Catalpa Productions

Brief History Fremantle Prison

Fremantle prison used to serve as an Australian prison for convicts in the 1850s and currently serves as a tourist centre. The Fremantle prison was formerly known as the convict establishment as the prison was built using convict labour, it started as a convict barrack in the 19th century between 1852 and 1859.  The prison was initially confining imperial convicts but grew to become home for colonial prisoners, war prisoners, and other important detainees.

Located in the heart of Western Australia, the prison was built by convict using limestone gotten from the site. The first set of convicts were ferried down to Fremantle harbour in 1850 and were moved into the prison’s main block after its completion in 1855. The last set of convicts were transported to Fremantle in 1868, barely a year after it got its name changed from the Establishment, during this period about 10,000 convicts passed through the prison.

Transition to local authority

Following the temporary cease in the transport of convicts down to Fremantle, there was a sudden increase in the number of prisoners following the population boom caused by the gold rush in 1890. The prison soon became home to men, women, and juveniles, especially after Perth Gaol closed and Fremantle became the primary confinement centre. The closure of the Rottnest Island Aboriginal prison in 1903 also added to the increased number in Fremantle, and during the Second World War, a part of the prison was separated by the Australian Defence Department to serve as a detention centre for the military.

The Fremantle prison had its fair share of prisoner riots coupled with other peculiar prison problems and complaints about the living condition, recommendations were passed for the closure of the prison. At this point, female were already moved from Fremantle to where was known as Bandyup Women’s Prison following the constant riots and problems at Fremantle. Officially on the 8th November 1991, Fremantle was decommissioned as a prison leading to the relocation of current inmates to Casuarina Prison, which soon became the major maximum prison in the state. The prison functioned from 1898 till its closure in 1991.

Fremantle prison saw a lot of changes, both structurally and in policy between the 19th and 20th centuries. A royal commission was passed between the years 1898 and 1899 that influenced the structural changes, the major structural changes made included the breaking down of the wall between two cells to have it as one cell. Also, a new prisoner classification system was set up and divisions were made in the prison.

Fremantle has a good ride of popularity, formerly as the State’s main maximum-security prison and went up to become the first building in Western Australia to be listed in the Australian National Heritage List in 2005, and became listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. The 136-year history of the Fremantle is still preserved to date and regarded as one of Western Australia’s treasures as an iconic tourist site.