Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008
The Old Gaol and Museum
Now fully restored, the Gaol is a complex of men’s cell blocks and some warders' quarters, built in 1852 for Imperial convicts shipped to WA as artisans and skilled labourers.
Women’s cells, the Great Hall and more warders' quarters were constructed of brick between 1872 and 1875. At this time the complex was also used as a colonial prison.
The Gaol was last used as a police lockup in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Extensive restoration from 1989 to 1996 returned the Gaol's condition to its original state. Cells, warders' quarters and the Great Hall contain displays pertinent to the times and usage of these stark quarters.
From Convict Hiring Depot
In Western Australia, unlike New South Wales and Tasmania, the convict system was based on the idea of rehabilitation. Convicts were transported from England over an 18 year period, between 1850 and 1868, and the Old Gaol began as a Convict Hiring Depot.
Most of the convicts had their ticket-of-leave and were hired to work by free settlers. They also manned the pilot boat and engaged in rebuilding York Street and Stirling Terrace, as well as transforming the track from Albany to Perth into a good road.
... to Civil Gaol
In 1873 the Convict Gaol was extended to perform as a public gaol and other buildings were converted to become the home of Albany's resident magistrates.
In the 1870s, Aboriginal prisoners were moved to the Albany Convict Gaol, due to many escapes from the town gaol in Lawley Park. These prisoners were held in a specially designed timber-lined cell and their carvings, which you can see today, are believed to be Australia’s oldest Aboriginal cell art.
In the late 1890s a lock up was built into the court house complex and the civil gaol came under the control of the Police Department in 1922, closing in 1940.
For the next 20 years the buildings were used for storage by the then Public Works Department until, in the early 1960s, the newly formed Albany Historical Society decided the Old Gaol would be an ideal place for their headquarters and, after much voluntary effort, a public museum.
There has only been one hanging at the Old Gaol - that of William McDonald, alias Peter McKean, who was executed for murder in 1872.
Albany Old Convict Gaol and Museum
Built in 1852 for Imperial convicts shipped to WA
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