Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tasmania, Day 4: Cascades Female Factory & the Central Highlands

Tomorrow we're leaving Tasmania and taking a ferry back to Melbourne, which will begin our last full week in Australia. This morning, we took leave of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and drove north to Devonport. We decided to take a more scenic route through Tasmania, a more central driving route that had us driving through the Central Highlands, but first I'd wanted to make a visit to the Cascades Female Factory, a former Australian workhouse for female convicts that was in use between 1828 and 1856.

Some rooms in the Macquarie Street Jail served as a temporary Hobart "Female Factory" in the mid-1820s. The Cascades Female Factory was purpose-built in 1828 and was intended to remove women convicts from the negative influences and temptations of Hobart, and also to "protect" society from what was seen as their immorality and corrupting influence. The Factory was located in an area of damp swamp land, and with overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food and clothes, there was a high rate of disease and mortality among its inmates. The Cascades Female Factory is the only remaining female factory with extant remains which give a sense of what female factories were like.

These are the remains of three cells in a two-story block.

When the Factory opened in 1828 there was one yard (Yard 1), which opened in 1828;  it contained separate yards for crime, second and assignment class convicts, a nursery yard, a hospital yard, cooking areas, laundry areas, offices, employee accommodation and a chapel. When the Factory ceased operating as a female factory in 1856, there were five yards: Yard 2 (washing yard), Yard 3 (separate apartments), Yard 4 (nursery yard), and Yard 5 were added in the intervening years. 

In its early days, Yard 1 saw its fair share of activity, not of of it relating to the reform of women. A riot occurred in February 1829 when soldiers from the 40th Regiment had thrown butter, bread, and cheese over the walls of the factory to the women. The food had been confiscated and the women responsible for requesting the food from the soldiers had been confined to their sleeping rooms. As a result, the women started abusing the staff and began starting small fires using clothing and blocking vents. The situation was calmed, but resulted in communication regarding the riot and conditions of the factory. 

Yard 2 opened in 1832 as the washing yard. It adjoined Yard 1 on its western side. This is where convicts worked at the wash tub when sentenced to hard labor. Yard 3 opened in 1845, and was comprised of two rows of separate apartments where convicts were sent for punishment; it adjoined Yard 1 on its eastern side. Yard 4 opened in 1850; this was the nursery yard and contained the Matron's Cottage in the south-eastern corner, and adjoined Yard 3 on its eastern side. Yard 5 opened in 1853, the year that transportation to Van Diemen's Land ceased. It adjoined Yard 2 on its western side and had flushing toilets.

the doorway into Yard 3

In March 1841, the arrival of the convict transport vessel the Mary Ann saw 112 of the 124 women onboard off loaded and moved to the factory. These arrivals brought the numbers of the Factory to over 500 - in an establishment designed for 200. In 1842, an overflow establishment was set up. The dimensions of this yard were similar to that of Yard 1. A number of offices were built along the southern wall and two long double storied cell blocks divided the yard into three sections. Each cell block housed 28 cells on both floors, making a total of 112 cells each four feet six inches by 12 feet. The purpose of these "apartments" was to isolate and control the population, and reform them through separation.

looking across Yard 4

in Yard 4

When convict transportation stopped in 1852, new institutions started using unoccupied parts of the Female Factory site, including a male invalid depot, a female invalid depot, a boys' reformatory, a Contagious Diseases Hospital, and Hospital for the Insane. A women's prison at the site finally closed in 1877 with most other institutions moving out between the 1880s and 1904.

7 years for stealing a turkey and an apron

So we finally went on our merry way, stopping off for lunch en route, and driving through the Central Highlands, part of the Tasmanian Midlands. We stopped along the way and saw some beautiful views. At several points, we drove on somewhat icy, snowy unpaved roads, along quite a few very twisty turns, and reaching elevations of about 3,500 feet above sea level.

looking at the Great Lakes from an overview
our view from the Great Lakes Lookout

1 comment:

  1. That Tyrone woman got 7 years for stealing a turkey at the height of the Famine. I hope she survived.