Cascades Female Factory
This World Heritage listed site is well worth a visit on a fine day. Gavin and I had no option but to arrive on a bitterly cold June morning with the weather being so bad that we considered driving away without going in.
Based at the foot of Mount Wellington the facility would have been in the least inviting location for those serving time. The cold and damp would have made their lives hell. High mortality rate (especially in infants) was due to these factors as well as water pollution, unhygienic conditions, overcrowding and premature separation of infants.
From Distillery to Female Factory
On the decision of George Arthur, a former distillery was purchased in 1827 and by 1828 it was ready for the first intake of female convicts who arrived from the Female Factory in Hobart Town. The first intake of convicts from a ship, were marched directly from the Harmony that docked in 1829 with 101 female convicts on board.
Between 1828 and 1856 over 5,000 women convicts passed through the Female Factory with up to 1,000 people residing at any one time (including guards, nurses and babies).
Crime Class for Convicts
The system was such that the inmates were divided into three categories depending on the severity of the crime. Crime Class was for those who had been insolent, drunk or absent without leave. Probation Class earned you lighter duties and a bit more food while Assignable Class put you on standby for release into service. Working in the laundry would have been one of the better jobs as would fine sewing but picking wool hair and oakum (unravelling rope strands) meant sore, bleeding fingers with no prospects for improvement.
On this visit, Gavin and I fitted nicely into the Crime Class as we’d been drinking the night before, given cheek and left Tania at home without her permission!
Tours of a World Heritage Listed Site
We were lucky parking the Think Tasmania vehicle right outside the front and taking the short walk, through the driving rain, to the welcoming reception centre. Although we had arrived at an odd time for a guided tour, we were heartily welcomed and taken on a private tour throughout the entire Female Factory.
Tours run every day at scheduled times and you can choose which one you want from: “Her Story”, Heritage Tour and “Tea with Matron”.
As you walk through the yards, you will appreciate the enormity of the restoration project and how much has already been done to re-create the boundaries of the five yards. Original sandstone walls exist in part as do drains and a garden. Much more is to be done by mainly voluntary labour and what has already been done is a credit to those involved.
Convict Bonnets: Roses from the Heart
The Matron’s House still remains and houses a wonderful collection of antique furniture as well as a definitive history of the penal system of the time. There is a fabulous display of bonnets from the Roses from the Heart collection as well as a piano said to be that of Lady Jane Franklin. The innards of this building are a photographers paradise but memories are all that you can leave with.
If you have a day to spare in Hobart, why not visit the Cascades Female Factory first then take a short walk up the hill to the Cascade Brewery and take a guided tour also?
That’s the best thing about Tasmania; you can do such a lot in a day.
Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the
experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of
research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.
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