While many people know that the colonization of Australia began when convicts were shipped there from Britian, most probably wouldn’t know the difference between a convict and a criminal in the context of an early Australian prison. Convicts were basically people who were sentenced in Britain whereas criminals were sentenced in Australia itself.
One of the well known attractions in Fremantle is the Fremantle Prison, which was built in the 1850s but decommissioned in 1991. The prison consisted of 4 divisions, each one meant for different categories of offenders, with the 4th division reserved for the worst of them all (e.g. murderers). A total of 44 people were hung in this prison with the last execution taking place in 1964. Australia has since abolished the death penalty, although I don’t think the same would happen soon in Singapore.
The Anglican Chapel – Interestingly, the words to the sixth commandment on the Ten Commandments painted on the wall behind the altar had been modified from "Thou shalt not kill" to "Thou shall do no murder". The former would have seemed rather hypocritical given that the gallows were still being used and England was involved in so many wars.
During our visit, we signed-up for the “Doing Time Tour” – an hour long walk around the prison compounds to see the various cell blocks, chapel and gallows. For the more adventurous, there is also a tunnel tour where visitors explore the labyrinth of passages beneath the prison.
Prior to the tour starting, the guide told me a story about how two recent tourists with high end cameras had their equipment fail on them when trying to take pictures inside the execution chamber. It made my skin crawl, but thankfully, my faithful D3 didn’t skip a beat. I even took a picture of the noose but was quite disappointed at the lack of any mysterious ghostly silhouette in the final picture. 😛
Full Fremantle Prison gallery here.