Tasmania’s convict past is well documented and many of the structures associated with this period of history have been maintained or refurbished with many, especially bridges and public buildings, still in use. As we drove around the island, we stopped by some of these places and towns that have associations with convict times.
So here’s our small selection of convict sites we visited in Tasmania…..
Tasmania’s Convict Past
Richmond, about an hour north of Hobart is the site of the first Convict settlement and the first gaol (jail), built in 1825, seven years before the establishment of the Penal Colony at Port Arthur. Richmond Gaol is open to the public and is well maintained and presented, with activities for children and good displays showing the harsh live endured by those sent here.
Spend about an hour looking around and enjoy a picnic in the gardens outside. If it’s a Saturday Market day, drop by for a look, the venue is just behind the public toilets.
The Port Arthur Penal Settlement is probably more well known than Richmond and other penal settlements, possibly because of its location and size, not to mention the history of the settlement. When the settlement closed down, the name was changed so people would forget and many of the buildings were damaged or destroyed by bushfires.
Only later did the people decide that it was necessary to recognise what happened. The name of Port Arthur was restored and work began to bring the area to what it is today, an integrated facility open to the public which describes the life of the convicts, their gaolers and the gaolers’ families. The entry fee includes a guided walk and boat trip around the bay. Look out for the Solitary Confinement block, the chapel of which was a particularly nasty place for the prisoners.
Female Factories in Ross and Hobart – The Cascades Female Factory and the one is Ross, are former Australian workhouses for female convicts in the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. The Hobart museum is located off Cascade Rd in South Hobart and would be a good stop on your way to Mt Wellington. The Factory site in Ross is slightly to the south of the town, past the Town Hall and turn right.
The Ross Bridge (shown above) is the first built by convict labour, earning the two stonemasons their freedom and still carries traffic in and out of the town daily.
The convict period in Tasmania was a time of great cruelty and hardship particularly for the convicts. But the free settlers who went to the colony had to do it tough as well. Visitors can appreciate both the architecture and stories of the people of those times.