Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail

Interpretation Concepts



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Final Report

August 2003

















Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail


Interpretation Concepts





Final Report





August 2003




Look Ear Pty Ltd

ACN 079 709 603

ABN 36 079 709 630

9 Stafford Street

Northcote VIC 3070

Tel: (03) 9489 7027








COPYRIGHT:  This document was prepared by Look Ear in conjunction with Malcolm Thomas Design.  The concepts and information contained in this document must be acknowledged if published or reproduced.


1.  Introduction                                                                                          1

2.  Heritage Significance                                                                          2

3.  Objectives                                                                                              3

4.  The Visitors                                                                                            4

5.  Thematic Structure                                                                             6

       Primary Theme                                                                                         6

       Secondary Themes                                                                                  7

6.  The Interpretive Palette                                                                    8

       6.1  Guide Booklet/ Brochure                                                                   9

       6.2  Interpretive Signage                                                                      10

       6.3  Paving Inserts                                                                                12

       6.4  Ramp Sculptural Elements                                                              13

       6.5  Prison Introductory Signage                                                           14

       6.6  Seating                                                                                           16

       6.7  Soundscapes                                                                                  17

7.  Trail Details And Recommendations                                             18

       7.1  Fremantle Prison Gatehouse And Ramp                                         19

       7.2  The Terrace                                                                                    21

       7.3  Stirling Street                                                                                  23

       7.4  Fremantle Park                                                                               24

       7.5  Ord Street Faćade Of Fremantle Museum And Arts Centre           25

       7.6  Fremantle Museum And Arts Centre                                              27

       7.7  Skinner Street Cemetery                                                                28

       7.8  Goat Track And Rear Of Fremantle Museum And Arts Centre       31

       7.9  Ord Street And Bushy Hill                                                               32

       7.10  Samson House                                                                              34

       7.11  ‘Ivanhoe’ Intersection                                                                  35

       7.12  Hampton Road                                                                              35

       7.13  Pump House                                                                                  36

       7.14  Prison Walls – Fothergill Street                                                     37

       7.15  Surgeon’s  Residence – No.18 The Terrace                                 38

8.  Principles Of Interpretive Design                                                   40

9.  Notional Budget                                                                                  43

Selected References And Bibliography                                              44


1.      Introduction

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The concepts in this document for the Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail are based on initial ideas developed by Palassis Architects (2002).  The concept relies heavily on the walking route taken by the Surgeon Superintendent between the Fremantle Prison and the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum.  The Surgeon was responsible for patients in both establishments, and would have presumably made the trip on an almost daily basis.  Using this as a link, the story of colonial Fremantle, and the specific stories of colonial incarceration, can be told.


The Convict Heritage Trail has the potential to be a popular part of the Fremantle tourist experience, however several keys to success must be recognised and acted upon.

• The Convict Heritage Trail must be well marketed and publicised.  This is through promotional materials, journals and tourist newspaper articles, tourist information outlets and the heritage trail itself – a guide brochure/ booklet and visually attractive on-site elements.

• The Convict Heritage Trail must feature a variety in interpretive methods, each designed to reinforce the others – brochure, on-site signs, sculptural elements, plaque inserts, seats, soundscapes, lighting, etc.

• The Convict Heritage Trail must be developed and promoted as part of an integrated network of heritage trails around Fremantle

• The interpretation must be more than simple facts and figures – it must be relevant to the human experience.

• The interpretation and its methods should be a bit ‘on-the-edge’ – they should provoke and engage.


This report briefly describes the heritage values of the site, the objectives of the trail and a summary of available visitor data.  The emphasis of the report is on what to interpret and how to do it in an imaginative way.


Once the draft concepts are agreed upon, notional costings will be developed for the final report.


2.      Heritage Significance

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The trail passes many sites of heritage significance that are linked to Fremantle’s colonial and convict heritage.  Full descriptions of the heritage values of the two main sites are available in the Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre Conservation Plan (Palassis, 2002) and Fremantle Prison – a Policy for its Conservation (Kerr, 1998).  These values are briefly described below.

• Fremantle Prison and surrounding buildings

- built between 1852 and 1855 and remained as a prison until 1991.  It is an extremely significant example of a convict prison and may be nominated for World Heritage Listing.

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• Fremantle Park

- developed as a park in the 1870s and is the largest park in central Fremantle.

• Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre (formerly the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum)

- listed on the Register of the National Estate, the State Register of Heritage Places, the National Trust of Australia (WA) and the City of Fremantle Municipal Heritage Inventory.

• Skinner Street Cemetery
- Fremantle’s main burial ground from 1852 to 1899, and now part of the grounds of John Curtin College of the Arts.

• Samson House
- built in the 1880s by the Samson family who were notable community and commercial leaders.

• The colonial era houses on Hampton Street




3.      Objectives

The development of the Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail has several key objectives:

• to present a view of Fremantle in the convict era

• to present a people-based view of historical events, rather than simply present historical facts

• to provide an insight into the people and their lives – the convicts/ prisoners, the asylum inmates, the prison officers and the Surgeon Superintendent

• to present the trail as part of Fremantle’s history of development

• to be eye catching and attractive

• to capture people’s imagination

• to employ a variety of media so that the most appropriate methods of delivering a particular message are used

• to be part of an integrated network of tourist trails through Fremantle

• to tap into the visitation of both the Fremantle Prison and Museum/Arts Centre, and draw people out to some of the more hidden parts of Fremantle


4.      The Visitors

Using the Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail report (Palassis Architects, 2002), the audience consists of:

• locals – Fremantle and neighbouring areas

• Perth and metropolitan residents

• intrastate and interstate visitors

• overseas visitors


Some additional information is available from the Western Australian Tourism Commission (2001).  The main points include:

Š       Western Australia is positioned through Brand WA as “…fresh, natural, free and spirited”.  This positioning is designed to create an emotional attachment of “…being touched by nature”.

Š       Fremantle is characterised by its heritage built environment, cosmopolitan features and working port.

Š       Fremantle is the most popular destination for visitors within WA (75%)

Š       International visitors to Western Australia median length of stay was 9.5 nights, with an average of 23 nights.  58% of visitors came for pleasure/holiday reasons and 37% were visiting friends and relatives.  The two main ‘pleasure markets’ were from Germany 84% and Japan 81%.

Š       Nearly one-third of these visitors came between October and December.  44% travelled alone and only 10% were in family groups.  50% stayed in hotel/motel style accommodation and 40% stayed with friends and relatives.

Š       In 1995 and 1996 Fremantle was the second most visited destination by daytrippers from the Perth metropolitan are, second only to the Northern beaches in 1995 and Mandurah in 1996. 

Š       The top three activities for Fremantle are:

1.    Dining out / organised tour

2.    Sports / physical activities

3.    Water activities e.g. visiting boat harbour or beach.

Š       The City of Fremantle estimates 1.4 million people visit Fremantle annually; this includes domestic and international visitations.


Despite extensive enquiries, additional qualitative visitation data for Fremantle is unavailable.  Important questions include:

• how long do visitors stay in Fremantle?

• what are the must see destinations/ activities?

• how much time remains available after these must see destinations have been visited?

• what level of interest is there in heritage type activities?


The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce is presently undertaking qualitative surveys that will hopefully answer some of these questions, with the results available in August 2003.  This data should be accessed and used to assist in certain decisions such as:

• appropriate marketing angles and positioning

• available time of visitors and if the tour fits within this.


Despite the gaps in available visitor surveys, it is clear that Fremantle presents itself to the tourist market as an aesthetic and cosmopolitan heritage precinct.  The cafes and restaurants are where they are because of the tourist attraction to the heritage aesthetic, not despite it.  The built heritage of Fremantle and the fact that it is the port of Perth, makes it a place where people are attracted and where they are likely to be open to a range of well-designed heritage activities.  The cafes and restaurants simply serve to make the visit that much more pleasant – they exist in the wake of the heritage precinct, not visa versa.


5.      Thematic Structure

As with any interpretive development, the Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail requires a clear and concise thematic structure.  What is the main story or interconnecting thread that is being presented in all the interpretive material?  What are the supporting elements that assist in the telling of this story and are linked together by it.  These are the proposed primary and secondary themes presented below.


An important part of planning this trail is to clearly recognise the era being represented, and to stick to this as much as possible.  There may however be times when more recent events and objects need to be interpreted, but this diversion from the era must be done knowingly and with care to avoid confusion.  The era for the heritage trail is the convict period – 1850 to 1890s.


Another consideration is the fact that the trail is to be based around the walking route between the prison and the asylum of the Surgeon Superintendent, who worked in both institutions.  This concept is a sound one, however it may not be appropriate or possible to continuously refer to all the material through the eyes of the Surgeon.  His route and associated experiences is the connecting link, but it may be appropriate to use personal narratives other than the Surgeon’s to tell the various stories.  This comes down to the art of interpretation, so that the Surgeon link is suitably strong, but allowing the use of other people’s experiences.


Primary Theme

Walking on footsteps – the daily journey of the Surgeon Superintendent –  prisoners, lunatics and a view of colonial Fremantle.


Secondary Themes

A series of secondary themes have been developed, which will elaborate on and add to the primary theme.  These secondary themes can be identified with each of the locations within the trail.  Suggested secondary themes include:

Š       Walking on Footsteps – Fremantle’s Convict Past

Š       Convict Poo Makes The Garden Grow Stronger!

Š       “To the Lord We Trust” – The Chaplain’s Prayer

Š       The Surgeon’s World – convicts and lunatics

Š       Views of Early Fremantle

Š       Institutions On The Hill – A Warning To All

Š       From Spleens to Screams – What the Surgeon Saw

Š       Wailing Chants, Banging Tin Mugs and Screams of Anguish – ‘Life’ at the Asylum

Š       A Memorial To Memorials – Remnants of a Colonial Cemetery

Š       Death – The Only Escape

Š       Landform Makes the Place

Š       Colonial Fremantle’s Aristocracy

Š       Prison Guards and Stone Walls – Keeping the Convicts In

Š       Grand Colonial Architecture and the High Ground

Š       Beside the Wall – Living Next to The Prison

Š       Strong Winds and Buttress Walls


6.  The Interpretive Palette

To provide an understanding of what is proposed at each of the heritage trail’s sites, it is worth presenting the series of interpretive palettes that could be used.  Important principles to recognise are that:

• the interpretive elements need to be suitable for the sites in which they are located,

• a variety of techniques are used so facilitate a texture and diversity,

• the various techniques are stylistically linked so that they are clearly part of a family of elements – each working together to tell the stories.


The proposed interpretive palettes are limited to a self-guided format.  Clearly, there are great opportunities for guided tours that could be run in addition to the existing prison tours.  The potential for such tours could be tested through a series of trial tours.  If successful, a detailed program could be developed that will use the proposed heritage trail as a basis, and build on this to provide more detailed interpretive material.


An important consideration in the development of any signage along the trail, is the issue of linking with the City of Fremantle’s Signage Manual.  The signage manual provides a style of sign that is crisp and clear, which serves the purposes of orientation and providing basic information.  Interpretive materials however, need to take signage one or two steps further.  Crispness, clarity and information are not the sole criteria that need to be considered.  For instance, quite large volumes of text that describe the heritage significance of a site is not necessarily interpretation. 


As presented in Section 8, ‘information, as such, is not interpretation’; interpretation is an art.  The interpretation signage style as proposed in the Signage Manual features nice clear information.  However the volume of text, the number of site descriptions on one sign and the uniform appearance detracts from its interpretive function.  Instead there should be flexibility in the signage manual for imaginative and interpretive developments that by their very nature have to consider more factors that simply clarity, crispness and information details.  Interpretive materials should attract and engage.  A basic rule of thumb is that if people can avoid reading a standard type of sign, chances are they will!  Colours, materials, design, shape, form, language, concepts, images and position all assist in this regard.  It is desirable that the signage manual, which is extremely valid for general wayfinding and information signage, does not restrict inventive and imaginative forms of interpretation.  On the other hand, some connection with the Signage Manual is not impossible.  In particular, the fonts chosen may be suitable and interpretive signage could use the recommended fonts where appropriate.


6.1  Guide booklet/ brochure

It is recommended that a guide booklet or brochure be developed that will orientate visitors through the trail and will provide more detailed information than is possible through on-site materials.  This will include:

• an easily understandable trail map, with sites identified

• additional information for each of the sites, such as images, personal anecdotes and other relevant details, in keeping with the theme presented on-site

• sources of reference material, for those who wish to investigate even further.


A very simple brochure could be free, however a larger booklet should be a saleable item.  The booklet or brochure should be available from all tourist information outlets, especially the Fremantle Prison and the Museum/ Arts Centre.  As an initial idea, we suggest a DL sized folder brochure of approximately 10 – 12 pages, printed in 2 to 3 colours.


The design of the booklet/ brochure should be in keeping with other proposed heritage trails throughout Fremantle, so that they are clearly part of a thematically linked network of trails.


6.2  Interpretive Signage

Interpretive signage has an important role in these sorts of trails, however it is important that the signage is visually attractive, engages the visitor’s curiosity and is appropriate for the site.  Signage needs to be more than a graphic panel on a stand.  The design of the interpretive signage needs to consider all aspects of how it communicates with the visitors, including 2D and 3D elements.  All aspects of the design should work to communicate the desired messages including the frame, the stand, the base, other associated items, as well as the graphics and text.


The interpretive signage proposed for this trail is based around the primary interpretive theme of “Walking on Footsteps”.  The signage frame and mount is based around a highly stylised walking legs.  Using folded Corten steel, two legs can be simply fashioned to create a walking stance, upon which can be secured graphic and text panels, and independently raised header text.  Corten steel also rusts to a certain degree and then stops, leaving the sign mount a strong rust colour, but structurally unaffected.  For both stability and design links to other recommendations, the sign will be mounted onto a circular disk that is secured into the ground.


In addition to this, it is proposed that items relevant to specific sites can be included as part of the sign base.  For instance, a sign at the Surgeon’s house could include a cast doctors bag, and a sign referring to the prison garden’s fertiliser system could include a cast convict’s toilet bucket.












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6.3  Paving Inserts

The interpretive signage is designed to be mounted on and supported by a cylindrical metal base that is secured into the ground.  In several locations, a vertical element is unsuitable, whereas a horizontal insert can provide the required interpretative material. 


It is proposed that the bases of the interpretive signs be used as paving inserts, featuring text and possibly graphics.  The inserts can also assist in directional way-finding, potentially by way of directional shoe imprints.



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6.4  Ramp Sculptural Elements

The Ramp to the prison is an important entry to both then prison and as a starting point for the heritage trail.  It is proposed that a strong visual element be developed through this area to attract people, to create a strong visual presence of the precinct and to evoke and introduce the prison/ convict story.


It is therefore proposed that a series of large ‘manacles’ be positioned along the ramp.  Manacles were common tools of restraint during convict times, and have a direct relevance to the convict heritage of the Fremantle Prison.  The ‘manacles’ will be a strong sculptural element, especially when replicated along the ramp.  It is also proposed that the ‘manacles’ be individually lit at night, to further add to their sculptural qualities.  The ‘manacles’ can accommodate text elements to assist in the interpretation of the site - such as the names of some of the people who served time in the prison during its history, or some pertinent quotes.

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An additional component of the ‘manacle’ sculptures is that some could include a subtle soundscape that is activated only unintentionally triggered by the visitors.  Sounds of chains and footsteps could accompany a quiet voice that gives a brief quote from a convict, e.g. “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead!”


6.5  Prison Introductory Signage

It is recommended in Section 7 – Trail Details and Recommendations, that the existing introductory signage at the front of the prison be replaced.  Like the interpretive signage, the prison introductory signage should be eye catching, engaging, relevant and appropriate for the site.


It is proposed that continuing the sculptural idea proposed for the ramp of a series of large ‘manacles’, one of these manacles be adapted to house a large graphics and text information panel.  This ‘manacle’ signage unit could be placed in the same location as the existing signage.  Care is required in the design of this element, so that the unit is appropriately attractive and engaging, but at the same time not detracting from the heritage facade of the prison gatehouse.  In many ways this is an issue of scale, which can be modified as required.


As with the interpretive signage, the manacle unit would be made from Corten steel that would be allowed to rust to some degree.  The graphics and text panels would be made from folded aluminium and printed with a digital image.















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6.6  Seating

Seating should be provided along the trail, partly for resting but also to allow people the opportunity to reflect on some of the interpretive material presented.  The seating can include text and graphics engraved into the surface.


As vandalism is always an issue, it is worth considering the use of materials such as stone or hardwood.  A metal seat may be a suitable alternative, but the issue of becoming hot in summer may make this material unsuitable.


The seats can also include a subtle soundscape that is triggered when someone sits down.


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6.7  Soundscapes

Soundscapes, when well designed and effectively used, can provide a rich interpretive layer. There are however significant issues in the use and design of soundscapes.  For instance, soundscapes must be subtle and unobtrusive, and they must be evocative rather than providers of large volumes of information.  The recommendation to use a soundscape as part of a seat requires careful consideration and design in terms of the material used, the way it is recorded and produced, the way it is installed and secreted within the seating, and the way in which people trigger and inter-relate with it.  At the end of a soundscape sequence, visitors should be seeking more rather than being relieved that it is over.


In terms of technology, the equipment should feature:

• a solid-state digital store, which is capable of playing 10 minutes of hi-fidelity sound, with built in amplifier

• controller unit for random track selection

• small, high quality and weather-proof speakers that can be hidden beneath the surface of the seat and secured with vandal proof coverings

• pressure or capacitance trigger switch

• a suitable power source – potentially linking with mains power supply .


All of the technical equipment must be able to fit within the seat itself and be able to be secured in terms of vandalism, interference or theft.




7.      Trail Details And Recommendations

The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail follows the recommended route as developed by Palassis Architects (2002).  Some minor alterations are proposed for the purpose of an improved visitor experience and interpretive flow.  This includes starting the tour at the Fremantle Prison as opposed to the Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre.  Although people will be able to join the trail at any point, it is expected that a larger number of people would start the trail from the Prison, by virtue of the fact that it is closer to the centre of Fremantle and that it currently has a higher tourist profile and visitation.  One of the aims of the trail should be to tap into this visitation, and draw people out away from this central area into some of the more hidden parts of Fremantle.


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Throughout this section, reference will be made to various interpretive elements and styles, some of which are recurring - in particular the ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive signage.  Refer to Section 6 for full details of these elements.


7.1  Fremantle Prison Gatehouse and Ramp


The front gate of the Fremantle Prison is an imposing structure, especially when viewed from the Fairbairn Street Ramp.  It is expected that most visitors would approach the prison from this direction.  Currently, two signs are positioned along the ramp – one dealing with the history of the ramp itself, and the other presenting the story of the adjacent vegetable garden and barrack’s green.  The signs are of a quite distinct style, with poles inserted through the faćade, presumably to reflect the metal bars of the prison. 


A large sign of similar style is located at the entrance to the prison, presenting opening times, guided tour frequency and the “Do time with us” marketing theme.  As a large number of tourists visit the prison, there is great potential to tap into this market in and around the prison precinct.


This leads to a number of issues that need to be considered:

• where the heritage trail starts in relation to the prison faćade and the existing interpretive material

• the likelihood of visitors wanting to continue their ‘prison’ theme experience on a related heritage trail

• the role that the prison precinct can have in introducing and promoting the trail

• the future of the existing interpretive material in terms of how they can be incorporated into the trail, especially in such a critical introductory area for the heritage trail.  This is compounded by the relatively poor condition of the large sign at the gatehouse and the inappropriate pot-rivet fixings applied to the faces of the interpretive signage.



Theme: Walking on Footsteps – Fremantle’s Convict Past

In order to effectively deal with the above considerations and issues, it is proposed that the ramp and gatehouse to be considered as one site – an entrance to the prison and a starting point for the heritage trail.  This means that all visitors to the prison will have at least had an introduction to the heritage trail, and will be more inclined to continue on after their prison tour. 


The attraction and relevance of the ramp should be enhanced and strengthened by way of bold visual elements.  Banners have previously been suggested for this area, however it is considered that there may be more engaging and thematically relevant solutions.  One suggestion is a series of large illuminated ‘manacles’ that can be positioned along the ramp, as described in Section 6 – Interpretive Palettes.  Further options should also be explored, consistent with the intent of highlighting and interpreting the site in bold, relevant and imaginative ways.


It is further recommended that:

• the present signs along the ramp and in front of the prison gate should be replaced with new heritage trail related signs.  The present signs are quite standard and the technique of mounting the signs to their supports by pot-riveting through the face is poor.  These will require replacement in the short to medium term, and the replacement signs should serve to work within the overall concept for the heritage trail.

• two forms of signage should be developed for this area

– a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign along the ramp describing the ramp itself and its basic history and

– an introductory sign for the prison faćade that presents the prison’s opening hours, tour times and promotes the heritage trail and the ‘walking-on-footsteps’ concept. The sign should also highlight that guide brochures are available at the prison.  There are opportunities for this sign to have a sculptural element within its design, whilst not detracting from the heritage significance of the prison faćade.  This will however need further consideration and discussion.  See Section 6 – Interpretive Palette.

• the display within the prison’s visitor centre should be complimented with a section that promotes the heritage trail and provides relevant background information.


7.2  The Terrace

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The present interpretation features a large sign located to the south of the gatehouse that introduces The Terrace’s houses, including the Surgeon’s residence.  People can wander around this area and then return to the prison gatehouse.  The interpretation is very matter-of-fact, consisting largely of dates and building details.  A dirt pathway running parallel to The Terrace descends to Holdsworth Street where a small directional sign is located.  Alternatively, people can reach this point by descending stairs from the western end of The Terrace. 


The Terrace can be considered as three arms coming off the central prison gatehouse and ramp area.  From observation, some people wander down the western section, some wander along the eastern section and some descend the pathway.


Following on from the idea of tapping into the visitor market who visit the prison, the first item of the heritage trail must capture the visitors’ imagination and get them to want more.  We want them to have an emotional response – laughter or shudder – or even both!



It is proposed that the heritage trail start via the dirt pathway.  It is therefore recommended that a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign be located approximately 50 metres along the path. 

Theme: Convict Poo Makes The Garden Grow Stronger!

The sign could feature the following main points:

• the area was once used as a convicts’ vegetable garden, emphasising the use of the contents of the latrines for fertiliser – toilet stories have a great way of gaining attention!

• the sign should not be too detailed, simply presenting the bare facts, with an emphasis on what it was like to be around the area when under production – smell and flies!

• the language used in the sign should be quite blunt, even to the extent of being provocative – there should be no attempt to make the subject matter ‘nice’.

• the sculptural component of the sign could include a prison toilet bucket.


The western and eastern sections of The Terrace should be seen as a mini-heritage trail, separate to the main heritage trail.  These too should be designed to encourage people to go on the main heritage trail.


Along western section of The Terrace, a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign should be located in the vicinity of the Chaplain’s House (No. 8).  The sign should be positioned to be viewed from The Terrace, or immediately inside the property’s garden.  Visitor impacts on tenants will need to be carefully considered when selecting the site.

Theme: “To the Lord We Trust” – The Chaplain’s Prayer

The interpretation could present the Chaplain’s ecumenical mission for the prisoners, potentially by way of a quote as to his hopes of ‘saving some souls’.  The interpretation should provide an insight into the characters, rather than focussing simply on the bricks and mortar.  The associated sculptural part of the sign could be some religious items such as a Bible and cross.


Along the eastern section of The Terrace, a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign should be in the vicinity of the Surgeon’s House (No. 18).  As with the Chaplain’s House, the sign should be positioned to be viewed from The Terrace, or immediately inside the property’s garden, taking into account impacts on tenants.
Theme: The Surgeon’s World – Convicts and Lunatics

The interpretation should present the Surgeon’s experiences and introduce the fact that he also had a role in the nearby Asylum.  It is necessary to recognise that this sign will also be the last stop on the full heritage trail, and must be worded in such a way as to introduce people to the story and to complete the experience for people who have been on the whole trail.  The associated sculptural part of the sign could feature relevant surgeon’s belongings such as a doctor’s bag.


Access to Holdsworth and Knutsford Streets is either via the dirt track/ ramp or down a series of steps.  Disabled access is therefore an issue which will need to be addressed, potentially by developing a suitable surface on the dirt track/ ramp.  Night-time lighting will also need to be considered.  In addition, it is recommended that a well-marked pedestrian crossing be established at the Holdsworth Street crossing.


7.3  Stirling Street

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The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) suggests a seat and signage at this location, presumably the corner of Stirling and Holdsworth Streets.  This is a less than ideal position for a seat, as it is surrounded by private (non-heritage) residences and vehicle traffic. 



It is recommended that the interpretive materials at this site be limited to a paving insert.  The insert would be designed to be part of the recurring ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive signage element, but without the vertical component.  It will therefore be clearly recognised as part of the heritage trail and its suite of interpretive elements.  See Section 6 – Interpretive Palette.

Theme: Views of Early Fremantle


The paving insert should deal with two main topics:

• the view to the port and the former silos

• the fact that the old housing surrounding the prison in this area was for people who provided services to the prison – possibly including personal views as well as physical views.


In addition, the proposed trail along Stirling Street crosses the relatively busy High Street.  For safety, it is recommended that a well-marked pedestrian crossing be established at this location.  Because of the potential difficulty of this crossing, suggestions have been made that a ‘dedicated pedestrian phase’ be included into the traffic lights at the corner of High and Ord Streets.  Clearly, the issue of safe pedestrian crossing needs further careful thought and planning.


7.4  Fremantle Park


The proposed heritage trail enters Fremantle Park at the intersection of Stirling and Ellen Streets.  At this point, there is a view across the park (basically an oval) through to the Leisure Centre and to Ord Street and front of the old Asylum.


The access to the oval is quite steep in sections.


It is recommended that a bench seat be established at a suitable location, potentially approximately 50 metres to the east of the Stirling Street intersection, enabling views of the old Asylum but away from the cars of Ellen Street. 


The bench seat can be made of timber or stone, with simple text and graphics engraved or inlayed into the surface.  See Section 6 – Interpretive Palette.


Theme: Institutions On The Hill – A Warning To All

The interpretive messages can include:

• the grounds of the Asylum were once large, designed for the patients to wander around in – rain or shine. 

• both the Asylum and Prison were strategically built on a ridgeline overlooking Fremantle, as a reminder to all of the consequences of misbehaviour.

• the grounds have now been bisected by Ord Street and reduced to accommodate the Leisure Centre


In association with this seat, it is possible to install a subtle soundscape that is triggered only when someone sits down and plays once only until re-triggered.  The soundscape could present some of the musings of the surgeon, and his daily experiences.  Alternatively, it could present a poem or song written by one of the asylum’s inmates.  The soundscape can be designed to select tracks at random, so that repeat triggerings will play different soundscapes.  In this way repeat visits will always be different.  See Section 6 – Interpretive Palette.


7.5  Ord Street Faćade of Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre

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The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) recommends that the people be directed across the park to some limestone walls and the Leisure Centre.  This is questioned for several reasons:

• from assessment of photographs of the old Asylum, it is extremely unclear if the stone wall had anything to do with the Asylum, and appears to be more of a retaining wall for the oval, potentially built from the stones from the original Asylum walls – this of course needs to be confirmed

• even if the stone wall is linked to the old Asylum, its meaning for tourists is largely lost because of the extensive changes to the immediate area

• the route past the Leisure Centre is uninspiring and avoidable

• there is a natural desireline to head across the park towards the front of the Asylum at Ord Street.



It is recommended that the heritage trail cut across the Fremantle Park to the north-western corner.  This might include walking amongst trees on the eastern side of the park. 


Ord Street is quite a busy road, and it is relatively unconducive to detailed interpretation of the lives of people incarcerated there over 100 years ago.  It is therefore recommended that:

• the interpretation along Ord Street be minimal, leaving the details of the site to be presented at the entrance on Finnerty Street

• a simple paving insert be placed into the footpath to indicate the position of the old Asylum wall, and to commemorate the people who were enclosed by it. 


The interpretation should emphasise that you are now entering the once extensive grounds of the old Asylum – in the footsteps of the Surgeon.  What horrors awaited him on these journeys?

Theme: From Spleens to Screams – What the Surgeon Saw

In addition, strong and graphic elements could be used to present the building’s checkered past.  This could feature sculptural elements or even forms of banners located on or near the faćade of the Asylum that represent/ remind/ commemorate the experiences of the people who were incarcerated within the building. 


The idea is to put our present perception of the building into a different context – namely, the era that we are interpreting when people were incarcerated there and screams of anguish were a common sound.  The aim is to present this atmosphere and associated sounds in a way that gives visitors and passers-by an insight into the place.  As one suggestion, it is considered inappropriate to have actual screams bellowing out of the building; instead, words and screams presented in a visual form could appear to fall out from the windows.  It is this graphic and sculptural treatment of the content that can create a significant and meaningful impact.


Because of the nature of the building and its current use, it is envisaged that this element would be of a highly artistic nature, potentially linked with the endeavours of the Fremantle Art Centre.  Any such works would however have to conform to the heritage conservation requirements of the Burra Charter.


The proposed trail crosses the very busy Ord Street.  For safety, it is recommended that a well-marked pedestrian crossing be established at a suitable location.


7.6  Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre

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The Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre now occupy the old Asylum.  The building ceased to act as an asylum in 1909, and was then used as an Old Women’s Home and midwifery training school, the United States naval base during WW2 and then as arts class rooms for the nearby John Curtin Senior High School.  During the later years, it was allowed to fall into considerable disrepair and after major restoration works was re-opened as the Maritime Museum in 1970.  Despite some changes to the building during the various uses, the integrity of the building is intact although much of the internal asylum linkages have been removed.  For this reason, the main impression of the building’s past use as an asylum is within the grounds, especially the internal quadrangle and gardens.



The old Asylum has a daunting presence, and much could be made of this fact.  Despite its changed uses in later years, the building was a terrible place housing immense pain and suffering.  This interpretive angle has a legitimate social history basis, and has a strong interest for visitors, as evidenced in other colonial asylums such as J Ward at Ararat in central Victoria. 

Theme:  Wailing Chants, Banging Tin Mugs and Screams of Anguish – ‘Life’ at the Asylum
It is recommended that:

• a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign be established within the grounds of the Asylum

• the sign can give a basic history of the Asylum, but should concentrate on some of the personal experiences that people had in the Asylum


In addition, the heritage trail should be promoted at the Museum and Arts Centre, by a complimentary display that promotes the heritage trail and provides relevant background information.  The heritage trail guide booklet/ brochure should also be available and promoted.


7.7  Skinner Street Cemetery

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Situated at the rear of the old asylum grounds, the Skinner Street Cemetery is Fremantle’s first cemetery, taking the bodies of convicts, ‘lunatics’, settlers, sailors and others.  It was closed in 1899 and replaced with the new Fremantle Cemetery in Carington Street.  Wealthy families had their relative’s bodies exhumed and moved to the new cemetery, however the many poor families and unidentified graves remain.  In following years, the area was occupied by army huts that then became temporary housing for homeless families.  Eventually the huts were removed and the site became an oval for the John Curtin Senior High School. 


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This is the situation today, with the site used as a school playing field.  Cricket practice pitches and nets are near the western entrance to the area.  A limestone wall still exists on the northern boundary, although in a relatively poor state of repair and large Melaleuca (?) trees grow along this edge.  An overly detailed sign is located in the north-western corner of the site, which has been vandalised.


A major consideration for the site is that it is part of the school grounds.  Any interpretive material needs to be mindful of this in terms of visual intrusion, vandalism and appropriateness.



Any interpretation for this site should be more commemorative in style and content than straight facts and figures.  It should be low key, yet clearly visible to those who visit.  It is recommended that:

• the existing sign be removed

• the focus of the interpretation should be amongst the trees on the north-western corner of the site, and woven into the existing school ground usage of the site.

Theme:  A Memorial To Memorials – Remnants of a Colonial Cemetery

Details include:

• the interpretive materials should be more of a memorial nature, rather than signage with straight facts and figures

• some of the old grave sites could be indicated by way of simple horizontal inserts laid into the ground.  The inserts will be a form of memorial to the cemetery (itself a place of memorials).

• the inserts will be approximately the size of a grave site, with simple commemorative text inlayed or sandblasted into them.  It is also possible to design the inserts so that they appear the same shape as colonial style headstones.

• the inserts could be made from limestone/ sandstone coloured concrete

• approximately 2 or 3 inserts would be in a whole, intact form, with an additional 2 or 3 inserts in varying states of repair and earth covering as they radiate out.  The idea here is to reflect the fact that the cemetery once extended all through the area, and that the memorial inserts themselves are reflecting this deterioration as they extend out, finally being only broken remnants on the ground.










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In addition, it is possible (and desirable) that some of the details of the inlays, such as text and inserts could be developed in conjunction with students from the John Curtin College of the Arts.  This coordinated approach to the project will facilitate a level of curriculum related design and content input, a sense of ownership by the school and its students, and an increased understanding of their daily use of the area.


7.8  Goat Track and Rear of Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre

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The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) recommends that the heritage trail enters the Museum and Arts Centre precinct from the eastern side and proceeds through to Ord Street via what is now called the Goat Track.  This suggestion as it stands is highly questionable for several reasons:

• the existing condition of the area to the east of the old Asylum is basically a neglected wasteland.  It is the back of the precinct with large graffiti covered sheds, cyclone wire fences, a large water tank, large piles of weed covered rubble and assorted other items.

• access into the Arts Centre precinct through this area would be difficult to regulate during out-of-hours times

• the Goat Track is adjacent to an area known as Bushy Hill, which is also highly degraded and in need of major rehabilitation works.



For this area to be at all suitable as part of the heritage trail, it is recommended that:

• major rehabilitation works be undertaken throughout the whole area, including the rear of the Museum and Arts Centre through to and including Bushy Hill.  Further suggestions for this area are made for the next site.

• liaison with the Museum and Arts Centre management to determine security and other issues relating to access from this eastern side.

• liaison with the John Curtin College of the Arts, especially with regard to the JCCA Landscape Vision document.

• until these works are completed, the heritage trail should return along Finnerty Street to Ord Street.  There may also be an alternative internal route from the main entrance into the Museum and Arts Centre on Finnerty Street, through the grounds to the south-western corner of the property on Ord Street.  This needs further investigation.


If the works at the rear of the Museum and Arts Centre are carried out, it is recommended that a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign be developed along the old route between the old Asylum and the cemetery.

Theme:  Death – The Only Escape

The interpretation should deal with the fact that several (many?) people died in the asylum – death was their only escape.  The interpretation should link with the recommendations made for a rehabilitated Bushy Hill, as described next.


7.9  Ord Street and Bushy Hill

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The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) recommends that the trail cross Ord Street, in order to walk under the fig trees on the western side.  This is considered undesirable, as it makes an additional unsecured road crossing and then a return road crossing to get to Samson House.  Furthermore, this promenade of fig trees can be experienced through the revised route between stops 4 and 5.


On the other hand, the eastern side of Ord Street, leading into Bushy Hill, is weed infested and neglected. 



Bushy Hill is an important remnant of the limestone ridge that significantly influenced the settlement pattern of Fremantle.  Much could be made of this area in terms of aesthetics, conservation, education and interpretation.

Theme: Landform Makes the Place

It is therefore recommended that Bushy Hill, including the eastern side of Ord Street, be rehabilitated and revegetated with indigenous species.  In the event of this rehabilitation work, the heritage trail could move through the area, taking in the views of Fremantle and emerging at the intersection of Ord Street and Ellen Street opposite Sansom House.  As with the recommendations for the Goat Track area, there needs to be close liaison with the John Curtin College of the Arts, especially with regard to the JCCA Landscape Vision document.


An interesting option for the Bushy Hill area is to develop an environmental and cultural ‘sculpture park’, along the lines of Herring Island on the Yarra River in Melbourne or Toolangi Forest in the Yarra Ranges.  Herring Island includes works by the renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy.  The sculpture park could present interpretive messages such as the significance of Fremantle’s limestone ridge, and be developed in conjunction with relevant educational projects of John Curtin College of the Arts. 


For safety, it is recommended that a well-marked pedestrian crossing be established at the intersection of Ord and Ellen Streets.









Sculptures at Herring Island Sculpture Park and Toolangi Forest


7.10  Samson House

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Samson House was built in the 1880s by the Samson family who were notable community and commercial leaders.  It is now a house museum managed by the Western Australian Museum and is open to the public on Sundays from 1pm to 5pm only. 



Although closed to the public for most of the time, the significance of the house and the Samson family can be highlighted on the tour.  It is also highly likely that members of the Samson family had dealings with the Surgeon Superintendent, which if verified could be used as part of the story. 

Theme:  Colonial Fremantle’s Aristocracy

It is recommended that a simple paving insert be placed into the footpath to describe the significance of the building and the Samson family.


In addition, consideration should be given to:

• opening the house for extended hours, particularly during peak tourism times

• utilising the house for dramatic performances, that deal with the elements of the lives of those who lived there.  An example is the theatrical activities presented at Port Arthur Historic Site.  Local and highly skilled actors present a play titled "The Man who Threw a Stone at the King" by Richard Davey, which tells the true story of a person who was imprisoned at Port Arthur.  It is an imaginative, thought provoking and moving experience, and one that could have significant applications.  Events of this nature, despite requiring their own promotion and organisation, can assist in the promotion of the heritage trail.


7.11  ‘Ivanhoe’ Intersection


The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) recommends that an interpretive sign be located on the existing seat and the possibility of the City of Fremantle purchasing the site for a future park with public facilities.


This is a busy intersection and although the site was the location of a grand old house, nothing remains that has any integrity or value.  Furthermore, it is surrounded by ugly apartments.  The actual and potential recreational and heritage amenity of this site is extremely low.



Because of the above comments, is recommended that:

• no interpretation be located at this site for the immediate future

• consider the possibility that any future development of the site be subject to a planning permit that requires an acknowledgement of the history of the site, potentially in terms of design.


7.12  Hampton Road

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The proposed location for an interpretive sign is at the corner of Hampton and Knutsford Streets.  It needs to be recognised that the trail has by this time been adjacent to busy streets for quite some time.  It is worth considering that this may have a negative impact on the visitor experience, and an alternative and quiet return route down Knutford Street may be appropriate.


It is also important to recognise that the old Prison Hospital, now the Children’s Literature Centre, is at this corner of the Prison grounds.  Controlled access into this area is possible, however general tourist access is not considered appropriate, purely in terms of the security of a children’s area.



It is recommended that a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign be located at a suitable location in this area. 

Theme: Prison Guards and Stone Walls – Keeping the
Convicts In

The interpretation could deal with the security measures of the prison.  The existence of the old hospital could also be referred to, but with a clear statement about the restriction of access. 

The interpretation could also refer to the large houses on the other side of the road. These grand houses were the homes of some of Fremantle’s colonial aristocracy, and reference can be made of their architectural significance and their positioning along Fremantle’s main ridgeline.

A sub-theme could be developed for this area - Grand Colonial Architecture and the High Ground


7.13  Pump House

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The Fremantle Convict Heritage Trail proposed by Palassis Architects (2002) recommends that an interpretive sign be established regarding the pumphouse and the early water supply to Fremantle.  It also suggests investigating future pedestrian access through the gate.


The subject matter for this interpretation recommendation is questionable.  A basic principle of interpretation is that the interpretive material needs to relate to something relevant and within the visitor’s experience.  In this instance, a gate in a prison wall has little connection with the pumphouse on the other side.  You cannot see any sign of the item that is being referred to.  The likely result is a sense of visitor frustration.


The only items that are evident are the remnants of the old guard’s cottages that were once located in the area.

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File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.0It is recommended that as an alternative, the location and remnant fabric of the old cottages be interpreted through the simple marking or pegging of the cottages’ floorplan onto the ground.

Theme: Beside the Wall – Living Next to The Prison

Associated text (and images if available) could be presented either as a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign or as a paving inlay in the ground.


This proposal takes into account the Fremantle Prison Conservation Management Plan (1998), which recommends that “no plantings (other than grass) should come within 20 feet of the north, south and east perimeter walls” (Policy 29.1)  This clearing away of existing vegetation would allow the old cottages to be highlighted.


7.14  Prison Walls – Fothergill Street

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The gates in this area were inserted into the perimeter walls as a result of the 1988 fire.  Although no specific reference is made of these gates in the Fremantle Prison Conservation Management Plan (1998), it is assumed that the gates have little heritage significance in their own right.


If this is the case, it therefore opens up the opportunity to use the gates as a platform, upon which interpretive material can be applied.



It is recommended that in the light of the above comments, that consideration be given to applying graphic material to the gates.  As these gates are used regularly by vehicles, concerns exist that this may result in a conflict of use, with associated safety issues.  In this light, the gates could be a large graphic that can only be appreciated some distance away, complimented by an adjacent ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign.

Theme: Strong Winds and Buttress Walls

The interpretation can tell the stories of:

• how the walls were buttressed as a result a ‘whirlwind’ storm in 1855 that demolished several sections of the wall

• how those walls were pierced to allow emergency fire access, following the 1988 riot and fire.


7.15  Surgeon’s  Residence – No.18 The Terrace

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No 18 The Terrace is the designated residence of Surgeon Superintendent.  During the convict era there were several Surgeon Superintendents including G.C. Attfield, W.H. Dickey and H.C. Barnett.  It is assumed that most of the Surgeons resided at this residence, although H.C. Barnett had a private residence overlooking Fremantle Park.  Details of his residential arrangements are unclear.


As the last location of the trail, the interpretation at this site must satisfy a number of requirements:

• it must refer to the residence and its heritage value

• it must refer to the life and experiences of the Surgeon, and

• it must complete the tour.



As stated for Site #2 - The Terrace, a ‘walking-on-footsteps’ interpretive sign should be in the vicinity of the Surgeon’s House (No. 18). 

Theme: The Surgeon’s World – convicts and lunatics

The interpretation should present the Surgeon’s experiences and introduce the fact that he also had a role in the nearby Asylum.  It is necessary to recognise that this sign will also be the last stop on the full heritage trail, and must be worded in such a way as to introduce people to the story and to complete the experience for people who have been on the whole trail.  The associated sculptural part of the sign could feature relevant surgeon’s belongings such as a doctor’s bag.


Access to this site along Fothergill Street is along a footpath on the southern (or hospital) side of the road.  The first opportunity for pedestrians to cross the road is at western end of the prison and near a potentially dangerous crest in the road.  Furthermore, pedestrians are obliged to cross the hospital entrance road intersection.  Suitable pedestrian crossing facilities in these areas will need to be considered.  Alternatively, a footpath could be developed along the northern side of the road, immediately adjacent to the prison wall.

8.      Principles Of Interpretive Design

In developing quality interpretive products, several important principles should be recognised and understood.  Without employing these principles, the quality of the interpretation will be significantly reduced, the opportunity to grasp people's imagination and interest will be minimised, and the attraction factor of the site will be compromised.


These principles include:

   The total interpretive experience should be based on clear objectives - what do you wish to say and why?

   The interpretation should have a unifying and connecting thematic structure

   Clear storylines needs to be established to convey the various themes

   Interpretive display elements should be designed in such a way that visitors are encouraged to view them, allows people to readily access information that interests them, and creates an ambience within the display spaces in keeping with the interpretive direction and objectives.

   Interpretive displays should be devised according to a basic hierarchy of information and be relatively frugal with words. 

   The most expressive way to tell the story or to convey a message should be determined.   This could include public art, signage graphics, soundscapes, lighting effects, etc.

   Interpretive displays should be graphically interesting, attractive and expressive, and organised in a surprising way.

   Interpretive displays should create a diversity of experiences, atmospheres and learning environments.

   Interpretation should foster enquiry and present different points of view, rather than always present supposed “facts”.

   It is important to develop the ambient feelings and emotions within a space by utilising and emphasising the existing ambience of the site.

   Displays must be designed and manufactured in accordance with constraints of the proposed location.  In this way, external signs must be weather resistant, mountings must be in keeping with the ambience of the historic site and be designed to have minimal impact on the building’s fabric.

   Displays featuring a large number of artifacts and objects should be organised according to a clear storyline, allowing the objects to become expressions of the story.  In otherwords, the display should be story-led rather than object led.


The constant danger in creating heritage interpretation products is trying to tell the whole story.  This only leads to vast volumes of text that very few people, if any, ever read.  The art of interpretive design is discerning what not to say and how to present it.


Further to this, to present an understanding of interpretation and interpretive techniques, it is worth highlighting the “Principles of Interpretation” by Freeman Tilden (1977), which are widely recognised as the basis for effective interpretive developments.

     Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.

     Information, as such, is not interpretation.  Interpretation is discovery based on information.  But they are not entirely different things.  However all interpretation includes information.

     Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural.  Any art is in some degree teachable.

     The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction but provocation.

     Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part and must address itself to the whole person.

     Interpretation addressed to children should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults but should follow a fundamentally different approach.

     People come to parks (& heritage areas) to recreate.  Interpretive activities must contribute to people’s enjoyment of the environment.


The following quote says much about what is required in any interpretive design project.


“The primary choice of which way you organise something

is made by deciding how you want it to be found”

Richard Saul Wurman, Information Architects, In Emery Vincent Design, 1999


9.      Notional Budget

The following budget has been developed using cost estimates from various suppliers, contractors and sub-consultants.  It should be emphasised that this is a notional budget only, simply to give a broad understanding of the potential costs involved.  The costs include design, artwork, manufacture and delivery to Fremantle, but do not include installation and GST.  More accurate costs and quotes can be provided in the design development stage of the project.


It should also be noted that the design and project management fee is a one off cost, whereas the art/ text and manufacture/ delivery costs are per unit item.  This means that unit cost of items such as the paving inlays, bench seats and walking signs are cheaper when more are created.



Design &

Project Mgt.

Art/ text/ script

Manu/ delivery

Single item cost

Additional unit cost

• Bench Seat

$ 1500

$ 1500

$ 3500

$ 6500

$ 5000

- with soundscape


$ 1500

$ 5500

$ 7000

$ 7000

• Cemetery

(2 large & 4 small)

$ 2200

$ 2500




• Main prison sign (with sculpture element)

$ 1800

$ 2000

$ 6000

$ 9800

$ 8000

• Ramp sculptures (x5)

$ 2000

$ 2000




- with soundscape


$ 1500

$ 5500

$ 7000

$ 7000

• Paving inlays

$ 1500

$ 1300

$ 2400

$ 5200

$ 3700

• Walking Signs

$ 2600

$ 2400

$ 4000

$ 9000

$ 6400

• Brochure

$ 1500


$ 4500






Selected References And Bibliography

Australian Heritage Commission, 2001. Successful Tourism at Heritage Places
– A Guide for Tourism Operators, Heritage Managers and Communities

Fowler A., 1975. Behind These Walls. Unpublished

Kerr J.S., 1998. Fremantle Prison – a Policy for its Conservation. Department of Contract and Management Services

Palassis Architects, 2001. Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre Conservation Plan.

Palassis Architects, 2002. Fremantle Museum and Arts Centre and Fremantle Prison Heritage Trail:  Fremantle’s Convict Places – An Interpretive Network.

Western Australian Tourism Commission, 2001.  Fremantle Tourism Statistics. Unpublished

Tilden F., 1977.  Interpreting Our Heritage. Third Edition.  University of North Carolina Press.