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The convicts’ Penitentiary, as viewed from Mason Cove in Tasmania.

The Penitentiary at Port Arthur, viewed across Mason Cove(Credit: PAHSMA (photograph by Joe Shemesh), 2008)

The Penitentiary

Now an imposing ruin, the Penitentiary was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary. In 1857 it was converted into a penitentiary, capable of housing over 480 convicts in dormitory accommodation and separate apartments.

Flanked by the Watchmen’s Quarters, the Penitentiary also contained a mess room, library, Catholic chapel, workshops and ablutions complex. The building was gutted by fire in 1897 and lay derelict until a concerted conservation program began in the 1960s.

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Penitentiary Conservation Project

During 2014, the Penitentiary at Port Arthur, one of the most recognisable structures in Australia, will be undergoing a program of conservation works to ensure that it remains standing to be visited and studied by future generations. 

This will involve several months of major structural engineering works in and around the Penitentiary precinct, during which time the area will be surrounded by fencing and hoardings to ensure the safety of both workers and the visiting public.

Additional information on the Port Arthur Penitentiary Conservation Project