Friday 12th February 2016
We started the day with a drive to the north-western tip of the peninsula to see the Coal Mines Historic Site, significant as Tasmania’s first operational coal mine. An outcrop of coal was first discovered at Plunkett Point by surveyors in 1833, and its value was immediately recognised by Lt. Governor Arthur. Not only would it provide a local supply of coal, reducing their dependence on and cost of coal from New South Wales, but a mine would provide a place of harsh punishment for the worst or persistent offenders.
So a convict with practical mining knowledge, Joseph Lacey, was sent with a small party of convict labourers to begin the work, and the first shipment of coal left the mine in June 1834 aboard the Kangaroo. By 1839 there were 150 prisoners and 29 officers stationed at the mine. Five years later there were 579 prisoners, 27 soldier guards, 35 civilian supervisors and administrators, 14 of their wives and 90 children. Only convicts who were skilled miners worked on the coal face, and each had three convict labourers to take away the coal. However, the mine was badly managed and inefficient, and was closed in 1848 on both ‘moral and financial’ grounds.
We began at the Convict Precinct and explored the sandstone remains of the convict buildings - the barracks, chapel, bakehouse and store, and separate apartment cells and solitary punishment cells added in 1846 in an attempt to reduce the incidence of homosexuality.
At the entrance to the site is an information and interpretation area with a chain time-line showing the development of the mine.
Remains of the sandstone buildings in the Convict Precinct.
A solitary confinement punishment cell.
We then walked up the hill to the remains of the Officers’ quarters.
Such a lovely place to live – no wonder they built the Officers’ quarters out of site of the convict buildings and the mine.
Remains of an Officer’s house –brick walls rendered outside and plastered inside.
Very different from the sandstone block buildings down the hill.
We didn’t have enough time to walk to the mine shaft, as we were due back at Port Arthur for the Point Puer tour after lunch, so we drove up the unsealed road to the top car park and walked from there. We were glad we hadn’t walked, as there wasn’t actually that much to see, although the information boards were interesting.
This hole in the ground is all that’s left of the main shaft.
On the way back to Port Arthur, on a winding road in the middle of nowhere, we passed this house with hundreds of garden gnomes in the front garden!
Hundreds of gnomes – they made us smile!