Further work completed at the Separate Prison

November 18, 2008

The long-term conservation and reinterpretation work at Port Arthur’s Separate Prison continues, with the completion of work on the infamous Punishment, or ‘Dumb’ Cell.

Being shut in this dark isolation cell has long been a favourite, or at least memorable, experience of visiting Port Arthur. Generations of children have been closed in the cell for a few brief moments, generally finding the absolute darkness unbearable for any longer.

When they were first built, the punishment cells at Port Arthur took solitary punishment to a new level of cruelty. For any misdemeanour a man was locked in total darkness and silence for between several hours and 30 days, on a diet of bread and water. After an initial three days, the prisoners were taken out for one hour’s exercise each day.

In recent weeks, a new floor, lighting and replicas of the original three doors which hung in this area have been installed. This has been the work of PAHSMA’s talented Works Crew, who are to be commended on yet another beautifully finished job.

An LED light fitting which switches off when the innermost door is closed both helps visitors experience the overwhelmingly oppressive silence and darkness of this isolation cell and uses less energy than the old incandescent bulb that lit the cell.

A mesh walkway to the isolation cell protects the original fabric of the building

A mesh walkway to the isolation cell protects the original fabric of the building

The cell is separated from the outside world by four very solid doors

The cell is separated from the outside world by four very solid doors

Gates have been installed on the exercise yards adjacent to the cell

Gates have been installed on the exercise yards adjacent to the cell