University of Tasmania
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Episodes in the history of the Hobart Gaol, c. 1910-1955

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posted on 2023-05-26, 23:03 authored by Graham, PJ
The old Hobart Gaol's history spans some one hundred and fifty years: from 1813 to 1963 when the last female inmates were transferred to the current Risdon Prison. During that time, its development as a gaol complex was haphazard and unplanned in the long term. The oldest part, portion of the House of Correction (H.C. Building) was originally erected not as a gaol, but as a Prisoners' Barracks or Penitentiary. The gaol proper, was in Murray Street opposite the Court House. The latter, \a miserable small ill-constructed brick building\" was used by prisoners awaiting trial across the road at the Supreme Court or for those awaiting execution. The gibbet was so placed that it protruded above the 10 ft. high wall which ran around the gaol. Between 1824 and 1839 there were 302 people executed here sometimes up to nine at a time. The gaol doubled as a Female Factory for female offenders up to 1827 when Thomas Lowe's Distillery at South Hobart was purchased and converted into a Female House of Correction. The Murray Street Gaol continued to be Hobart's Gaol until 1 January 1857 when the Campbell Street Penitentiary was proclaimed a Gaol and House of Correction. Additions and extensive alterations always needed to be made but these were done on an \"ad hoc\" basis. At Campbell Street a new barrack for the accommodation of male prisoners was needed and in 1821 Governor Lachlan Macquarie was able to report that a \"commodious\" building was nearing completion. This would house up to 300 male convicts. However this \"barrack\" was not intended as a gaol but as a holding station for male convicts arriving from England by ship and waiting for assignment. It was also used by the government to accommodate public works gangs and loan gangs who had to sleep there at night. Further alterations were needed five years later. In 1826 a committee consisting of the Colonial Architect the Superintendent of Public Works the Superintendent of the Barracks and the Principal Superintendent of Convicts reported that another barrack was needed \"at the further wing fronting the gate and extending in a line to the Superintendent's quarters.\" This would accommodate another 640 men primarily engaged in public works. Internal alterations were also needed. In 1827 the Principal Superintendent reported that a further twenty to twenty four cells and a lock up room for country convicted persons was needed. From these statistics it can be deduced that the Barracks were no longer being used simply as sleeping quarters for convicts. The need for more convict cells was all the more urgent as the Female Factory had still not opened to take female offenders from Murray Street. By 1841 approval had been given for the construction of 33 new cells. The numbers of men held in the Barracks and the House of Correction was nearly 1000. Further alterations in 1859 cost £1750. Having a gaol situated within the city boundaries was not unknown but where a city had been planned such as Hobart was questions concerning its placement and reasons for its construction need to be asked. There are several reasons: firstly the unpredictable but obvious development of Hobart from a prison colony to a flourishing free colony very soon placed the site of the Campbell Street Gaol in the middle of an expanding metropolis: Sprent's map of 1841 shows the Gaol no longer discretely at the village of Hobart Town but very much in the middle of town. Even by 1839 the town boundary had been pushed as far north as Burnett Street and the village of New Town further out had many \"tasteful\" residences of \"the wealthier merchants government officers and professional men.\" The bureaucracy could not have predicted nor even imagined the objections by the turn of the century that the Gaol had become \"an eyesore\" a constant reminder to the citizens of their convict past and with the frequent escapes of the inmates a danger to themselves. A second theme which runs in the background of this study of the Hobart Gaol is the nineteenth century view of penology: Reformers believed by the end of that century that gaols should be quite separate institutions to the Houses of Correction. The Penitentiary in Campbell Street had been set up after 1857 with the idea that time there should be thoroughly unpleasant with \"hard labour\" \"possibly on a treadmill.\" In addition to hard labour reformation of the individual through \"religious education and moral training\" was necessary. Selected prisoners could serve their sentence in these carefully controlled conditions and ideally be returned to society reformed individuals. By the end of the century the treadmill concept had been replaced by a trade: bootmaking carpentry blacksmithing. Borstal prisons were set up to take in adolescent offenders in the hope that by concentrating on their special needs psychological and physical they too could be rehabilitated and returned to society. On the other hand there were the criminals. The nineteenth century view of these can clearly be seen in the 1883 Report on Penal Discipline in Tasmania. Their treatment no matter what the term of their sentence in gaol included solitary confinement single cells and exclusion from human contact except at work and in exercise yard."


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Copyright 1993 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (MHum)--University of Tasmania, 1994. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 74-80)

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