the_round_houseThe Round House 1831-1856.

The early years of Western Australia’s oldest building – and how it survived.  

Steve Errington.

ISBN 978-0-85905-945-9, (New, 2022), 165 x 240, 144 pages, French flaps cover, well illustrated colour, indexed, 380 grams, $35.00.

Fremantle Gaol, better known as the Round House, was built in 1830, was nearly demolished in 1922 but one hundred years later survives as an iconic Fremantle building and a popular tourist attraction.

Dr Steve Errington, one of its volunteer guides and himself a past president of the Royal WA Historical Society, has now completed a three-year investigation of its construction and a detailed study of the 2400+ individual inmates responsible for 3600+ incarcerations. The former relied on two key documents held by the State Records Office, the second revealed an unexpected range of inmates, some of whom were not actually prisoners.

It confirmed a world of universal hard labour, severe punishments for small offences but few deaths in custody.

Although not built with WA’s original inhabitants in mind, before it was abolished as a gaol in 1856 it housed 400+ Aboriginals, generally for short terms. These numbers would have been higher but for the erection in 1848 of a ‘Native Prison’ in St Georges Terrace, Perth – one of many surprising revelations of the study.

The final chapter – the longest – combines an investigation of the post-1856 uses of the building with a report of the struggle for its survival and recognition of key players in the battle.

The book is generously illustrated in colour and is thoroughly referenced and indexed.