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Sarah Island

Visitor's Guide

Flagstaff Gardener's Hut Wharf New Sawpits Hospital Mortuary Old Lookout Commissariat store Boat Basin Commissariat & engineer's store Small Dock Shoemaker Chimney, nailmaker's Remains of windbreak fence Sawpits Shipwright's shed Boat Crew Huts Launching slips Launching slips Lumber yard Blacksmith's Shop Lime Store School Hut Penitentiary (1828) Penitentiary (1823) Commissariat & Commandant's office Commandant's clerk & superintendent's quarters Commissariat officer's house Master shipwright's house Bakehouse Tannery Gaol Military Barracks Stone Pit Chaplain's House Officials' Quarters Commandant's Slipway Modern Jetty

The following is a clickable image map.

Image Map of Sarah Island

1 Modern jetty

Cruise boats from Strahan drop in at Sarah Island, allowing visitors to walk around the ruins of the settlement.

2 Commandant's slipway

This was a small dock located between two log-built jetties -- their remains can still be seen.

3 Officials' quarters

The three conjoined cottages which stood here were collectively known as "Government House". All eventually had separate kitchen outhouses, vegetable gardens and fowl and goat houses. They housed the Commandant, military officer and assistant surgeon.

The miltray officer's cottage was occupied by a series of officers who supervised the military detachment. The soldiers were posted here to guard the convicts and to prevent any uprisings, but many of them also engaged in petty complaints, supplied contraband to the prisoners and hunted to relieve their boredom. As a result, by the time the first military officer arrived in 1827, the large number of swans which had occupied Macquarie Harbour had been almost wiped out.

The assistant surgeons cottage was occupied by a succession of seven assistant surgeons. in the early years, the role of the assistant surgeon would have been a thankless one.

4 Chaplain's house

The first chaplain at Sarah Island was Reverend William Schofield, who arrived on the island with his wife Martha in 1828. Just three days after their arrival Martha suffered a miscarriage, and was ill for nearly a year. Despite this they stayed here for four years and in that time established a school and a choir, and managed to convert a number of convicts. Preaching to the military, however, was "like ploughing amongst rocks". Under the regulations, prisoners were required to attend church service each Sunday. However, as Schofield notes, "the Commandant has absented himself [from church] ever since I preached the missionary sermon, "Not many win, not many noble are called."

Following the departure of Reverend Schofield in 1832, Reverend John Manton took over as chaplain until the settlement closed the following year.

5 Stone pit

6 Military barracks

The Military barracks was an early weatherboard building of three rooms, and brick nogged. It had been erected by mid-1822. The colour sergeant had one room, other sereants another, and the remaining room held twenty soldiers. A fence surrounded the barracks and nearby guard house. Entry to the compound was through a turnstile.

7 Gaol

The goal was erected in June 1826 and enlarged some four years later. It comprised six tiny windowless cells, measuring a mere 0.9 m wide by 2.1 m long and 2.6 m high. The cells were designed for solitary confinement, a form of punishment which became increasingly common during the life of the settlement. Convicts served a maximum of 14 days in these cells on a diet of water and bread. On occassions, each cell held as many as three men serving their "solitary confinement" together! For some, solitary confinement was welcomed as a relief from back-breaking labour.

8 Tannery

The tannery was established as early as 1824 and in time the skills of the tanner, John McCarthy, and the shoemaker, William Davis, created a valuable export for the settlement.

9 Bakehouse

The bakehouse was the southern end of a U-shaped complex, and had the date of erection (November 1828) inscribed over the doorway. The convict bakers slept in the building, and above the oven was a loft for drying timber.

10 Master shipwright's house

11 Commissariat officer's house

Lempriere, when Commissariat officer, reported this cottage as "good enough for a single man, but much too confined for a family". Given that Lempriere was accompanied by his wife and three children, and that they had another two children while on Sarah Island, his comments are hardly suprising!

12 Commandant's clerk & superintendent's quarters

This was originally the Commandant's Office. the building was of weatherboard, brick nogged and had an adjoining kitchen.

13 Commissariat & Commandant's office

This weatherboard, brick nogged and plastered building was the place from which the Commandant dispensed law and order, although it also served as the registry of births, baptisms and marriages.

14 Penitentiary (1823)

Little remains of the first penitentiary, which was established by early 1823. Records for 1828 show that 84 men slept in the old penitentiary, while 89 slept in the new penitentiary. A further 78 slept on Grummet Island, and 110 lived at their places of work, such as the hospital, work camps, signal stations and farms located around Macquarie Harbour, or at the pilot station at the entrance to the harbour.

15 Penitentiary (1828)

The substantial remains of the new penitentiary presents an abiding image of the harshness of the Sarah Island settlement. However, it was a vastly more comfortable place to sleep than the rough camp of the early years.

The new penitentiary was completed in April 1828. It was a substantial building, with curved steps, decorative arched lintel and other carved stonework. Its three rooms on three floors held 30 or more men each. Some men slept in hammocks, but most spread their bedding on the floor.

16 School hut

17 Lime store

18 Blacksmith's shop

The Blacksmith's shop was erected in 1827. It originally held four hearths, but this was later increased to six. It was built of wooden slabs. Only traces of the foundations and hearths remain.

19 Lumber yard

20, 21 Launching slips

22 Boat crew huts

These huts were for the accomodation of the crews of the settlement's boats. In 1829, there were 24 prisoners employed in this work and living in these huts.

23 Shipwright's shed

24 Sawpits

Sawpits were located in a number of places. This major pit was in the shipbuilding region and provided one covered area for the nine or ten pairs engaged in this work.

25 Remains of windbreak fence

Lempriere's report on Macquarie Harbour describes 'fences constructed of successive tiers of palings some thirty feet high' which were constructed to protect the settlement from the 'blasting effects of the north-west wind'. The fences are a prominent feature of all the sketches of the settlement.

There were high fences in place before 1824, but these were of 'very slight timber' and were 'almost daily blown down'.

26 Chimney, nailmaker's

27 Shoemaker

28 Small dock

This small dock lay alongside the larger boat basin. Many of the Houn pine log foundations are still in place.

29 Commissariat & engineer's store

A joint store was among the first buildings erected, early in 1822. Of two storeys, the commissariat section included a mill house (where wheat was ground by hand each day as a punishment) and a sifting house, whose loft unfortunately adjoined the provision store -- prompting a number of break-ins. A beef shed was below the provision store.

The engineer section held construction supplies and work from the lumber yard and ship yard.

30 Boat basin

The main dock was known as the boat basin and was protected by a jetty which left only a narrow entrance way. The dock was large enough to hold twenty boats in safety.

31 Commissariat store

Early in 1830, the foundations of a new store to replace the old joint Commissariat & engineer's store were begun on the jetty of the main boat basin. Stores could now be discharged directly from the boats. It was 51.8 m long and 5.5 m wide with a flour loft extending the length of the building. A verandah ran down the eastern side. The builing was brick nogged.

32 Old lookout

33 Mortuary

34 Hospital

The hospital, completed early in 1822, comprised two wards and a dispensary. Later, this changed to three wards, with one reserved for the military or used for divine service. The building was weatherboard, brick nogged and plastered, with a kitchen. By 1829 there was accomodation for 15 patients and four attendants.

35 New sawpits

New Sawpit

This 'new' sawpit with eight divisions was erected in 1827. It was 26.8 m by 4.9 m. The illustration gives Lempriere's impression of the area. (c. 1828) (Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts)

36 Wharf

37 Gardener's hut

38 Flagstaff