Cascades Female Factory Historic Site Tour
The Cascade Female Factory is one of eleven historic sites which form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage sites list. It is Australia’s most significant site associated with the female convict story - a history that was largely not talked about until the last 15 years. The site is located in South Hobart, approximately one hour from The Beach Escape.
Between approximately 1788 and 1853, around 25,000 female convicts arrived into Australia with over half of those (around 13,000) sent to Tasmania. In 1828, the Cascade Female Factory was built and the first women were transferred from the Hobart Penitentiary. The Cascade site was the last one used in Tasmania, and housed around 7,000 convicts and their babies over the years.
Separating male and female prisoners was a unique and innovative solution to prisoner management at the time, and was unique to Australia. The boys and men were often sent to Port Arthur and Point Puer, while the women were housed in one of five prisons throughout Tasmania. The other female prisons being New Town (Hobart), Ross, Launceston and Georgetown.
While only one original building at the Cascade site remains intact, the site has been re-imagined to tell the important story of female convicts in the 1800s. You can do a self guided tour, although we recommend the one hour guided Heritage Tour to bring the site and its history to life. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and willing to answer all questions.
During the Heritage Tour you’ll learn about the site’s history, originally constructed as a rum distillery then redeveloped as a five yard prison and factory. You’ll also learn about the global development, shifts, struggles and challenges in the punishment and reform system during the 1800s. The tour also provides an interesting insight into the contribution female convicts made to the colony of Hobart and its development.
If you want to immerse yourself in the experience, you can buy tickets to the dramatic performance called Her Story.
Like the Port Arthur site, if you visit during school holidays, kids can enjoy free activities to learn more about the life of children in the 1800s, for example writing letters in Victorian handwriting then sealing it with a wax seal.
Whilst Port Arthur is the most well known part of Tasmania's convict heritage, it only provides you with the male side of Tasmania's convict history - to get the complete story about our convict heritage including the contribution that females made to it, we recommend visiting the Cascades Female Factory to discover this less well known side of our heritage.
We recommend that you allow a couple hours to fully experience the site and preferably take a tour - the buildings themselves don't look like much - however when the history and description of how the convicts lived and were treated is overlaid upon what you are looking at is when the significance of the site comes to life. Looking through the list of names of the convicts, we even found the names of a couple of inmates that we are descended from - if you know your family history you may also find a distant relative!