R3578 'Underground cells, Point Puer', c1911-15

R3578

Description

This is a sepia-toned black-and-white photograph (3.4 cm x 8.6 cm) showing the entrance to two cells of the former Point Puer Boys' Prison in Tasmania. The entrances are brick archways built into the side of a hill and are surrounded by bushland; there are numerous trees behind the brick structures. Text at the base of the image reads 'UNDERGROUND CELLS, POINT PUER. 246. BEATTIE, HOBART'.

Acknowledgements: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia.

Educational value
This asset provides evidence of the first reformatory built exclusively for juvenile male convicts in the British Empire - approximately 3,000 boys ranging in age from 9 to 18 years passed through the Point Puer Boys' Prison from 1834, when it opened, until its closure in 1849.
It shows the Tasmanian bush location of Point Puer - the reformatory was built on a small, narrow, windswept peninsula 1 mile (1.61 kilometres) across Carnarvon Bay from the Port Arthur penal station and adjacent to the Isle of the Dead; the site was badly chosen, with poor, sandy soil and little fresh water, which had to be delivered daily by convicts from Port Arthur.
It shows ruins of an experimental reformatory - the aim of Point Puer ('puer' is a Latin word meaning 'boy') was to train boys to be useful members of society by providing them with trades such as cobbling, metalwork, carpentry, sawing, boat building, gardening and bookbinding.
It reveals cells that may have been used for solitary confinement - the boys were subject to an extremely harsh code of discipline and many endured periods of isolation, reduced rations and beatings.
It demonstrates one of the construction techniques used at the site - these cells and the large building that housed the workshops were terraced into the hillside, while other buildings such as the bakehouse, store, sick room and wooden barracks were freestanding.
It provides an example of items compiled by E W Searle between 1911 and 1915 while he worked for John Watt Beattie (1859-1930) - Beattie was a renowned photographer of Tasmania and expert on Tasmanian history and was, from 1896, an official government photographer.
Topics
Convicts
Juvenile justice system
Penal colonies
Prisons
Rights
© Curriculum Corporation and National Library of Australia, 2008, except where indicated under Acknowledgements