Little Chef had been itching to go to Fremantle Prison for a while and see what lay behind the massive perimeter walls. The convict built prison is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit. It only ceased to function as a maximum security prison in 1991!
Each trip to Freo Prison begins just as the prisoner’s. You enter via the big limestone Gatehouse, choose a tour and pay.
You might have a few minutes to wait till the next tour. In the courtyard you’ll find a gift shop, convict exhibitions and a café. There are toilets and baby change facilities too.
The Prison offers seven tours of the prison cellblocks, perimeter walls and tunnels. A few tours are new for 2018, so there is always something different to discover. We chose the most popular tour with first-time visitors “Doing Time”. The tour lasts just over an hour and begin at regular intervals.
Your tour guide will ring the bell and each tour group gathers at the meeting point. You’re then on your journey to jail! Like prisoners in the past, you begin at the processing block. Here your guide gives an interesting chat on how the prisoners are strip searched, given their prison uniforms and then we’re taken through the shower block to the huge main cell block.
Our tour guide was really enthusiastic, knowledgeable and engaging, often asking the kids questions and involving them. He had lots of very interesting tales about how the prison was built, riots and general prison life up his sleeve.
First, we viewed cells that were decked out like they would be in the 1800s, early 1900s and more modern times. The first cells were tiny and contained just a hammock and bucket for their toilet.
Real metal framed beds didn’t arrive till the 1950s. Conditions at Freo prison were pretty grim.
The Exercise yards are tiny for the amount of prisoners that must have been kept there.
Just before the prison closed its doors, some talented prisoners were allowed to paint murals on their cell walls, resulting in some beautiful artwork.
Prams are welcome, though can’t access all areas, as the prison is laid out over a few floors.
Other areas we were taken through were the prison kitchen and the chapel – where people still get married!
Capital punishment varied over the years. You’ll see where prisoners were flogged and where they were sent to be in solitary confinement. Lastly, there’s an eerie trip to the gallows. The last person to be hanged at Fremantle was serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, executed in 1964. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can skip this bit.
If you choose to go on another tour the same day, there’s a heavily discounted fee for your second tour. We liked the sound of the “Great Escapes” tour which tells tales about famous escapees like bushranger Moondyne Joe. There’s a new “True Crime” tour that tells real life stories of the prison’s most notorious inmates and how their crimes gripped the WA community.
For the more adventurous there’s a spooky torchlight tour on some evenings. For adults and children 12 years and older there’s the underground tunnel tour on boats, which is not for the claustrophobic!
We all found the tour absolutely fascinating – especially Little Chef. A trip to Fremantle Prison to uncover its rich 136 year history of convicts, bushrangers, thieves, murderers, bank robbers and escape artists is a must.
Find Fremantle prison at 1 The Terrace, Fremantle
More info on their website.
Discover more family friendly things to do in Freo here.
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