There is so much I could write about Port Arthur, but I’ll keep it to bullet points, let my photos give you a taste of the place and share a link to the official website.
~ Established in 1830 to obtain timber for various government projects.
~ Soon became punishment settlement for repeat offenders and hardened convicts.
~ By 1840’s it was a thriving industrial settlement using convict labour. 2000 people lived here, including soldiers and civilian staff.
~ Produced bricks, stonework, clothing, boats and ships. Convicts also trained and worked as carpenters, shoe makers, wood turners and blacksmiths.
~ A few officer’s wives lived here, who washed, sewed and provided nursing care for the soldier’s in their husband’s company.
~ “Point Puer” boys prison was the first purpose built juvenile reformatory in the British Empire, where boys as young as nine, received an education and learnt a trade through apprenticeship.
~ When transportation ended in 1853, it became an institution for aging and physically or mentally ill convicts.
~ Finally closed in 1877. Many buildings were demolished or destroyed by bush fire.
~ Some convict period buildings became museums in the 1920’s with the site now World Heritage listed.
~ In April 1996 a lone gunman killed 35 people and physically injured 19 others here. Australia reviewed and restricted the gun laws as a result.
A walk around the site today
~ Visitor centre is an interactive and informative introduction to the settlement.
~ Each visitor is given a card, which is linked to a particular convict. As you walk through the visitor centre, you follow your convict, his crime, sentence, the job he was assigned to in the settlement, whether he improved his life, to not.
~ As you step outside, you appreciate the vast size of the settlement. The four storey Penitentiary building is the iconic image that appears on postcards. There are thirty other historic buildings as well as ruins and gardens.
~ A short boat tour on the harbor explains the shipbuilding history, passing the Point Puer boys section and the Isle of the Dead, the cemetery for the settlement, convicts, soldiers and civilians.
~ A walking tour points out the key buildings and history of the site. Everyone is then free to explore the grounds, ruins, gardens and looks inside the various buildings that are open as period examples of life on the settlement.
~ Port Arthur was a complete community, so as well as convict buildings, there was a military district, with a guard tower and officer’s quarters. There were government cottages and gardens. There was a hospital, law courts and the Commandant’s house.
♣ Built as a flour mill and granary, but soon became home to the convicts.
♣ Lower floors contained solitary cells, with upper floors being bunk rooms for better behaved convicts.
♣ Building has been renovated in the past two years with modern metal design now supporting the original brick ruins.
The Commandants House
♣ An intriguing house, fitting for the most senior resident of settlement.
♣ Later converted into a hotel, the rooms display different periods of it’s history.
♣ Rooms show the construction and restoration of the building in an insightful way. Small sections are peeled away – the lintel over a doorway, the plaster and wooden framework under the wallpaper, floor to the boards and cellar beneath.
Guard Tower in Military District
♣ View over penitentiary and harbor.
♣ Rough cut and uneven stone work, believed to be a sample of stone mason workmanship of the young apprentices.
The Separate Prison
♣ A silent prison, with convicts locked in solitary cells for 23 hours a day.
♣ The hour exercise was also in isolation and in silence.
♣ The only time they could use their voice was singing during the weekly service within the prison.
♣ Unique chapel where each prisoner entered a row then pulled door closed behind him. Each prisoner stood, with only a view forward to the pulpit. They could not see or communicate with their neighbours.
♣ Over a thousand people attended compulsory services each Sunday.
♣ It is not consecrated as it was a unique multi faith building.
♣ Names of the three staff members and thirty two visitor victims are displayed.
♣ The shell of the café building has been incorporated into the garden of remembrance and reflection.
Grounds and gardens
♣ It is hard to imagine convict life here whilst walking the quiet, spacious grounds.
♣ Hard to imagine the isolation as today we drive in and drive out again. For the convicts, there were no roads, only access by sea, many hours sailing to the nearest community.
♣ Steps around the settlement indicate the number of people who lived and worked here, year on year with no future in sight.
More information at http://www.portarthur.org.au
This is my contribution to Jo’s Walk, where you can join a variety of walks from around the world.