About Fremantle Prison
Fremantle Prison is also referred to as Fremantle Jail or Fremantle Gaol. The maximum-security prison, built from 1851 to 1859, was constructed to house prisoners from England. A quarter of a century later, in 1886, the local government took over the control of the prison and this led to the housing of prisoners from Australia.
The architecture of the Fremantle Prison is reminiscent of prisons from 19th century England and was designed to house workshops, a hospital and even a section for female convicts. Since 1991, Fremantle Prison has been opened as a recognized heritage site.
Various restoration construction has been done to restore the monument. The entire build up is being open for various uses like restaurants, restrooms, museum rooms etc. to attract more tourists. Fremantle Prison is the only lawful execution place in western Australia where more than 40 hangings have taken place between 1888 to 1984.
On 30 Nov 1991, the prison got close due to prisoner riots that lead to the damage of $1.8 million. Fremantle prison after closing got replaced by the high security Casuarina Prison.
How to Reach Fremantle Prison
There are many ways one can take to reach the Fremantle Prison. Here is the breakdown of all the possible options:
Best Time to Visit Fremantle Prison
The facility attracts tourists from around the world. The prison is open for tourists throughout the year, from 9 am till 5 pm, closed only on Good Friday and Christmas. It's advisable to keep in mind the high temperatures during summer in Australia which extends from December to February. If you are visiting as a large group, plan early to be there on a weekday as it gets crowded on weekends and national holidays.
What Not to Miss at Fremantle Prison
Fremantle prison offers a variety of tours and that is what sets it apart from other imprisonments. Instead of a predictable walkthrough, the facility offers visitors a variety of options to not just see the prison, but also envisage the penal system from the point of view of both inmates and administrators.
These tours give unique immersive experiences to experience the rich history and legacy of the facility. While some tours are more informative, others are interactive and will help you visualise the life of a prisoner in the 19th century.
You can discover more about the foundation of the prison, the history of its construction, and about the convicts who built it in this tour lasting an hour and fifteen minutes.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be behind bars, that too in a 19th century Western Australian prison for convicts from another part of the world? Well, Here's your chance to literally get behind bars, spend some time in the exercise yard and other blocks and experience a day in the life of a prisoner.
It’s one thing to watch true crime documentaries on television and completely different experiences when you learn about them in a prison. Discover the history of some of the most infamous crimes of the era, from bank robberies to brutal murders, the people who perpetrated them, the escape attempts at Fremantle and much more in this one of a kind tour.
This is easily one of the most sought after tours at Fremantle, attracting tourists from all corners of the world. Here you have the unique opportunity to traverse through the labyrinth underground tunnels that were built by the prisoners as part of their prescribed hard labour.
If you are weak-kneed, we suggest you avoid this, as it takes you on an unsettling tour into the dark and dreary side of prison life. Filled with upsetting yet intriguing true tales of convicts who were proven to be innocent and botched executions, this will give you an unforgettable glimpse into a unique world.
Places to Visit near Fremantle Prison
For those visiting Fremantle Prison, a tour to the WA Maritime Museum will be an added incentive. The museum features vessels, exhibits and even a tour of a submarine.
Another favourite among both locals and tourists is the Fremantle Markets, that has a captivating history dating from 1897. The Markets are famous for its local produce, products developed by indigenous communities, and the lively music at the premises. If you are in the mood for some delicious, locally sourced food, this is the place to go.
An exquisite island off the coast of Perth, Rottnest is renowned for its pristine white beaches and nature preserve. There are around 60 beaches for you to explore here. Ride a bike or rent a ferry, you will be mesmerised by nature at its finest.
With twelve sides, this is Western Australia’s oldest surviving structure. Constructed as a gaol, it has also served as a police station and residential quarters for police officers.
For those interested in maritime history, a trip to the Shipwreck Galleries will be memorable. A rich repository of artefacts from famous shipwrecks, it’s also an homage to a century of sea expeditions.
For those fond of seafood, an evening at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, with its sumptuous offerings and stunning views should be a part of the itinerary. After dinner, go for a stroll along the marina and look at the stunning horizon changing its hues.
How many museums or art centres do you know that were lunatic asylums at one point in time? Well, the Fremantle Arts Centre, now famous for its art exhibitions, residencies, music and art education, had many avatars. At various points in its past, the Centre located in Freo, was a centre for women, a naval base and even a college. That history is worth your visit.
Other Essential Information About Fremantle Prison
9 am - 5 pm, throughout the week. The timings are extended on Wednesday and Friday. The prison is closed on Good Friday and Christmas.
- Prison Tours (Convict Prison, True Crime or Behind Bars): AUD 22 for an adult, a concession fee of AUD 19 per adult for a group of 10 or more, AUD 12 for a child and AUD 62 for a family.
History of Fremantle Prison
During the middle of the 19th century, there was significant demand for inexpensive and easily controllable labour in the country. The ideal solution for the colonial administrators was to use the services of those incarcerated.
Although initially, Australia wasn’t keen to take the prisoners, they eventually agreed. When the convicts arrived, the administration realised that they didn’t have a facility to house them in large numbers, and therefore, they were temporarily restrained to their ship.
The Comptroller General in charge of those incarcerated, Edward Henderson, started scouting for a site to construct a prison and zeroed in on Fremantle. In the early decades of the prison, prisoners convicted for less violent crimes were the majority of the inmates.
That situation changed as more violent convicts were sentenced to serve their time at Fremantle. This change in the prisoner profile, combined with an administrative culture rooted in the colonial treatment of prisoners, led to prisoner unrest and a major riot in 1988 that attracted worldwide attention.
The prisoners held some guards as captives, and in the ensuing fire, property worth $1.8 million was destroyed. Three years later the Fremantle Prison was shut down and the prisoners and the administrators were shifted to Casuarina, another maximum-security prison.
Some famous prisoners who managed to momentarily flee include Moondyne Joe, John Boyle O’Reilly and Brendan Abbott. Today the prison is an ode to a bygone era. Its colonial architecture and history continue to attract tourists. The 2010 World Heritage List of UNESCO added the prison, thus augmenting efforts to conserve it as a site of cultural and historical value.
Eventually, it was decided that the former prison would be preserved as a site of historical and cultural importance under the aegis of the Fremantle Prison Trust.