be obtained either from our guiding staff, or by picking up an enquiry form from the Visitor Centre For those who are interested in learning how to transcribe these fascinating but complex records, we have published a book, Transcribing Convict Records by Susan Hood, available at our Gift Shop and good bookstores in Tasmania. Further enquiries Postal address: Port Arthur Historic Site, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia 7182 Phone: 1800 659 101 Fax: 1800 659 202 (03) 6251 2310 (03) 6251 2322 Email: Website: Credits Writer - Julia Clark; Design - Red Jelly; Site map - Peter Gouldthorpe; Printing - Printing Authority of Tasmania; Photography - P 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 22, 25, 27, 28, 33 PAHSMA P 2 Tourism Tasmania; P 4, 6, 24, 32 Archives Office of Tasmania; P 5, 13 Peter Whyte P 16 Public Records Office, London; P 19, 31 Nick Osbourne; P 26 WL Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania; P 30 Allport Library & Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania P 32 ScreenSound, the National Film & Sound Archive


Navıgators Hobart and Port Arthur

Convict Connection Cruise Join us on a voyage into history. A rare opportunity to experience Tasmania’s wild and rugged coastline, towering ancient sea cliffs and majestic Cape Raoul. Enjoy our 2½ hour cruise from Hobart aboard our luxury catamaran. We’ll share tales of the sea and introduce you to an abundance of marine life including seals, albatross, and, perhaps whales as they migrate south. After morning tea, step ashore at Port Arthur Historic Site and take some time to encounter a fascinating side of Tasmania’s past. Return by coach to Hobart viewing other significant aspects of our history.

River Derwent Cruise Learn the unique story of Hobart as you cruise the beautiful Derwent River, sharing incomparable landscapes and natural wonders that can only be viewed from the water. Revisit the stories of steam and whaling with a cruise on the beautiful Cartela. Built in 1912, Cartela is Australia’s oldest continually registered commercial vessel linking you to the days of steamers and river transport. Be it on rivers, bays, channels or oceans, Navigators will take you there in style and comfort.

An experience you will never find on land. All cruises run from Oct. 1 to May 31 Hobart - Port Arthur cruise dep.. Hobart 8am, returns 4.15pm Phone: 03 6223 1914 or log on to 35


a s k ed q u es t i o n s Will staff tell us about the massacre? Our staff are always keen to help visitors with enquiries, but this is one area about which they prefer not to be asked. Many lost close friends, colleagues and family members on that day, and understandably find it painful to talk about. Rather than ask our staff, please read the plaque at the Memorial Garden or ask for a brochure at the Visitor Centre. Why don’t staff dress up in costume? Many visitors have enjoyed this style of presentation at other sites and say that they would welcome it at the Port Arthur Historic Site. But Port Arthur is a real place with a dark and difficult history. Dressing staff up in convict and other costumes could turn the experiences of those who were imprisoned here into light entertainment, which we do not think is appropriate. Why don’t you re-build the roof on the Church? According to the principles of best-practice conservation today, reconstruction is rarely undertaken. We do not do it unless we believe that the space or building cannot be understood in any other way. The Government Gardens were reconstructed because otherwise it was difficult for visitors to understand the space as a formal garden, rather than the paddock that it had become over the years. The Church however, even in its ruinous condition, is clearly still a church. Why can’t I take my pram into the houses? Our houses are not large, and can become crowded. There is often only one point of entry and exit. Prams may scrape walls or bump furniture, or dangerously block doorways and corridors. Where do my entry fees go? The high standards of conservation and visitor services and infrastructure to which we are committed are expensive. Your entry fees cover the cost of our tourism operations; any surplus is reinvested in the development of this important site. Some of your fees also go towards the conservation of the site and its buildings, although this is largely funded separately and directly by the Tasmanian State Government. How can I provide feedback about my visit? We welcome your comments, as they help us to make continuous improvements to everything that we do. Please ask our ticketing staff for a visitor feedback form. How can I help in the conservation of this important place? We have established the Port Arthur Conservation Fund, to assist us in ensuring that this fragile place will remain to educate and enthral future generations. Your tax-deductible donation may be sent to the Chief Executive Officer, Port Arthur Historic Site, Port Arthur 7182. Please mark it Attention: Port Arthur Conservation Fund. 36

the new Asylum was built to house 100 patients from Port Arthur and throughout V Diemen’s Land. It represented the latest thinking in the treatment of ‘lunacy’. Like t Separate prison, it tried to replace physical intimidation with mental reform. ‘Lunati were cured in a calm, clean environment, with kindness, exercise and amusement, religio consolation and work to soothe the mind. A new building , the ‘ideal asylum’, was design to deliver this treatment and Port Arthur’s Asylum had many of it’s features.


Museum Coffee Shop At the end of your tour, why not take time to sit back, relax and enjoy a coffee and cake or a light meal with a glass of wine in the Museum Coffee Shop.

Located in the Asylum Open daily

Port Arthur and ta sm a n r egi o n m a p North Bay Tasman Monument Historic Site

DUNALLEY Primrose Point

Dunalley Bay

Green Head Lime Bay

Cape Surville


Smooth Island Coal Mines Historic Site

Norfolk Bay


Tessellated Pavement


Eaglehawk Bay Impression PENZANCE Bay




Fortescue Bay Cape Hauy

Munroe Bight

Cresent Bay

Maingon Bay

Cape Raoul

Chasm Lookout Cape Pillar Tasman Island RJ4362

Raoul Bay

Tasman Sea


Wedge Bay


Pirates Bay Blowhole Tasman Arch Devils Kitchen Patersons Arch Waterfall Bay


Port Arthur Guidebook - English  
Port Arthur Guidebook - English  

Guidebook for the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania, in English