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Image 'Underground cells, Point Puer', c1911-15

TLF ID R3578

This is a sepia-toned black-and-white photograph (3.4 cm x 8.6 cm) showing the entrance to two cells of the former Point Puer Boys' Prison in Tasmania. The entrances are brick archways built into the side of a hill and are surrounded by bushland; there are numerous trees behind the brick structures. Text at the base of the image reads 'UNDERGROUND CELLS, POINT PUER. 246. BEATTIE, HOBART'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset provides evidence of the first reformatory built exclusively for juvenile male convicts in the British Empire - approximately 3,000 boys ranging in age from 9 to 18 years passed through the Point Puer Boys' Prison from 1834, when it opened, until its closure in 1849.
  • It shows the Tasmanian bush location of Point Puer - the reformatory was built on a small, narrow, windswept peninsula 1 mile (1.61 kilometres) across Carnarvon Bay from the Port Arthur penal station and adjacent to the Isle of the Dead; the site was badly chosen, with poor, sandy soil and little fresh water, which had to be delivered daily by convicts from Port Arthur.
  • It shows ruins of an experimental reformatory - the aim of Point Puer ('puer' is a Latin word meaning 'boy') was to train boys to be useful members of society by providing them with trades such as cobbling, metalwork, carpentry, sawing, boat building, gardening and bookbinding.
  • It reveals cells that may have been used for solitary confinement - the boys were subject to an extremely harsh code of discipline and many endured periods of isolation, reduced rations and beatings.
  • It demonstrates one of the construction techniques used at the site - these cells and the large building that housed the workshops were terraced into the hillside, while other buildings such as the bakehouse, store, sick room and wooden barracks were freestanding.
  • It provides an example of items compiled by E W Searle between 1911 and 1915 while he worked for John Watt Beattie (1859-1930) - Beattie was a renowned photographer of Tasmania and expert on Tasmanian history and was, from 1896, an official government photographer.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements