Hobart convict Female Factory link to harsh Australian penal settlement saga
Guide Esther shows a book
with convicts history.
"Hi all, whatever your troubles be grateful you live in today's time and not as a convict in the 1800's".
That is the reaction of GSA's Agnes and Nick after a visit to the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart.
The Cascades Female Factory is a World Heritage site.
Cascades Female Factory operated as a factory for 28 years. The site is managed by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority.
Between 1788 and 1853 some 25,000 women were transported to Australia for their crimes. About half that number came to Van Diemen’s Land, most spending time in one of the colony’s five female factories.
One of the yards at the Female Factory showing the areas where the cells were
The Cascades Female Factory workhouse operated between 1828-1856, with other government institutions occupying unused yards until the property was sold in 1905. Women who were available to be assigned as servants to free settlers had no choice about their masters or the treatment they received from them and often fell pregnant.
This was considered a crime as it was regarded as immoral to fall pregnant out of wedlock, whatever the circumstances, so they ended up back in the Female Factory.
"One such woman was heard to say she wished she had never had her baby, and when the child died shortly after as most did, she was hanged for its murder. Mitigating circumstances or state of mind were not taken into consideration at all", Agnes said.
Agnes and Nick visited the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart in their Tassie Motor Shacks campervan and did the tour with guide Esther.
"Unfortunately all that remains of the Female Factory are the walls around the premises, as most of the buildings have been demolished", Agnes said.
"The yards are mapped out with outlines of where the convict cells were, kitchens and laundry. The house of the Matrons quarters still exists", she said.
Part of the Matrons quarters
"Bryce Courtenay one of Australia's most commercially successful authors until his death at 79 in 2012 visited the Female Factory when researching his book the Potato Factory, which tells the story of Mary Abacus who was transported for running a brothel", Agnes said.
"The book also includes the life of Ikey Solomon, who was at the Richmond Gaol". "Poetic licence was taken as there was no vegetable garden at theFemale Factory as described in the book".
"One of the women on our tour had an ancestor at the Female Factory who was transported for arson".
"Our tour guide Esther explained that the life of convict women was perhaps even harsher than that of the men".
"After several months at sea in cramped conditions and with inadequate food, when they arrived at the docks in Hobart they were forced to walk to the Female Factory in the dark at night, up steep inclines through scrub and over rocks". "Some women had babies or small children which they had to carry as well".
"The reason for moving them in the night was that Hobart was a town populated mostly by men, and the women would have been abducted during the day if seen".
The first group of convicts to be marched there directly from their transport ship were those who arrived on the
Harmony in January 1829.
The Matrons bedroom at the female factory
"Children of two or three years were taken from their mothers and taken to the orphanage some distance away, and most never saw them again", Agnes said. "Babies stayed with their mothers until they were weaned at six months, and then were taken to the nursery, where they were fed the same food as the adults, so most of them died".
"The child mortality rate was very high, with two thirds of all children dying". Women who were available to be assigned as servants to free settlers had no choice about their masters or their treatment by them and often fell pregnant", Agnes said.
"This was considered a crime as it was regared as immoral to fall pregnant out of wedlock, whatever the circumstances, so they ended up back in the Female Factory".
Rules and regulations at the Cascades Female Factor
"One such woman was heard to say she wished she had never had her baby, and when the child died shortly after, as most did, she was hanged for its murder", Agnes said.
"Mitigating circumstances or state of mind were not taken into consideration at all", she said.
New arrivals to the Factory undressed in front of the matron. Their old clothes burnt and possessions removed, they were then classified according to previous behaviour. The worst, those branded 'crime' class, were subject to a poor diet, isolation and a yellow 'C' sewn onto their petticoats. A classification system operated across the entire penal establishment.
Crime or 3rd Class prisoners were judged the worst and set to hard labour, Assignable or 1st Class prisoners were the best and awaited assignment, and 2nd Class prisoners were those working their way up from 3rd to 1st class, or whose crimes were of a minor nature, or who were pregnant.
First, or assignable, class women were assigned to work for settlers in exchange for board and clothing as long as they remained obedient to their new masters and mistresses. Failure to obey meant a return to the Female Factory, solitary confinement, a diet of bread and water, and sometimes an iron collar.
Heritage tours operate seven days a week at 10am, noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm in all weathers at 16 Degraves St South Hobart Tasmania. Duration about 45 minutes.
Hobart Historic Tours lives up to its name
GoSeeAustralia's Agnes and Nick love Salamanca Place and Battery Point Hobart.
The first European settlement in the Hobart area began in 1803 as a penal colony and defensive outpost at Risdon Cove on the eastern shores of the Derwent River. So guided experiences like Hobart Historic Tours has plenty of history to work with.
Hobart is second only to Sydney in the depth of its convict and colonial heritage and specific tours like Hobart Historic Walk give an introduction to the character of Australia's early settlement. The tour is an easy walk and is wheelchair accessible.
Hobart is a city defined by its geographical position, history and heritage. Classical examples of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture abound throughout the city. The one an a half hour tour starts at the Hobart Travel Centre, cnr. Davey and Elizabeth Sts, Hobart.
Battery Point is unique in Australia and world famous for its authenticity. The Tour includes St George's Church and Arthur Circus. Named in honour of Govenor Arthur, the quirky Arthur Circus is a particular example of early colonial architecture.
Between Kelly’s Steps and Hampden Road, Arthur Circus is a circle of old, single frontage cottages dating from the earliest days of Old Hobart Town. This hour and half guided historic experience starts at Kelly's steps in Salamanca Place. This narrow flight of steps joins Salamanca Place to Kelly Street in Battery Point.
Then in a step back to a murky underworld past the Old Hobart Pub Tour explores a time of brothels, smugglers, convicts and grog. This tour, which starts from the Hobart Travel Centre, is not recommended for children. The Old Hobart Pub Tour is suitable only for smaller groups, due to the small size of the pubs themselves, Hobart Historic Tours says.
For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
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