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Fountain in Government Garden, Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Fountain in Government Garden, Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania(Credit: PAHSMA (photo by Joe Shemesh), 2007)

History of Port Arthur’s Gardens

Set within the picturesque confines of a forest-bordered harbour, the Port Arthur Historic Site offers a diverse panorama: 19th century buildings sitting within the park-like surrounds of the superbly reconstructed gardens, criss-crossed by avenues of mature English trees. 

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Originally established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp, the settlement quickly expanded in size, large cultivated plots laid down to supplement the rations of the convicts and officers. Accompanying this was a setting aside of small plots for the tending of ornamental gardens by the officers.

By the 1850s this had reached its zenith with the well-tended gardens of the Commandant's House and Government Gardens drawing comment from the visitor. With the closure of the penal settlement and the establishment of the township the large swathes of cultivation and tended gardens were allowed to go fallow, smaller gardens sustaining the dietary and aesthetic needs of the townspeople.

The historic site today mirrors this past. Large swathes of well-tended lawn are interspersed with the ornamental beauty of the reconstructed Government and Commandant's Gardens, or the tidy vegetable plots of an early 20th century residence. Together these areas provide unparalleled insight into the lesser-known aspects of the convict settlement and free township.

You can read more about the fascinating history of the gardens of Port Arthur in Gardens of Exile, available at the Gift Shop.

Read about the reconstruction of Government Garden