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Downton Abbey in Tasmania

sunny 24 °C

We arrived at the gates of the Great Park just after sunrise and had a magnificent view of the estate’s church spires through a copse of English oak…
The great house itself stood someway off at the end of a drive of weeping willows…
However, as we were not expected before 9 am, we hoped no one would object if we took a stroll through the gardens. Herbaceous borders of Jersey lilies and geraniums, together with fragrant roses, made a beautiful show in the morning sunshine…
The stable block was abuzz with activity as the grooms prepared the steeds for the family’s morning canter…
The castellated turrets of the medieval castle overlooking the estate must surely have been a whimsical folly designed to amuse His Lordship’s visitors, for this stately home itself was not built until 1833…
The weather was absolutely perfect, just a light southerly breeze, so we took a boat out into the bay for a clearer view of this superb period mansion in all its glory…
At the appointed time we knocked and fully expected Carson to open the door and usher us into the presence of the Earl of Grantham and his daughter, Lady Mary Crawley. But hold onto your kangaroos a minute – methinks we may have been deceived. Surely Downton Abbey doesn’t have bars on all the windows…
What a mistake - this isn’t Downton Abbey at all. This is the infamous prison complex at Port Arthur on the remote southeast coast of Tasmania.
From 1833 to1877 it housed the most hardened and recalcitrant of villains who had been transported from Britain to the colonies…
Only the best behaved prisoners were able to peer through these bars at the manicured English landscape reserved for the administrators and guards. Escapees and other recidivists spent their sentences locked inside tiny windowless cells so that they could reflect on their misdemeanours. Trustees were set to work on chain gangs cutting timber, boatbuilding and mining for coal in the nearby pits, while more educated prisoners were given administrative roles. The prison became a mental asylum once transportation was abolished in 1877 and today it is the most visited site in Tasmania.
Footnote: On 28 April 1996, twenty-six year old Martin Bryant of Hobart shot and killed 35 people and wounded a further 23 at this already tragic site. He is currently serving 35 life sentences in solitary confinement.

Posted by Hawkson 23:20 Archived in Australia

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Beautiful looking flowers. Strange history, sadness dissipated hopefully over the years. A shell of so much pain and hope, now a site for tourists.

by Sue Fitzwilson

You've done it again--missed the NZ rains that have followed Jennifer and group right to the Auckland airport.(flying home to Ottawa today)

by R and B

A clever approach to "Downton Prison". The beautiful Jersey lilies are also known as "Naked Ladies" in my area. More angst for the wrong doers to contemplate!

by Bob

Downton indeed. You always find a way to make it interesting. Miscreants from other colonies were transportred there too including 200 or so rebels from the 1837/38 Canadian rebellions (with 82 American allies - sent to Tassie). 5 others were transported from Canada for "civil" crimes. Any of 200 offenses, including blasphemy, could get you sent there too!

by Tom

You had me! Nice to learn more about Tasmania!

by Holly

Just read your Australia write up. Well done! And some great colourful photos and many happy memories :)

by aussirose

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