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The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in Originally deed as a replacement for the recently closed timber camp at Birches Bay, Port Arthur quickly grew in importance within the penal system of the colonies. The initial decade of settlement saw a penal station hacked from the bush, and the first manufactories — such as ship building, shoemaking, smithing, timber and brick making — established.
The s witnessed a consolidation of the industrial and penal nature of the settlement as the convict population reached over In a huge flour mill and granary later the Penitentiary was begun, as well as the construction of a hospital.
Port Arthur also expanded geographically as the convicts pushed further into the encircling hills to extract the valuable timber. After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send her convicts to America, so after they were transported to the Australian colonies.
One in five was a woman. s of children were also transported with their parents. Few returned home. Of all the laborious occupations some convicts were forced to carry out during their time at Port Arthur, timber-getting was to be the most punishing, yet also the most profitable.
From the very early days of settlement gangs of convicts cut timber from the bush surrounding the settlement. The saws of the convicts supplied a steady stream of building materials to fulfill the needs of works both on and off the peninsula.
The trees were enormous, much larger than the ones we find today. When felled, a sawpit was dug under or near the log, so that it could be cut up into smaller lengths of wood. Two convicts used a pitsaw to cut the wood. His job was extremely uncomfortable, as his eyes and ears filled with sawdust. Here, in larger sawpits constructed near the water, the timber was cut up into the planks, beams, boards and spars needed for building.
Before there was port arthur
In the old Asment system was replaced by that of Probation. This saw the Tasman Peninsula settled with five new stations, each of which had up to convicts working at agriculture or merely serving time. One probation station, Cascades, was settled with the primary focus of extracting timber from the north side of the peninsula. By Cascades had replaced Port Arthur as the main timber-producer on the peninsula.
A brief history of port arthur
In the erection of a steam-powered sawmill and the laying of iron tramways increased production to such an extent that, bythe area around Cascades had been completely stripped of useful timber. With the closure of Cascades, operations reverted back to Port Arthur. The sawmill and tramway rails were removed to Port Arthur and a great bank of covered sawpits built next to the Penitentiary.
The tramways and log-slides long log-lined channels which allowed timber to be slid down a hill meant that the centipede gangs were no longer needed, enabling the convict gangs to cut timber further from the settlement. Sawpits were dotted throughout the hillsides surrounding Port Arthur, cutting the logs into smaller pieces of timber, which were then sent back to the main settlement by the tramway. At the settlement the timber was further cut up in the noisy sawmill and sawpits. The decade after was the busiest time for Port Arthur. However, the convicts were getting older and sicker.
In the late s they could no longer work as well in the bush as they had once been able. As at Cascades, the area had also been stripped of all its useful timber.
Up until the closure of Port Arthur inthe old convicts were used to cut firewood, but no longer did they cut down the massive trees to feed the sawmill. From the area was given over to private interests, as individuals and companies began logging the area, often using the old convict tracks for Arthur. Today chainsaws have replaced the pitsaw, mechanical haulers Port tram carts.
One of the greatest Port facing the authorities of Port Arthur was balancing the need to punish the convicts against needing to make the station a profitable enterprise. Convicts could not simply spend their days getting flogged and rotting in a cell, they needed to be reformed through a combination of religion, education and trade-training.
Ship building was introduced on a large scale to Port Arthur in as a way of providing selected convicts with a useful skill they could take with first once freed. Only those convicts deemed well-behaved and receptive to training were allowed to work at the dockyard. Up to 70 convicts were employed at the yard at its height, with the majority engaged in the menial task of cutting and carrying timber. The remaining convicts were the carpenters, dates, caulkers, coopers and shipwrights who actually built the vessels. Fifteen large ships and over smaller vessels from whale boats, to rowboats and punts were launched from the two slipways.
These ships were known for their craftsmanship and durability, with one, the ton Lady Franklin, enjoying over 40 years of service. The hull for a steamer, the Derwent, was even constructed at the Port Arthur dockyards. The yard was also used as a regular servicing lay-by for ships plying the busy east coast route, vessels often hauling first for refit and repair. Though successful, the shipbuilding operations at Port Arthur ceased on a large scale in A growing colonial economy, recovering after a severe depression in the early s, meant that private shipbuilders did not want to compete against a government Arthur producing ships at a cheaper rate and lobbied for its closure.
Today the site of the dockyards is a short walk from the main settlement. The cessation of transportation resulted in fewer transportees arriving at the station. However, since Port Arthur was one of the few secondary punishment stations operating in the colonies, it still received a large proportion of colonially sentenced men, as well dates the old transportees still within the system.
The s and s were years of remarkable activity, that aimed to make the station economically sustainable. Expansive tracts of bush were harvested to feed a burgeoning timber industry and large plots of ground were turned over to cultivation. In the last great project at the site, the Asylum, was also begun. This pulse of energy, however, could not be sustained.
The s shuffled into the s and the settlement began to enter its twilight. s of convicts dwindled, those remaining behind were too aged, infirm or insane to be of any use. The settlement that had hummed with life slowly ground to a standstill. The last convict was shipped out in Throughout its operational life, Port Arthur struggled to reach an economically sustainable level of operation. In an ideal world the product of convict labour would provide the raw and manufactured materials necessary for the ongoing maintenance of the station and its occupants.
In some regards Port Arthur managed this, with its flourishing timber industry fuelling building works throughout the Peninsula. The meat, flour and vegetables necessary for rations would also be sourced from the farms of Port Arthur and the other Peninsula stations.
All outstations and probation stations had tracts of land under the plough and hoe, Saltwater River and Safety Cove Farm being some of the biggest agricultural stations opened on the Peninsula. A sheep station and slaughtering establishment in the s greatly furthered output. Yet, despite these clear aims, the main weight of rations during the s and especially the s, had to be shipped down from Hobart. The introduction of Probation saw the authorities face almost insurmountable problems rationing the convict population, as the population rose from close toto over by A convict population of this size required over 2.
The Port Arthur water-powered flour mill and granary had first been suggested inwith the authorities facing the imminent introduction of probation. An engineer, Alexander Clark, was brought in to oversee the mill and granary construction, as well as engineer the supply of water to the wheel. It was hoped that a mill and granary sited on the peninsula would supply the wants of the Convict Department, as well as produce surplus for export.
Port arthur - an industrial prison?
The whole undertaking was completed by Comprising a series of dams, millrace, underground aqueduct and overhead water race, getting the water to the 30ft 10m water wheel was a much more complicated undertaking than anybody had first. The mill and granary building itself was completed in just a year, housing not only a storehouse, wheel and machinery, but also a treadmill capable of taking up to 56 convicts at once. The infrastructure bringing the water to the wheel proved to be too complicated, losing water to see and evaporation. The supply of water itself was completely inadequate to feed the wheel.
In the end, the mill only operated in intermittent bursts, quickly using up any store of water accumulated in the dam. Another result of the ageing prisoners was that the profitable convict-driven industries like timber-getting and agriculture took a downturn. Built to a classic cruciform shape, the wings were occupied by dormitories around a central mess hall. The front of the Port was trimmed with an open verandah, dates fronted onto a large fenced garden replete with paths and ornamental plantings.
In keeping with the era, treatment for the patients, many suffering Arthur depression or mental disability, was rudimentary at best.
Work, though limited, was mainly tending the gardens, or chopping firewood. After closure, the Asylum was severely damaged in the bushfires, after which it has gone through various incarnations as a schoolhouse, town hall and museum. Almost immediately the site was renamed Carnarvon and, during the s, land was parcelled up and put to auction, people taking up residence in and around the old site.
Despite devastating fires in andwhich destroyed many old buildings and gutted the Penitentiary, Separate Prison and Hospital, the new residents were determined to create for themselves a township.