Published on January 13th, 2015 | by Ann Rickard0
Tasmaina – Delve Into Cruel Past
Australia’s relatively short history is fascinating, if not unnerving, and if you’d like to get close to our convict past, Tasmania is a must-visit.
Hobart reeks of history along its waterfront, particularly the sandstone buildings, which were dens of wickedness in the 1800s when freed convicts mingled with whalers, prostitutes and assorted riff raff.
In the tiny town of Richmond, a short and pretty drive from Hobart, the convict history has been wonderfully preserved in the Richmond Gaol and Courthouse.
Intact as it was when it was built in the 1820s, the jail sends chills down the spine at the same time as drawing you in with dreadful fascination.
It had me so horribly intrigued I rushed to read again Bryce Courtenay’s The Potato Factory.
This big work of fiction is based on extensive research, covering the convict transportation period.
It follows the story of London’s Ikey Solomon (a receiver of stolen goods, a real-life criminal on whom Dickens based his character Fagin) transported from England in 1828 who spent time at Richmond Gaol.
Reading the book before or after a visit enhances the Richmond experience and brings vividly to life the harsh times and terrible suffering of the convict period.
The Richmond Gaol is a small and handsome sandstone building, which belies the horrors perpetrated there, especially in the courtyard where cruel floggings were carried out. Step into one of the tiny solitary confinement rooms, feel the complete darkness and terrible isolation, and you’ll know why many prisoners went insane.
Nearby, the Richmond Bridge built with convict labour from 1823 to 1825, is the oldest bridge in Australia and with its striking sandstone arches, is an enduring emblem of Tasmania’s convict heritage.
Richmond holds all that speaks of the callous but colourful era of Tasmania’s history