2020 Apple Isle Adventure travel blog

Our home for the next 18 days

 

one of the cell corridors at the separate prison

one of the cells

 

Separate church isolated cubicle

 

 

Very heavy leg irons


We spent two nights at White Beach Tourist Park, a lovely spot ten minutes from the Port Arthur Historic site.

The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830 and quickly grew in importance within the colonies. Ship building was introduced on a large scale to Port Arthur as a way of providing selected convicts with a useful skill they could take with them once freed.

It is a huge place with more than 30 historic buildings, ruins, restored houses, heritage gardens and walking trails. Our entry ticket included a 40-minute, guided Introductory Walking Tour and a 30 minute Harbour Cruise. Because the site is so large the tickets are valid for two days.

While there is no forgetting that this was a harsh, remote penal settlement visiting it on a sunny day with the ruins of the sandstone Penitentiary building glowing a beautiful golden colour and the lawns a lush green almost makes you forget its dark past.

We toured the Penitentiary, which was originally constructed as a flour mill and granary in 1843, before it housed hundreds of convicts in dormitories and solitary cells. Another highlight (if it can be called a highlight) was the much-feared Separate Prison, where harsh physical punishment was replaced with punishment of the mind, a silent, lonely psychological torture.

We each experienced being locked up in the black, silent cells for about a minute which was nothing compared to the days on end prisoners were locked up for. We also stood in the separate church boxes that isolated each prisoner during service. Unless you try on the iron leg chains you can have no idea how heavy they actually are. I certainly wouldn't be running away anywhere with those on.



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