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Cascades Female Factory

Cascades Female Factory

Governor George Arthur purchased the site at Cascades for the female factory in 1827 from the owner of a failed distillery, TY Lowes. The factory's first intake of female prisoners was in 1828, and it gradually expanded to hold 700 female convicts and their children, though at its peak it was even more overcrowded than usual, holding 1200 women and children. Rules and regulations for the management of the Factory were published in 1829.

Women were employed at the factory in washing, sewing, carding and spinning.

The complex gradually extended to encompass a series of five yards, around which cells, storerooms, workrooms and offices were built

Story continues below ↓

1827 Colonial Government purchases site from Lowes Rum Distillery
1828 Cascades Female Factory opens in Yard 1
1830 Governor Arthur authorises construction of Yard 2
1832 Yard 2 opens
1838 Nursery moves from Yard 1 to house in Liverpool St
1842 Governor Franklin approves plans for Yard 3
1845 Yard 3 opens

Yard 4 opens
Nursery returns to Cascades
Female convicts on probation transferred to Cascades from Anson

1852 Nursery transferred from Cascades to New Town Farm
1853 Yard 5 opens
1854 Nursery returns to Cascades
1855 Nursery transferred from Cascades to Brickfields
1856 Cascades Female Factory proclaimed a House of correction (Gaol) for Females to be administered by local authorities
1867 Male and Female Invalids transferred to Cascades
Addition of a 'dead house' and a day room for males
1869 Boys' Reformatory and Training School opens
1874 Female Invalids (and children) transferred to New Town
1877 Cascades Gaol closes, female prisoners (and children) transferred to Campbell St Gaol
Male Invalids and Imperial Lunatics from Port Arthur transferred to Cascades

1879 Male Invalids transferred to New Town
Contagious Diseases Hospital ('The Lock') opens in Yard 2
Boys' Reformatory and Training School removed to Hobart Gaol
1884 Boys' Reformatory and Training School reopens
1888 Lying-in Hospital opens
1890 Imperial Lunatics transferred to New Norfolk Asylum or Gaol
Home of Mercy takes over running of the Contagious Diseases Hospital
1891 Contagious Diseases Hospital (Home of Mercy) relocates to Yard 4
1895 Contagious Diseases Hospital (Home of Mercy) relocates to outside Cascades
1896 Boys' Reformatory and Training School and Lying-in Hospital transferred to New Town
1904 Site closes

In Operation

The female convicts who arrived on the Harmony in 1828 were the first to be sent directly from the ship to Cascades Female Factory for assignment. The following article appeared in the Hobart Town Courier on 7 February 1829 about the advantages of the new factory.

The new House of Correction is likely to be attended with much advantage, an instance of which already sensibly appears in the disposal of the female prisoners by the Harmony. Many of the best servants, it is well known, were necessarily kept in the late Factory [Hobart Female Factory], owing to the children, which there was no means of disposing of, but by leaving them in the charge of the mother; for few, if any families could be expected to incur the expense and trouble of one or two little children for the sake of the small attendance. In the new establishment, however, this inconvenience is wisely provided for. Matrons, or proper persons are appointed in apartments for that purpose, to nurse and educate the children as soon as they can with propriety leave the mother, who is thus left at liberty to go to service. By this means a large proportion of the prisoners by the Harmony, who had children with them, and who on the former system must have remained a charge on the public, have been assigned to service. This, however, is but a minor advantage compared to the improved discipline which this building enables the Superintendent to exercise. Farewell now to idleness and impudence, love-letter writing, throwing of packets &c. over the wall, and all the concomitants of clandestine taking and receiving.

Two Visiting Magistrates visited the Cascades Female Factory in 1844.  The following extract was included in their report.

The Visiting Magistrates have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the good order, cleanliness & discipline of the Female Factory at the Cascade.  The system & regularity observable in working this Establishment & the quiet behaviour of the prisoners generally reflect great credit upon the Superintendent thereof.

At this Establishment prayers are regularly read every morning at ½ past 7 & great attention appears to be paid by the prisoners to the service.  It is the only House of Correction where Prayers are regularly read.

On New Year's Day 1851, Colonel Mundy visited the Cascades Female Factory, and, according to Bethell in The Story of Port Dalrymple, reported the following.

On January 1, 1851, Colonel Mundy found the Cascades Factory at Hobart Town a model of good order. A matron maintained faultless discipline, the cleanliness was dazzling and the turnkeys vigilant. In dead silence the women, in their white mob caps and duffle dresses, were drawn up in hollow square and greeted the Colonel with a "running fire of curtseys".  At this date there were at the Cascades 730 women and 130 infants.  As usual they were engaged in laundry work or fine sewing. A few turbulent inmates were dosed with ipecacuanha, put on half-rations and locked into darkened cells.

Rules & Regulations

The following rules and regulations for the management of Cascades Female Factory were published in the Hobart Town Gazette on 3 October 1829.

Rules and Regulations for the Management of the House of Correction for Females

A House of Correction having been erected for the reception of Female Convicts, and for the punishment and reformation of Female Offenders, the following Rules and Regulations are to be observed for the due management of the Establishment.

  1. The Principal Superintendent of Convicts being a Magistrate, is charged with the general direction of the House of Correction, He is to visit it daily for the purpose of hearing and determining offences committed within the walls, of seeing that all the Records hereinafter described are correctly kept, of examining minutely into the state of the Establishment, and of issuing Instructions, in writing, to the Superintendent upon all such matters as require his interference...

  2. Cleanliness, quietness, regularity, submission, and industry are inserted in the general Regulations as being expected by the Government to be observed throughout the Establishment, and, therefore, they are to be uninterruptedly enforced by the Principal Superintendent, and he is to allow no excuse whatever in justification of the slightest occasional departure from the strict observance of all these essential points which are required unvaryingly to characterise the House of Correction.

  3. With all the attention that can be bestowed, the Establishment must necessarily be a heavy charge upon the Government, and the most scrupulous attention to economy is therefore expected to pervade the whole system of the Establishment...

  4. For the management of the Establishment, the following Officers are, or will be, appointed, a Superintendent, a Matron, an Overseer and Task Mistress for the Crime Class, a Porter, a Clerk, and two Constables.

The Superintendent

He is entrusted with the immediate management of the Establishment, under the directions of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, and held responsible for the safe custody of the Women, and for the strict observance of the Rules and Regulations for the House of Correction . . .

Before breakfast every morning, and after supper every evening, he is to read to all the classes assembled in the Chapel, a portion of Scripture, accompanied by a short Prayer: if the Chaplain should be present, this duty will of course be performed by him.

He is to inspect all the rooms and yards of the building after the Women have proceeded to their morning's labour, and see that they are kept in order, and perfectly clean throughout the day.

He is from time to time during the day to visit all the classes while at work, to satisfy himself that quietness is observed, that idleness is not permitted by the Task-women, and that, in every way, good order is strictly maintained.

He is to inspect the provisions when issued to the Cooks, and again when divided into messes, and to be present during dinner for the purpose of preventing any irregularity....

He is, with the assistance of some of the well—conducted Task-women, to devote a portion of every alternate evening during the week to the instruction of such Women as may be inclined to learn, and on Sundays he is to cause such as cannot read to be assembled and instructed....

He is empowered to confine any Female in a solitary cell, for disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, or other improper conduct, for a period not exceeding 24 hours, but, he is to enter the full particulars of each case in his Journal, and to report the same to the Principal Superintendent, on his visiting the Establishment.

He is to visit the Females confined in the cells every morning, to satisfy himself that they are in health, and that their punishment is duly enforced. Should any Female while confined in a cell, represent herself to be sick, he is to report the same to the Medical Officer when he visits the Establishment, and, immediately, if the case be urgent, remove her to the Hospital yard....

The Matron

The Matron shall superintend such part of the employment of the Women as falls within the province of a Female, and shall attend to such matters as could not be properly performed by the Superintendent, and shall generally assist him in the care and control of the Establishment.

She is to give instructions to the Task-women about the employment of the Females, and shall receive from them the Articles manufactured.

She is to inspect the Females in their separate wards at the morning muster, and shall see that they are clean and properly dressed.

She is to visit the sleeping rooms daily, and see that they are kept perfectly clean and in order by the Wardswomen.

She is to visit constantly throughout the day, the Hospital, Nursery, and Kitchen yards, and to superintend and give directions in all that is going forward in either, most watchfully observing that in every thing extreme cleanliness, and order, and industry, and economy prevail.

Overseer And Task-Mistress Of The Crime Class

The Overseer is to superintend the Crime Class at their several occupations, keep an account of all the implements and tools required for their employment....  The Women confined in the cells are most especially under his charge, he is to visit them at least morning and evening to watch them whilst they are alternately permitted to be in the cell yard, to issue to them their daily allowance of Bread and Water, to cause the cells to be cleaned in his presence, and to take especial care that no person whatever is allowed to hold conversation with the Convicts under confinement.

The Task-mistress of the Crime Class is to assist the Overseer in all his duties, and on her vigilance and unremitting attention the order and general improvement of the Women greatly depends....

The Porter

The Porter is to keep a book (form C), in which he shall enter the name of every individual who comes into, or goes out of, the Establishment; with the exact hour of such entry and departure; and he is not to suffer any person attached to the Establishment to leave it without a written order from the Superintendent, which he is also to enter in his book.—

He is not to permit any person to enter the inner door of the Establishment except the Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, Magistrates, Chaplains, and Medical Attendants, without the written authority of the Principal Superintendent.—


The Constables are to be attached to the Establishment,— one of whom shall be constantly on duty,— and they shall act as Messengers.

They are not to be permitted to enter the inner gate, unless their aid should be required in quelling any riot or disturbance, nor are they to speak to, or converse with any Female confined within the walls of the Establishment....

For each Class, a Task-woman is to be selected, of approved conduct. She is to have the immediate superintendence of the Women in her class. She is to see that they rise at the proper hour in the morning as the first bell rings;— that their persons are washed, their bedding properly made up, and that they are in readiness for the inspection of the Superintendent and Matron at the general muster, when they shall proceed to the performance of their several duties....

One Wards-woman is to be allotted to each sleeping room,— her duty will be to superintend the care of all the bedding and utensils which belong to her room, and to see that the apartment is kept in proper order.

Female Convicts

No Female Convict shall be received into the Establishment (excepting such as may be placed there on their arrival from England) without the written authority or warrant of a Magistrate, stating the offence of which she has been guilty and her sentence,— if any shall have been passed.—

Every Female brought to the Establishment shall be placed in the reception-room until she shall have been examined by the Surgeon;— she shall then be bathed, washed, and dressed in the clothing of the Establishment; and, if incarcerated for any offence, she shall have her hair cut short. The clothes which she shall have brought with her shall be burned, if foul or unfit to be preserved; but if otherwise, they shall be washed and kept for her benefit on her discharge from the Establishment....

The Females are to be placed in three distinct classes, which shall on no account be suffered to communicate with each other.

The 1st. Class shall consist of those Women who may be placed in the Establishment on their arrival from England, without any complaint from the Surgeon Superintendent,— of those who are returned from service with good characters,— and of those who have undergone at least three months' probation in the second, after their sentence in the third class has expired. The Women of this class alone shall be considered assignable, and shall be sent to service when proper situations can be obtained.

The 2d. Class shall consist of Females who have been guilty of minor offences, and of those who, by their improved conduct, merit removal from the Crime Class.

The 3rd., or Crime Class, shall consist of those Females who shall have been transported a second time, or who shall have been guilty of misconduct on their passage to the colony,— of those who shall have been convicted of offences before the Supreme Court, who shall have en sent in under the sentence of a Magistrate, or who shall have been guilty of offences within the walls,— they shall never be removed from the 3d. to the 1st. Class.

The dress of the Females shall be made of cheap and coarse materials, and shall consist of a cotton or stuff gown, or petticoat, a jacket and apron, with a common straw bonnet of strong texture; and the classes all be distinguished as follows, viz:—

The 1st. Class shall wear the dress without any distinguishing mark.

The 2d. Class by a large yellow C on the left sleeve of the jacket.

The 3d. Class by a large yellow C in the centre of the back of the jacket, one on the right sleeve, and another on the back part of the petticoat.

Each Female is to be furnished with clean Linen every week, viz:—

2 Aprons,
2 Shifts,
2 Caps
2 Handkerchiefs, and
2 Pair Stockings

The 1st. Class shall be employed as Cooks, Task-women, Hospital Attendants,— or in such other manner as shall be directed by the principal Superintendent.

The 2d. Class shall be employed in making Clothes for the Establishment, in getting up linen, or in such other manner as shall be directed by the Principal Superintendent.

The 3d. Class shall be employed in washing for the Establishment, for the Orphan Schools, Penitentiary, in Carding Wool, Spinning, or in such other manner as shall be directed by the Principal Superintendent.

The hours of labour shall be as follows: —

  1st Nov to end of Feb Mar-Apl & Sep-Oct May-Jun & Jul-Aug
Muster ½ past 5 Six Seven
Labour Six ½ past 6  
Breakfast Eight Eight Eight
Prayers & Labour ½ past 8 ½ past 8 ½ past 8
Dinner Twelve Twelve Twelve
Labour Sunset Sunset Sunset
Evening Meal ½ past 7 ½ past 6 ½ past 6
Prayers Eight Seven Seven

The Diet of the several Classes shall be as follows: —

¼ lb. Bread
pint of Gruel
½ lb. Bread
pint of Soup
¼ lb. Bread
pint of Soup *

*    The soup to be made in the proportion of 25 lbs. of meat to every 100 quarts of soup, and to be thickened with vegetables and peas, or barley, as may be most convenient. Ox or sheep heads may be used advantageously for making the soup.

The Females in each class are to be formed into messes consisting of twelve each;— the best conducted Woman is to be named Overseer of her mess, and to be responsible for the conduct of the other eleven.  Each mess is to sleep in the same room, and their hammocks are to be slung together.

Females guilty of disobedience of orders, neglect of work, profane, obscene, or abusive language, insubordination, or other turbulent, or disorderly, or disrespectful conduct, shall be punished by the Superintendent with close confinement in a dark or other cell, until her case shall be brought under the consideration of the Principal Superintendent.

Hospital and Nursery

The internal economy of the Hospital and Nursery yards will be regulated by the Medical Attendant.... The Medical Officer is punctually to attend the Establishment every morning, whether there are, or are not, any sick Women.

General Regulations

1.  None of the inferior Officers shall absent themselves from the Establishment without first obtaining the Superintendent's authority.

2.  No Officer belonging to the Establishment shall be permitted to receive under any pretence whatever, any gratuity or present, either pecuniary or otherwise, from persons with whom the Government shall have contracted for the supply of any article for the Establishment, or from persons who may visit the Establishment, or have any work performed in it....

3.  No Female who shall have been returned from service for misconduct, shall be allowed to be again assigned, until she shall have undergone a probation of not less than three months in the 2d. Class;— in cases of frequent misconduct in previous service, not less than six months,— and, in all cases of dishonesty, not less than twelve.

4.  The conduct of the Task-women, Wards-women, and Overseers will be considered when they apply for any indulgence.

5.  The testimony of the Superintendent, as to the character of any Female applicant for indulgence, who has been placed in the House of Correction, will be indispensable before her application can be considered.

6.  No Female will be allowed to marry from the 2d. or 3d. Classes, nor, indeed, from the 1st., unless she can obtain a favourable certificate from the Principal Superintendent.

7.  Every Female, except such as may be exempted by a certificate from the Medical Attendant, will be required to attend prayers both morning and evening, and divine service whenever performed in the Chapel.

8.  One bible, together with such books as the Chaplain may recommend, will be allowed to each mess, of which the Task-woman of the class shall have charge, and for the preservation of which she shall be held accountable.

9.  No Officer or Servant of the Establishment shall supply any Female Convict with other provisions or comforts of any kind than those allowed by the Regulations. Neither is any clothing, nor other articles whatever, to be permitted to be delivered to any Convict in the House of Correction, nor are any letters or notes to be given them unless the same shall have been first opened and perused by the Superintendent, by whom they will be destroyed, if they be not from relatives or approved friends, and of a proper character and tendency.

Any person connected with the Establishment, who shall disobey the orders contained in this Regulation, if free, shall be immediately dismissed, and if a convict, shall be severely punished under the sentence of the Principal Superintendent.

10.  No fires are to be allowed but such as are sanctioned by the Principal Superintendent, and he is to define the supply of fuel for the Superintendent, free Overseer, Porter, Constables, and others, according to the general Regulations of the Government.

11.  No poultry, pigeons, or pigs shall be kept within the walls of the Establishment; nor is smoking, on any account, to be allowed.

12.  It is to be distinctly explained by the Principal Superintendent to all the free Officers employed within the Establishment, and by the Superintendent, to all the Female Convicts on their admission, that the utmost cleanliness,— the greatest quietness,— perfect regularity,— and entire submission, are laid down as fundamental Laws of the Establishment; and, according to the degree of offending against any of them, punishment of some kind is invariably to follow;— if these be :, observed, patient industry will appear, and reformation of character must be the result.

13.  The Rev. Mr. Norman will superintend the religious instruction of the Establishment occasionally during the week, and will perform Divine Service at least once every Sunday; and the resident Superintendent will at all times give facility to any arrangements proposed by the Chaplain for the more convenient assembly of the Women, provided, such arrangements do not militate against the established Regulations of the House of Correction....

By His Excellency's Command,

1st. January, 1829.


Disturbances within the Factory occurred at different times. On 19 July 1843, Jane Eskett per Garland Grove was charged on the complaint of the Superintendent Mr Hutchinson with insubordination in openly resisting his lawfully constituted authority on the night of Monday 17 July. Jane pleaded guilty. The case of insubordination was dismissed but she was found guilty of misconduct and received 14 days in solitary confinement (ref: AOT, AC 480/1/1).

In 1856, the administration of Cascades Female Factory was transferred from the Imperial Government to the local authorities (the Sheriff's Department).

As such, the prison ceased to operate as a female factory, but continued to operate as a house of correction (or gaol) for females.  It was no longer confined to imprisoning female convicts.

Prisoners Removed to Campbell St Gaol

In 1877, the last of the female prisoners were transferred to the Campbell St Gaol in Hobart and the site ceased to function as a prison.

Between 10 and 12 April 1877, the female prisoners at Cascades Gaol were removed to Campbell St Gaol, Hobart.


Escapes from the Cascades Gaol occurred, though irregularly.  The Brighton Police recorded the escape of Mary Carr in their book of offenders (POL 20/2) in January 1860.

Female Absconder
Cascade Factory

Absconded from the Female Factory Cascades on the 19th inst Mary Carr alias Watchorn.  Sentenced to two years PS [penal servitude] per Emma Eugenia (2), age 38 years, height 5ft 2in, complexion swarthy, stout build, hair dark auburn, a scar on first finger on left hand.


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