Feb
01
2014

Delving into colonial and convict pasts

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For some people, a journey to Tasmania is all about discovering stories, remnants and ruins from the past, often relating to colonial life on the island, as well as its history of convict settlement.

The most famous convict site in Tasmania is Port Arthur, however there are some other sites that can offer further insight into this seminal part of Tasmania's, and Australia's, history.
Here are some of the places you can visit to experience it yourself.

The Darlington Probation Station

The Darlington Probation Station was once home to 492 convicts and is located on Maria Island. It operated initially from 1825 until 1832 as a penal settlement, then as a station in the 1840s.

What can you expect to see when you visit? 13 buildings from the time are still standing in various states of repair. Prisoners made use of yard space, a chapel, barracks and dormitories, while some ill-behaved inmates were sent into solitary punishment cells. There were also superintendent quarters and even a barn.

Away from the mainland, it was an ideal location to keep people imprisoned, as to escape, prisoners would have had to swim long distances.

Cascades Female Factory

Often when retelling stories about Tasmania's convict history, people leave out tales of female prisoners. Today, the remains of the Cascades Female Factory stand to tell their stories.

Built in Hobart in 1828, women who had committed crimes worked at the facility until its closure in 1856. Away from male prisoners, its purpose was to remove the women from further bad influence.

A huge number of women passed through this facility. After all, 25,000 female convicts were transported to Australia, making up about 15 – 17 per cent of the overall convict cohort.

Visit the compound today and explore the yards, matron's quarters and other remains. Explore the facility by yourself, take a tour or see stories brought to life through commentary and live theatre.

Coal Mines Historic Site

This was Tasmania's first operational mine, and is easily visited in tandem with Port Arthur as it's just a 25 minute drive away.

The baddest convicts of the bunch were sent to work on this project and were subject to extremely harsh conditions. During the mine's operation, around 600 prisoners were sent to work here.

Today, a number of paths and trails wind around the site, so you can get an insight into how it operated back in its heyday. While you can't get underground, there's still plenty to see and explore.

As an added bonus, there are plenty of beautiful views on offer from this vantage point, so be sure to include it in your travels.

Farms and estates

For a look into farms and estates that operated with the use of convict workers, head to Brickendon Farm Village or Woolmers Estate.

The former is an old farming property that had the second-largest number of convict workers in Australia, and descendants of the original owners still live on this property today. There are beautiful gardens, convict-constructed buildings and stunning views, making for a great day out.

Woolmers Estate is another pioneer farm, including buildings such as workers' cottages, a chapel, blacksmith, stables, bakehouse and more. Its National Rose Garden is particularly striking, containing over 5,000 roses.

As you can see, Tasmania's convict history is far-reaching and goes way beyond one heritage site alone. Echoes of this bygone era are evident in aspects of Tasmania today, as plenty of Australians come here to search for links to their past and to see how some of their forebears may have lived.

Louisa's Walk - bringing the site and its history alive - Image Credit: publicityship-com-au

Iron Collar used as restraint and punishment device - Female Factory Prison Hobart - Image Credit: livehistoryhobart-dot-com-au

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