...a machine to grind rogues into honest men...
The Port Arthur Historic Site is a place of national and international significance - part of the epic story of the settlement of Australia.
Port Arthur was much more than a prison. It was a complete community - home to military personnel and free settlers. The convicts worked at farming and industries, producing a large range of resources and materials.
Port Arthur Historic Site contains more than 30 buildings, extensive ruins and beautiful grounds and gardens. A short ferry ride from the site if the Isle of the Dead cemetery and the site of the Point Puer Boys' Prison.
The Port Arthur penal station was established in 1830 as a timber getting camp, using convict labour to produce sawn logs for government projects.
From 1833 Port Arthur was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies.
The English prison reformer Jeremy Bentham design a radical new Penitentiary at Pentonville in England, which is now described as a 'machine for grinding rogues into honest men'. This became the model for Port Arthur.
The cogs of this machine included punishment, religious and moral instruction, classification and separation, training and education. Many men were broken, but some left Port Arthur rehabilitated and skilled, some as blacksmiths, shoe makers or ship builders.
Port Arthurs community of military and free men and their families lived their lives in stark contrast to the convicts. Beautiful gardens were created and parties, regattas and literary evenings were common.
By 1840 more than 2,000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff lived at Port Arthur, which by this time was a major industrial settlement. A range of goods were produced here, from worked stone and bricks to furniture and clothing, boats and ships.
ion the early days the convicts were housed in rough wooden huts. Later, as convict numbers increased, the flour mill and granary was converted into a four-storey Penitentiary, due to its failure to supply adequate flour to the settlement.
The Penitentiary's two lower floors contained 136 cells for 'prisoners of bad character'. The top floor provided space for 480 better behaved convicts to sleep in bunks.
Point Puer Boys' Prison
Point Puer operated from 1834 to 1849 and was the first purpose built juvenile reformatory in the British Empire. Juvenile offenders were separated from older convicts to protect them from criminals influence. Most of the boys were aged between 14 and 17, with the youngest just 9 years old. Point Puer was renowned for it's regime of stern discipline and harsh punishment, but all the boys received an education while some were given the opportunity of trade training.
The Isle of the Dead
Between 1833 and 1877 around 1,000 people were buried at the settlements cemetery, including military and civil officers, their wives and children and convicts. The most common cause of death among convicts was respiratory disease or industrial accidents.
The Separate Prison
By the early 1840's a major change had taken place in the management of British prisons, with a move away from physical punishment. Designed to deliver a new method of punishment, of reforming the convicts through isolation and contemplation. Convicts were locked for 23 hours a day in single cells. Here they ate, slept and worked, with just one hour a day allowed for exercise, alone, in a high walled yard. The prisoners were kept strictly apart from each other and not a word was heard except in chapel. The intention was to bring their minds to a more 'healthy condition'
Can you spot the convict?
The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1836 by Lieutenant Governor George Arthur on his final visit to Port Arthur. Although constructed by convicts, much of the stonework and panelled pew fronts were prepared by the boys from the Juvenile Establishment at Point Puer.
the first service was held in 1837. The church was never consecrated, partly because it had to be used by several different denominations and partly due to disagreements between the various Church authorities.
It had a wooden steeple which blew down during a gale in 1876. and in 1884 sparks from a fire lit to clean up around the parsonage caught the old shingles on the church roof and the church burnt to the ground.
St David's Church
Built after many years of conducting Anglican services in the Town Hall / Asylum.
The land was donated and members of the congregation gave money, raised funds and donated altar cloth, seats and carpet. The foundation stone was laid in May 1927 and the church dedicated on 18th December. Despite the rain, people from all over the Peninsula came to see the Bishop of Tasmania, the Rt. Rev. R.S. Hay, preform the ceremony.
The church is still in regular use today.
In the hospital convicts were commonly treated for numerous conditions including respiratory or rheumatic ailments contracted from working outdoors and sleeping in cold cells in wet clothing.
By the early 18960's many convicts were housed and treated in the Paupers' Depot or the Asylum, according to new ideas that included creating a calm, environment.
Rose Cottage - Military Officers Quarters
Rose Cottage was built as a residence for the senior military offices and his family. Lempriere described it in 1838 as a neat cottage with a veranda at the front and comprising of four rooms and a kitchen. The house was built entirely of wood (no bricks were made at Port Arthur before 1839) but the kitchen and outbuildings were later rebuilt in brick.
By the early 1840's the house was occupied but Captain and Mrs Errington. She sent paintings of the house and her little boy to her family in Plymouth, which show a comfortable well-furnished interior. The cottage was extended several times, but as you can see, none of the doors were in line.
In 1887 the cottage was run as a juvenile school and in 1897 it housed the State School.
Tower Cottage - The Officers Quarters
For most of the convict period the Senior Military Officer's Quarters was the home of the Military Office in charge of the soldiers at Port Arthur. Many of the serving soldiers were married and in some cases their families accompanied them to Port Arthur. The soldiers at Port Arthur were responsible for security and for pursuing and capturing escaped convicts.
Smith O'Brian's Cottage
The cottage was originally built as stables in 1840 and was converted to a two room cottage for O'Brien in 1850.
It retains the name of its most famous occupant, William Smith OBrien, member of the British Parliament and leader of the Young Ireland Movement.
After leading an unsuccessful rebellion neat Kilkenny, O'Brien was sentenced to death, then reprieved and transported to Van Diemen's Land. After refusing to promise not to escape, O'Brien was sent first to Maria Island before being transport to Port Arthur in August 1850.
Rooms were later added at either end of the cottage and the building was used for Officers' Quarters.
With the end of the convict transportation in 1853, Port Arthur also became an institution for aging and physically and mentally ill convicts. The Penal settlement finally closed in 1877 and many of the buildings were dismantled or destroyed in bush fires. The area became the centre of a small town renamed Carnarvon in an attempt to erase the hated convict stain. However, tourists began visiting almost immediately after the closure of the penal settlement and it was once again named Port Arthur.
The Parsonage Post Office
The Paronsage was originally a two storey building built in 1842. The Reverend Durham and his family were the first occupants and lived here for ten years. He was reputedly a very difficult man and no convict wanted to work for him. Reverend Eastman, his wife and their ten children were the tenants from 1855 to 1870. He died in an upstairs room of the house and is buried on the Isle of the Dead.
After considerable damage in the 1895 bushfires it was rebuilt as the Carnarvon Post Office.
The Police Station
After the fire of 1897 destroyed the Police Station in the Old Law Courts, the Station for the Peninsula was set up at Premaydene, about 15km away. But as tourist numbers grew, vandalism increased and a police presence was needed.
In 1936 a new house was built on the site of the old Prisoners' Barracks. The local police officer acted as a Bailiff of the court, an Inspector under the Stock Act and a Gaoler. He also helped find missing persons, investigated burglaries, and sheep stealing and prosecuted traffic offenders. There is a single cell at the back of the cottage. At Port Arthur the policeman also had a special duty to safeguard the historic site.