In June 1850 the first 75 convicts, their warders, Prisoner Guards and their families arrived in Fremantle. The sole prison accommodation available was the Roundhouse. It was too small, compelling Captain Henderson to hire and refurbish a warehouse. The warehouse was a temporary prison for the next five years until the Convict Establishment was built.
Fremantle Prison was built as a Convict Establishment by the British government in the 1850s. The original convict land grant was around 36 acres. The Prison was built from limestone quarried on the site.
The Main Cell Block provided accommodation for 1000 men mostly in single cells or large dormitories. The 15 foot high boundary wall enclosed the Main Cell Block, the kitchen, bakehouse, washhouse complex, the bathhouse, workshops, Hospital and the refractory cells. Accommodation was also built for the Comptroller General, the Clerk of Works, the Royal Engineers, warders and the prisoner guards. The complex was first occupied in May 1855.
In 1886 the British Government transferred control of Fremantle Prison and its supporting buildings to the colonial government of Western Australia. It became the main prison for the colony, and later the State.
Further building campaigns included the conversion of a service building to the Women's Prison (1888), two reservoirs (1870s and 1890s), the construction of New Division (1904-07), and various workshops throughout the 20th century.