Messenger Door Conservation Project

The team at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site have been busy reinstating the Messenger Door, one of two surviving convict period doors in the yard walls of the Factory.

The Factory employed two Constables who were expected to act as messengers and had to be available to deliver correspondence between convict officials and the Factory at any hour. Their contact with the inhabitants of the Factory was strictly limited. They were not permitted to speak to any of the female convicts and were kept confined to their own room, entering and exiting the property through their own private door – which became known as the Messenger’s Door.

There was one exception to this rule of separation – if a riot or disturbance broke out in the Factory the messengers would be permitted to enter the inner world of the Factory to quell it. Although it seems the messengers themselves may not have been above causing a disturbance. In 1855 one messenger, William Smith was found guilty of being drunk in the streets and misrepresenting himself as a district constable. He was sentenced to 3 months hard labour with imprisonment.

Due to the poor condition of the door in 2015, it was removed for conservation treatment. The original frame was too fragile to reinstate and this will be stored at Port Arthur Historic Site pending further conservation treatment.

The images show the door prior to its removal, during the re-installation, and the restored door in its original place.
photograph of messenger door at Cascades Female Factory before and after conservation works

Yard 3-4 Wall Masonry Stabilisation Project

In 2017 conservation work was undertaken on the wall between Yards 3 and 4 at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site after an inspection found sections to be in very poor condition. The mortar was found to be failing in some areas, while many stones were disintegrating through the process of ‘exfoliation and delamination’. One area had begun to bulge from loss of stability.

During the works, individual stones were refaced, re-laid or replaced as necessary. The bulging area of the wall was completely re-laid and any stone found to lack structural strength were replaced.  One issue faced was matching the replacement stones, as the wall was originally made with a range of different stone types of unknown origin, each differing in colour and modes of decay.

The stone that was chosen as the replacement material was selected for its strength and yellowish hue which matches much of the original stone being replaced.  For authenticity, traditional lime mortar was used for pointing and capping, while the stonemason replicated the varying stonework styles found on the wall.

In order to reduce the speed of further deterioration, monitoring and maintenance of the wall shall continue as part of our conservation program.