Fremantle Prison, also known as the Fremantle Gaol, is a historic Australian prison building located in the city of Fremantle. Constructed, using convict labour, between 1851 and 1859, the six hectare prison site wasn’t closed until more than a century later in 1991. Since then, the World Heritage recognised site has been conserved and converted into a museum and popular tourist attraction. Visitors come to the site to learn about the history of convict labour, and the many interesting historical events that Fremantle Prison was at the centre of.

 

Highlights

  • Visitors Centre & Convict Depot – The Visitors Centre and Convict Depot are both ideal locations to start your journey inside the Fremantle Prison. The Visitors Centre, located in the former visitors area of the prison, showcases the history of Fremantle Prison, including historical punishment artefacts, a multi-screen video display, and information about the prison’s history, riots, punishments and reforms. The Convict Depot, located in the former Superintendent’s backyard, is more focused around the prison’s convict history. The centre features artefacts and stories from early convicts at Fremantle Prison, an interactive touchscreen with information in the form of photographs, artwork and newspaper articles about the local convicts, and a Convict Database to allow visitors to search for convict ancestors who were sent to the Swan River Colony.

 

  • Tours – Taking a tour of Fremantle Prison is an ideal way to get a better idea of just what life might have been like for the many prisoners that served time in the facility during its years of service. There are five tours available, all of which are led by expert guides ready to show visitors around Western Australia’s only World Heritage listed site.
Tour Notes
Doing Time Tour: Explore the history of Fremantle Prison from convicts to its closure with a visual journey that moves through the prison building, working to understand the prisoners and the history that is left behind. Tour runs 1 hour 15 minutes. Daily every 30 minutes between 10am and 5pm.
Great Escapes Tour: Learn about the grand escapes that were attempted by convicts and prisoners over the long history of Fremantle Prison. Tour runs 1 hour 15 minutes. Daily every hour between 11.45am and 4.45pm.
Tunnels Tour: Explore the labyrinth of tunnels underneath Fremantle Prison, and journey through the submerged passageways via convict punt boats. Tour runs 2 hours 30 minutes. Daily at 9am, 9:45am, 10:40am, 12:20am, 1:40pm, 2:40pm and 3:25pm.
Torchlight Tour: Explore Fremantle Prison at night and by torchlight in this creepy tour that is sure to scare and shock. Tours run 1 hour 30 minutes. Operate on Wednesday and Friday from 6:30pm, or 7pm during summer.
Fremantle Prison Art Tour: Painting was a regular rehabilitation and reward at Fremantle Prison, and drawings on the walls are a reminder of this artistic legacy. Limited spaces! Tours run one hour and 30 minutes, at 4pm on the first Saturday of every month.
  • Prison Gallery – The Prison Gallery, located in the Gatehouse, is a cooperation between the Fremantle Prison’s managing bodies. The gallery shows exhibitions, which showcase prison art, artworks from the Prison Collection, and relevant touring exhibitions. The gallery is free to enter, and open daily from 10am to 5pm. The site offers an interesting perspective on prison life, history, prisoner lifestyles and personal stories. Visitors can find relevant information about the current exhibition online.

 

 

Prices

Tour Adult Concession Child Family
Prison Day Tour (Doing Time OR Great Escapes) $20 $17 $11 $57
Prison Day Tour Package (Doing Time AND Great Escapes) $28 $25 $19 $89
Tunnels Tour (children over 12 only) $60 $50 $40 N.A.
Torchlight Tour $26 $22 $16 $76
All Tour Pass $100 $80 $60 N.A.
Fremantle Prison Art Tour $26 $22 $16 N.A.

N.B Child is 4 – 15 years. Family is two adults, two children. 

Tips

  • Convict Cafe – The Fremantle Prison has a range of visitors facilities onsite including the Convict Cafe, a cafe and eatery where visitors can enjoy a diverse variety of food and beverage options. The cafe is known for its unusual menu, which uses a number of interesting historical slang phrases originating from the area during the convict period.
  • Torchlight Tour – The Torchlight Tour is a tour that scare-lovers and horror fans are sure to enjoy. This is not suitable for your children, or people with nervous tendencies or shock-avoiding health conditions.
  • Filming and Photography – Both filming and photography are allowed in the Fremantle Prison, but avoid the use of flash photography, which can damage the integrity of the paint, and that tour participants ask their guide before filming.

 

Transport

  • Walk: Located 200 metres east of the Fremantle Markets via Henderson Street Mall. Signs will be available to point you in the right direction.
  • Train: Alight at Fremantle Train Station, walk across Elder Street and up Market Street/South Terrace, through Cappuccino strip until you reach the Sail and Anchor Hotel. From there turn left up Henderson Street Mall and look for signs.
  • Bus: Take the Cat Bus and alight at Stop 11. Walk north along South Terrace to the Henderson Street Mall and watch for signs. Alternatively, alight at Stop 4, walk east down High Street to the Parry Street intersection.
  • Car: Fremantle Prison is located around 30 minutes from Perth via either State Route 2 and National Route 1, or via State Route 5. The way to Fremantle is well signed, and once you arrive in the town, make your way to The Terrace.

History

The history of Fremantle Prison is long and full of violence. The site was proposed around 1850, due to the growing number of convicts in the settlement. Constructed by convicts between 1851 and 1859, the prison was open in 1855 despite not being finished, as the convict population in the settlement reached more than 1000 individuals.

During the 1890s, growing public unease at the treatment of prisoners in Fremantle Prison led to a a Royal Commission. The inquiry began in September of 1898, and over the next few years the prison underwent changes that included cell expansion, a new classification system for prisoners, and new workshops for rehabilitation.

In 1911 there was another Royal Commission called to look into the failings of the Fremantle Prison to follow regulations set out following the first inquiry. This commission recommended that the facility be closed, but the government at the time ignored this. More changes were made to prison policy, and Fremantle Prison continued to run.

During both WWI and WWII Fremantle Prison was partially used as a military goal. It was also an internment centre, and was used for the detention of military personnel.

In the 20th century Fremantle Prison was at the centre of more prison reforms. Comptroller General Colin Campbell wanted the prison to be a place of rehabilitation and re-education. He introduced work release and community service programs as well as training programs to help prisoners become useful members of society.

However, changes in management at the Fremantle Prison meant these reforms didn’t hold, and prisoner discontentment continued to grow throughout the 70s and 80s. This culminated on the 4th of January 1988 with a prison riot, during which prisoners took over sections of the prison and held hostages, eventually setting fire to the building and causing $1.8 million in damage. It was this incident that ultimately encouraged the prison to close.

Interesting Facts

  • More than 40 prisoners were executed at Fremantle Prison between 1889 and 1964. The last prisoner to face the gallows was Eric Edgar Cooke, a serial killer.
  • On the day of the infamous 1988 riot at Fremantle Prison, temperatures inside the prison were recorded at more than 50 degrees Celsius. Many experts believe that these inhuman conditions, along with a number of other failings at the prison including a lack of sanitary living conditions, ultimately caused the prison population to crack.

6 Reviews

  1. Leanne Emily
    Leanne Emily
    United Kingdom 5 Comments
     -  04 Mar 2018

    Excellent

    Felt like we were in our own episode of Prison Break!
    This was a really informative and entertaining tour, we bought a combined ticket for both the ‘Doing Time’ tour and the ‘Great Escapes’ tour which was around $20.
    I would recommend doing both as the first gives you some historical context and the second teaches you all about the (mainly failed) attempts convicts made to escape (our tour guide was great!)
    It was fascinating to see how small the cells were, we also saw a flogging chamber and the place convicts were hung – all very creepy.
    I would definitely go back and do the night time tunnels tour!

  2. awinasis
    awinasis
    Indonesia 4 Comments
     -  29 Oct 2017

    Excellent

    Great museum! visited there couple of times.. i suggest you do a night tour. It gives you a very different experience, blurry, starry, and spooky! 😉 imagining the old prisoners who lived there for years.

  3. karafox
    karafox
    United Kingdom 3 Comments
     -  17 Sep 2017

    Excellent

    Great museum that really gives a feel for early modern Australia’s penal history. I visited a couple of prisons in Aus and aside from Port Arthur this was the most interesting and informative. It is creepy and the way the guides take you around is very well thought out. Our guide was a former prison guard so even more authentic. Good fun and educational for kids too. Take the night tour if you can, way creepier, though perhaps not if you have small children!

  4. belle_angel
    belle_angel 7 Comments
     -  21 Apr 2017

    Excellent

    The place is interesting yet creepy giving you a different experience. The staff are friendly and knowledgable about the prison and history. Tours are fairly priced and worth to spend especially the prison tour.

  5. abbas.munshi
    abbas.munshi 7 Comments
     -  28 Jan 2017

    Needs improvement

    I had heard about the history of prisons set up by the British – but got to see it finally. It was good to walk down the memory lane, but not the best of my experience though.

  6. Bisma
    Bisma 13 Comments
     -  26 Jan 2017

    Excellent

    A great place to visit if you like learning about history. Kids also had an enjoyable experience. Took some lovely pics here. Would recommend it to history lovers!

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