The Round House 1831-1856: The early years of Western Australia’s oldest building – and how it survived.

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 144 pages
Author: S. Errington
Year: 2022
ISBN: 9780859059459
Other: B&w and colour photos, notes, index
Publisher: Hesperian Press

Fremantle Gaol, better known as the Round House, was built in 1830, was nearly demolished in 1922 but one hundred years later survives as an iconic Fremantle building and a popular tourist attraction.

Dr Steve Errington, one of its volunteer guides and himself a past president of the Royal WA Historical Society, has now completed a three-year investigation of its construction and a detailed study of the 2400+ individual inmates responsible for 3600+ incarcerations. The former relied on two key documents held by the State Records Office, the second revealed an unexpected range of inmates, some of whom were not actually prisoners.

It confirmed a world of universal hard labour, severe punishments for small offences but few deaths in custody.

Although not built with WA’s original inhabitants in mind, before it was abolished as a gaol in 1856 it housed 400+ Aboriginals, generally for short terms. These numbers would have been higher but for the erection in 1848 of a ‘Native Prison’ in St Georges Terrace, Perth – one of many surprising revelations of the study.

The final chapter – the longest – combines an investigation of the post-1856 uses of the building with a report of the struggle for its survival and recognition of key players in the battle.

The book is generously illustrated in colour and is thoroughly referenced and indexed. 


Foreword: The Hon. Kim Beazley AC. Governor of Western Australia
1. Western Australia's first permanent gaol
2. Grand juries, true bills and Quarter Sessions
3. Hard labour and other punishments
4. The inmates
5. Aboriginals and the Rottnest connection
6. The Round House as lunatic asylum and hospital
7. Life in the Round House
8. Escapes and escape attempts
9. The gaolers
10. Competition from Perth
11. Convicts, the curfew - and closure
12. Later uses - and saving the building
1. 1831 Gaol Regulations
2. 1835 Gaol Regulations

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The Round House 1831-1856: The early years of Western Australia’s oldest building – and how it survived.

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