Fremantle Stuff > buildings > Prison. See also: David Hutchison's Walk 8, Fremantle Prison, in his Fremantle Walks.

Fremantle Prison

The Fremantle Prison has its own website and a very comprehensive Wikipedia page, so doesn't need documentation on this one. It was constructed 1851-69, and closed as a prison 1991. Now it's a tourist trap.


Photograph of a painting by Toby Leek, courtesy of the artist.


Fremantle Prison Gatehouse, designed by Edmund Henderson, built by Henry Wray. Photo from Wikipedia


This photo of the prison was taken by Stephen Stout in about 1865, not long after the building was completed in 1859.

The erection of the Convict Establishment was commenced in 1851. In that and the following years the Imperial Government carried out by prison labour a number of other works, among them being the Commissariat buildings in Cliff-street, the pensioners' barracks in South Terrace, the warders' quarters in Henderson Street, the Comptroller's residence, known as ”The Knowle” (now part of the hospital), the North Fremantle traffic bridge as originally constructed and numerous other works of public utility, including roads, streets and public buildings. With the exception of the old court-house, which was demolished to make room for pilots' quarters, all those buildings and the North Fremantle bridge are still standing, and are monuments to the stability of the work done by the convicts. Hitchcock: 34-35.


This excellent photo from Roel Loopers' blog shows the 'VR 1855' on the admin building. Luke Donegan took it down, arguing that it was not original to the 1855 building (despite the date) but was added later. My position was that it had been there long enough (all my life) to justify its continuing to be shown. And what about the razor wire which is still all over the place? That is much later than the 'VR'.

References and links

See also: convicts.

Bosworth, Michal 2004, Convict Fremantle: A Place of Promise and Punishment, UWAP.

Campbell, Robin McKellar 2010, Building the Fremantle Convict Establishment, PhD, UWA (Faculty of Architecture). Available online to download (not from this site) as a 40MB PDF.

Campbell, Rob 2017, Henderson & Coy, Royal Engineers & the Convict Establishment Fremantle, WA, 1850-1872, School of Design, UWA. Book based on the preceding entry.

Culley, Stephen 2010, 'Six years without a suicide: art at Fremantle Prison', Fremantle Studies, 6: 66-87.

Cullity, Olimpia 2016, 'Reform and punishment: Fremantle Prison, 1850 to 1891', Studies in Western Australian History, 31: 63-79.

Ewers, John K. 1971, The Western Gateway: A History of Fremantle, Fremantle City Council, with UWAP, rev. ed. [1st ed. 1948]

Gibbs, Martin 2001, 'The archaeology of the convict system in Western Australia', Australasian Historical Archaeology, 19.

Heseltine, William 2004, 'The escape of the military Fenians from Fremantle Prison: the warders' perspective', Fremantle Studies, 3: 26-45.

Hutchison, David, Walk 8, Fremantle Prison, Fremantle Walks.

Kerr, James Semple 1998, Fremantle Prison: A Policy for its Conservation, Dept of Contract and Management Services for the Fremantle Prison Trust Advisory Committee, rev. ed.

Megahey, Norman 2004, 'Adaptation and resistance: the reaction of Fremantle Prison inmates to incarceration', Fremantle Studies, 3: 14-25.

Megahey, Norman 2010, 'A community apart', Fremantle Studies, 6: 29-42. [on Fremantle Prison riot 1988]

Menzies, Isa & Jacquie Brisbout 2014, 'From the inside: the art of Fremantle Prison', Fremantle Studies, 8: 96-115.

Murray, Sandra 2007, 'Escape! Fremantle to Freedom: an exhibition on the Irish Fenian convicts and their bold escape from the Fremantle Prison to America', Fremantle Studies, 5: 74-86.

Fremantle Prison website

Wikipedia page

Notes on the prison in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle SocietyJuly 1989 , February 1990April 1990October 1990March 1991April 1991.

Personal note. While I was on the staff of Murdoch University External Studies Unit, I visited prisoners there twice while it was still in use, one visit in the Special Handling Unit. I also went in there in 1991 on the first occasion it was opened to Fremantle residents after being closed: Gary Burke's band Rich 'n' Famous played. It was a weird occasion; I wonder if someone has written something about it.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 June, 2015 | Now: 10 July, 2020