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Fremantle Prison (former)


Heritage Council

Place Number

There no heritage location found in the Google fusion table.


1 The Terrace Fremantle

Location Details

The site is about 7ha, 1 The Terrace, Fremantle, being the area identified on Page 38 of the Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct Master Plan July 2003 and comprising Zones A to N, P, Q, R and S. Included is all of Lot 24042 (Zones A to N and Q), the Fairbairn Street Ramp (Zone R), and Warders Cottages (Zone S), being 7-41 Henderson Street.

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1852 to 1859

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
Heritage List YES 08 Mar 2007 City of Fremantle
National Heritage List YES 01 Jul 2005

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
(no listings)

Statement of Significance

Fremantle Prison (1852-1859) is an example of a nineteenth century convict establishment which continued to be used as a prison until 1991. It is the most intact such complex in Australia.

Fremantle Prison is a major component of the British convict system constructed in Australia. The system is an example of a 19th century European colonial strategy of exporting prisoners and using their labour to establish a colonial economy. In Australia, this strategy impacted on early colonial development and on the overall Australian psyche.

Fremantle Prison, in conjunction with other Australian convict sites, exemplifies a world-wide process of colonial settlement. The British colonial penal system, evident in post-1788 Australia and demonstrated at Fremantle Prison, progressed 18th and 19th century European colonisation.

Transportation, which had ceased in the other colonies by 1853, due to increasing hostile opposition and immigration stimulated by the gold rushes, commenced in Western Australia in 1850. Fremantle Prison tells the national story of the last period of convict transportation to Australia, and the final expression of British convict migration. Its history reflects the changes in Australian and British views about the use of forced labour as a basis for empire. After the gold rushes the Australian colonies, rather than being seen as an extension of British interests, were increasingly seen as self sufficient members of the empire.

Fremantle Prison with its integrity clearly demonstrates in its fabric many aspects of penal design and reform that developed in Britain in the nineteenth century. It demonstrates aspects of the system and the conditions in which convicts lived. The place allows the closest observation of the conditions in which many convicts served out their sentences in the nineteenth century.

Fremantle Prison, the central convict establishment in Western Australia, functioned as a public works prison, a convict distribution depot and the main Imperial convict administration and workshops. Fremantle Prison and Hyde Park Barracks together illustrate the national story of the control of convicts on public works.

Fremantle Prison contains major surviving physical evidence of an imperial convict public works establishment and of its adaptation for subsequent colonial (1886) and state use. The fabric of Main Cell Block, perimeter walls, the Henderson Street Warders Cottages and three of the cottages on the Terrace are little altered from the imperial convict era.

New elements added to the Prison after the transfer of the establishment from imperial to colonial and later state control, include the Western Workshops (1900-01) the New Division (1907) and conversion of service building to the Female Division and addition of an eastern range (1889-1909).

Fremantle Prison is an exceptionally intact architectural ensemble due to 133 years of continuous use as a prison.

The British colonial penal system, evident in post-1788 Australia, is demonstrated at Fremantle Prison. London’s Pentonville prison, one of the first model prisons erected between 1840 and 1842, was based on changes in British penal philosophy which advocated reform rather than punishment. The design of the Main Cell Block at Fremantle Prison was adapted from Jebb’s design at Pentonville.

Fremantle Prison has research potential because of the place’s integrity and authenticity and the ability of the material culture present to provide insight into the convict experience throughout the imperial, colonial and state periods.

In combination, the oral tradition, documentary evidence, collections, structures, engineering relics and archaeological features at Fremantle Prison have potential for community education.

Fremantle Prison’s buildings, engineering relics and other structures contain, within their fabric, evidence of construction technology, available materials and adaptation to suit local conditions.

The Fremantle Prison records and collections, including archaeological, provide a research resource which, in conjunction with documentary evidence, have the potential to reveal and present much of the Fremantle story.

Australia’s convict sites share patterns of environmental and social colonial history including classification and segregation; dominance by authority and religion; the provision of accommodation for the convict, military and civil population; amenities for governance, punishment and healing, and the elements of place building and industry. Fremantle Prison demonstrates the principal characteristics of an Australian Convict Site because:

• It presents aspects of Australia’s convict system including changing attitudes to punishment, reform, education and welfare;
• The Prison in its present form demonstrates with some precision the facilities, conditions and attitudes prevailing in a major Western Australian prison – an experience rarely available to the public and made more immediate by the retention of graffiti, murals, signs, notices and recent evidence of use;
• The form and location of elements at Fremantle Prison display deliberate design and arrangement, reflecting the order and hierarchy of the place’s history and function as a Prison;
• The built environment at Fremantle Prison displays a large, surviving concentration of 19th and early 20th century structures characterised by a homogeneity of form, materials, textures and colour;
• Substantial parts of the site include archaeological deposits of material culture, which can be analysed to yield information about the site unavailable from documentary sources alone; and
• Fremantle Prison, its artefacts, furnishings and fittings, written and painted graffiti and records, including published material, photographs, historical, archaeological and architectural records, and databases, provide an extensive resource for a broad range of historical and social research.

Fremantle Prison symbolises the period in which Western Australia was developed using convict labour. For Australians broadly, particularly those of Anglo-Celtic background, Fremantle Prison is a place to reconnect with their colonial roots, real or imagined, and reflect on the meanings of the past. For some, the search for early family associations and identity has led to Fremantle Prison and the rediscovery of personal links with convictism.

Physical Description

Fremantle Prison comprises substantially intact convict era structures, including the limestone perimeter walls of exceptional heritage significance. Other structures, dating from the time the precinct was in use as a colonial and state prison, are also significant.

The convict era complex includes the 1859 main cell block, chapel and wards, yards and refractory cells; perimeter walls, gate house complex and prison officer residences on the Terrace; service buildings and hospital; south-eastern workshops; ramp access tramway (Fairbairn Street) and Henderson Street Warder's Cottages. Other elements which contribute to the site's overall significance include the western workshops (1900); new division (1907); and conversion of service building to the female division and the addition of an eastern range (1889-1909).

The prison is surrounded by limestone perimeter walls, which define the extent of the depot and its original topography to the south, east and north. The walls are of random rubble limestone and lime mortar and range in height from 1.2 to 5m. The additional four courses added in 1898 are of dark stone with a coping. Attached piers occur at approximately 6m centres on the lee sides of the walls. There are a number of openings including both vehicular and pedestrian gates. The walls are of exceptional significance being a vital part of the precinct defining its character. Sterile zones, inside the main perimeter walls and the walls encircling the female division and outside the prison wall, were standard prison practice for surveillance and contribute to the austere character of the prison.

For more detailed information refer to the information in the National Listing available on the Australian Heritage Database.

Place Type

Individual Building or Group

Creation Date

21 Oct 2015

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Last Update

31 Dec 2016


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