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Entries about perth convicts and colonials

Convicts & Colonials Trail, Perth - WA

sunny 27 °C

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Although the Swan River Colony was established as a free settlement in 1829, convict transportation was introduced in 1850 to answer the demand for a cheap and plentiful supply of labour for the small population. The introduction of these reluctant immigrants caused much debate and controversy amongst the residents, who feared that their free colony would be forever tainted by the convict class. Whilst convict transport lasted
only 18 years, the legacy of this period is embedded in the streets of the city and the folklore of the State

Perth Town Hall
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Between 1850 and 1868, nearly 10,000 male convicts were transported to Western Australia to overcome a drastic labour shortage that was holding back the development of the Swan River Settlement. Many were specially selected to come to Western Australia because of their artisan skills and with good behaviour and backbreaking labour, could receive their ticket-of-leave and eventually a conditional release. The Perth Town Hall was built by these men between 1867 and 1870, to a design by Richard Roach Jewell and James Manning. It is said that a team of 15 convicts worked every day for three years to complete the building. As the only convict built town hall in Australia, colourful stories exist about the special messages encoded in the building’s design. The small windows of the tower are said to resemble the broad arrows emblazoned on the convicts’ uniforms and a hangman’s rope design surrounds the Hall’s clock faces. Officially these convict messages are a hoax, but the tales are still told.
A Ticket-of-leave was granted to a convict after a specified period, depending on his behaviour. Ticket-of-leave men could travel to the district
of their choice, but had to report to the town magistrate on arrival and twice a year after that as well as carrying a pass from the magistrate to leave
the district. Although they were allowed to work for themselves and others, own land and property and marry, they had to be indoors after 10pm and carry their ticket at all times. A conditional pardon could be granted after half the original sentence was served, allowing the former convicts to leave the colony if they wished, while a certificate of freedom at the end of the full sentence ensured the former convicts could live as free men.

The Deanery
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In the 1830s the Government installed a public whipping post and stocks on this site for criminals to be exposed to mockery, with the aim of reducing crime through public humiliation. The mildest of offences were deemed punishable; in 1833 two children who had been caught stealing fruit from the Government gardens were placed in the stocks and their parents were ordered to flog them publicly. It was also briefly the location of Perth’s first gaol, a temporary lock-up, prior to the completion of Perth Gaol on the corner of Beaufort and Francis Streets in 1856. However this temporary lock-up was constantly mocked, as the inmates escaped easily from the mud walled structure. The romantic style gothic house now
seen here was built in 1859 by ticket of leave men and housed the Anglican Deans of Perth until 1953.
Many convicts had elaborate tattoos. John Butcher, a convict who arrived on the Pyranees in 1851, had a multitude of body art including a soldier; a woman; the date 1st June 1845; a bracelet on his right arm; a crucifix; a mermaid; two hearts; three barrows; a rose; a thistle; an olive and a reed. The crucifix was a popular tattoo for convicts to have on their backs, as if they were flogged it gave the appearance that Christ himself was being punished.

Government House
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Government House is the only vice-regal residence in Australia built in the style known as ‘Jacobean’ after King James I of England. Built by convicts
in 1863, the design is similar to the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. The grounds of Government House are well-known for their beauty and much of the original layout from the 1850s and 1860s has been preserved.
In 1923 Audrey Jacob met Cyril Gidley on a ship bound for Western Australia. He was a charming young engineer and they became engaged upon arriving in Perth. In 1925, while in Singapore on business, Cyril overheard a man using Audrey’s name in ‘bar conversation’. He swiftly broke off their engagement despite Audrey’s distress. When Audrey saw Cyril at a Government House dance several months later, he rejected her effort to speak to him on the dance floor. Publicly humiliated, Audrey pulled a gun from her purse and shot him point blank. Despite dozens of witnesses, the shooting was treated as an accident and Audrey was not charged with murder. Cyril was found to have been a schemer with a collection of engagement rings from previous affairs, while Audrey went on to wed a wealthy American in Melbourne.

Burt Law Education Centre
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Almost hidden behind the exotic trees of Stirling Gardens is the original Court House (1836), the oldest surviving building in central Perth. The
first European executed in the colony, John Gavin, was sentenced to death here in 1844 and hanged publicly in front of the Round House, Fremantle. The old Court House is now the Francis Burt Law Education Centre which houses a small museum.
The Swan River Colony received 234 juvenile male convicts from the Isle of Wight’s Parkhurst Prison between 1842 and 1849. Convicted of the murder of his employer’s 15 year old son, teenager John Gavin was amongst these young convicts. Once in the colony the boys were pardoned on two conditions: that they began apprenticeships with local employers; and, during the term of their sentence, they were unable to return to the country in which they were convicted.

Supreme Court
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Convicts who had served their terms and were now free men may have been one reason for an increase in crime in Western Australia during the late nineteenth century. The Supreme Court building was opened in 1903 and the first case heard there resulted in Robert Palin, an ex-convict, being sentenced to death for robbery with violence. Eric Edgar Cooke, the last person hung in WA, was tried and convicted for murder at the Supreme Court in 1964. The elaborately decorated foyer and some courtrooms are open to the public.
Convicts transported to Western Australia were more likely to be guilty of crimes against other people than transportees to other Australian colonies. They were also more likely to have come from an urban background, be artisans and literate. Britain started retaining its less violent criminals at home, causing the number transported to Australia for committing violent crimes to increase.

Western Australian Museum
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Perth is the only Australian capital city with a cultural centre developed around an old prison. At the very heart of the Western Australian Museum is the gaol built by convicts in 1853-54, where hangings were first held in 1855 in an execution yard on the south side. Hangings were public exhibitions with an audience of all ages and sexes until 1884 when the front and sides of the scaffold were boarded in due to complaints. Today, the museum exhibitions tell of Perth’s social, political and natural history. Amazingly, it's completely free!

Art Gallery of Western Australia
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The Art Gallery of Western Australia’s long low administration block, directly facing the WA Museum, was built between 1904 and 1905 by architect Hillson Beasley as a barracks for unmarried constables. It later housed police divisions including the Special Branch, which was set up to investigate “possible rebellious activities by suspected Communists and others.” The elegant French-style courthouse next door, designed by Beasley and George Temple Poole, once hosted a daily parade of drunks and trouble-makers. The former courthouse is now the Centenary Gallery with a display of colonial-era arts and crafts and the cells and dock remain intact.
At this courthouse on the evening of April 23, 1907 disgruntled former police officer Frederick Tyler exploded into Commissioner Fred Hare’s office firing a pistol. With his gun blazing, the first shot missed however an ensuing struggle resulted in the Commissioner being shot in the shoulder. Luckily the defective ammunition and the Commissioners’ heavily starched shirt deflected the bullet. Tyler was promptly taken into custody and imprisoned for 10 years.

St Mary's Catholic Church
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By 1854, Catholics made up to 18 percent of the colony’s population, partly due to the number of Irish convicts sent to Western Australia. The oldest Catholic church in Western Australia, the Pro-Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, was built in 1846. This is where the Sisters of Mercy started Mercedes College, the oldest existing girl’s school in Australia. It wasn’t long before the Pro-Cathedral was felt to be too modest for the growing Catholic population, and in 1863 work commenced on St Mary’s Cathedral at Victoria Square, which was constructed in the Gothic style. Substantial additions were made to the cathedral in the 1920s, but it was never fully completed due to lack of funds. In 2006 that work commenced to complete the Cathedral by adding a new North-West tower and nave section to a contemporary design. The cathedral recently underwent a $32.9m refurbishment in December 2009.
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In contrast to many other buildings on this trail, Benedictine monks provided the main labour for St Mary’s Cathedral. Like the convicts, they were a cheap source of labour, walking six miles a day between their quarters in Subiaco and the building site and working every minute of light in the day. However, the monks were far more skilled than the convict labour available with a great deal of masonry experience. The new cathedral was the envy of the strong Anglican population.
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East Perth Cemetries
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Saints or sinners, death gets us all in the end. The East Perth Cemeteries are the final resting places of a cross-section of society including judges, lawyers, criminals and ex-convicts. Up to 10,000 people may have been buried here but only about 800 identified graves graves remain. Some of the graves were disrupted when the former Perth Girls School was situated on the grounds.
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George William Steel was born in 1825 in England and lived in a notorious slum area in London known as “Devils Acre”, working as a tinsmith. He was convicted of assaulting a man in a drinking house and robbing him and was sentenced to 20 years transportation, arriving in Perth in 1851. George was granted his ticket-of-leave within two years of arriving and in 1854 married Anne Lowham in the Wesley Chapel, Perth. He continued to work at his trade in Perth and was granted a conditional pardon in 1858. He died on 11th November 1865 of a diseased heart and is buried in the East Perth Cemetries
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In the late 1860s the British Government reviewed its policy of transportation and the last convict ship, the Hougoumont, arrived in the Swan River
Colony on 10 January 1868 with 229 convicts aboard. Convict labour continued to be used for sometime in Western Australia, relying on local prisoners and convicts yet to serve the remainder of their sentences. About a third of the convicts left the Swan River Colony after serving their time but many settled down to make a life for themselves in the Colony. Their descendants can proudly point out the important work these men
did in building the city in the buildings that still stand today.
Joseph Bolitho Johns, better known in Western Australian folklore as Moondyne Joe, arrived aboard the convict transport Pyrenees in April 1853. In 1861 on his ticket-of-leave, Joe stole a horse and added insult to injury by using the local magistrate’s brand new saddle and bridle to ride it. He continued a colourful career of crime and escape that saw him spend time in the Mount Eliza Convict Depot as well as lawful work assisting a carpenter in Perth and Fremantle. Well into his seventies, having been granted his freedom years before, Joe was found wandering the streets of South Perth and taken into custody “being of unsound mind.” He was ordered to the Mount Eliza Invalid Depot for medical attention but escaped, possibly not realising in his confusion that the site was no longer a place of detention. He died in August of that year at Fremantle Lunatic Asylum.

Bell Tower
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The Bell Tower is one of Perth’s most unique and must see tourist attractions located on Riverside Drive overlooking the picturesque Swan River. Filled with fascinating historic content and boasting a unique and distinctive design – resulting from major architectural competition – it has become an icon for Perth and Western Australia. The Bell Tower is an essential visit whilst in Perth.

Commemorating Australia's bicentenary in 1988, the twelve bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields as well as five specially cast bells were presented to the University of Western Australia, the City of Perth and to the people of Western Australia. The London diocese of the Church of England and the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields gave authority for the project to proceed. The additional bells cast in 1988 include two from the cities of London and Westminster, who each gifted one bell to the project, and a total of three bells bestowed by a consortium of British and Australian mining companies. Completing the ring of eighteen bells, a sixth new bell was commissioned by the Western Australian Government to mark the second millennium.

Posted by charlystyles 13:45 Archived in Australia Tagged perth_convicts_and_colonials Comments (0)

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