Kingston & Arthur's Vale Historic Area

This hellish prison outpost on Norfolk Island, over 1600 kilometres off the coast of Australia, was first established just five weeks after the first fleet landed on the mainland at Port Jackson. It developed in two phases from 1788 to 1814 and 1825 to 1855. In 1788 male and female British convicts were settled on the island to fend off rival maritime interests and to supply food and other materials to the mainland colony.

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Planning of the Penal Settlement

To support food production, this colonial settlement saw the first windmill and watermill in Australia constructed by convict labour. Freed convict settlers and their families cleared the island’s majestic Norfolk Pines to develop successful farms, but the Island proved expensive to maintain and it was abandoned in 1814. The buildings were burned and destroyed to prevent them falling into enemy hands. In 1825, a penal convict settlement was re-established to punish hardened or reoffending male convicts. This fearsome and brutal island prison was closed in 1855 and the convicts were sent to Port Arthur or released on tickets of leave. The site contains one of the finest assemblages of Georgian buildings in Australia, set within an extensive coastal plain backed by a steep escarpment. The layout of the site reflects the strategic placement of buildings to separate the colonial authorities from the convicts. A complex of military and administrative buildings is elevated on the rise along Quality Row. These include military compounds, offices and cottage villas for civil and military personnel along with the largest Commissariat Store and compound in Australia. Separated from these civil and military buildings by a marsh, the prisoner’s barracks and workspaces were housed in a series of walled compounds located on the beachfront. Government House, built on the highest point overlooking the site along with the other civil and military structures, demonstrated both the real and symbolic power of the authorities to scrutinise and control the convict population. It is the fourth Government House built here, the first built in 1788 was located on the promontory overlooking the landing place.

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Convict Buildings at Kingston

A complex of military and administrative buildings is elevated on the rise along Quality Row. These include military compounds, offices and cottages for civil and military personnel and a Commissariat Store. The Old Military Barracks includes barracks, officers’ quarters, a privy and guard room surrounded by a compound perimeter wall with observation towers. The larger New Military Barracks, built to accommodate the increasing number of soldiers, also includes barracks, officers’ quarters and the archaeological remains of the military hospital.

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Convict Cemetery

The cemetery is a place of historical importance to both Norfolk Islanders and visitors. It includes an outstanding collection of headstones dating from the earliest period of European settlement through to today. It includes many graves and headstones of convicts and free people, providing graphic physical evidence of the history of the place.

Today the cemetery continues to be used as a burial place for the Norfolk Island community.


Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area

Address: Kingston, Norfolk Island 2899

Telephone: 0011 6723 22152