Old Dubbo Gaol

Definitely one of the two places you must visit in Dubbo is the Old Dubbo Gaol.  Here is an account of our visit to the Gaol…

Old Dubbo Gaol

Now almost surrounded by modern building the Old Dubbo Gaol is yet another insight into the early world of Australian crime and punishment.

The Dubbo Gaol was erected on the site of the original courthouse. Officially opened in 1887 and closed as a gaol in 1966, it was reopened as a tourist attraction in 1974. Built much later than the first gaols in Australia this was not an original convict residence. It is also not very large. Of course the population has increased but the size of the modern prisons here are so much larger it does make me wonder. Are there proportionally fewer or more prisoners now than back in the 1800s? Does anyone have that information to hand? Can someone  tell me?

Situated just behind the main shopping street in Dubbo the Old Gaol is easily missed if you are not looking for it.
Off the main street down a side path
Old Dubbo Gaol Main Gate

One thing is for sure the punishment back then could be far more severe. The gallows standing in the centre of the grounds are a clear indication of that.

A timely reminder of how punishment has definitely gone softer
Exercise Yard

Cells, Stocks and The Hangman’s Noose

As always in these places the cells look forbidding and scary places. Especially those cells reserved for a bit of extra punishment, where all the light is cut off.

All smiles from a tourist kid but these were grim places
Uninviting conditions in these old cells
Scary characters lurk in some of the cells.

The last person to be hanged in New South Wales was in 1939 – surprisingly decades before the last hanging  in the UK. Before that however it is thought that over one thousand prisoners had been hanged in NSW. Only eight of those were executed at Old Dubbo Gaol.

The gallows in the prison court yard are a forbidding sight. As if that is not scary enough, inside one of the rooms is an example of the Hangman’s Noose.

The hangman’s gallows at Old Dubbo Gaol
It’s one thing being a tourist, quite another having to stay in these things for a long period…
A Hangman’s Noose

Protecting the Guards…

When the prison guards went out on their rounds they would use a special key to turn  clockwork devices known as  the ‘Watchman’s Tell Tale’. The spring inside would be wound up every hour. If this was not repeated the spring would unwind and set off an alarm bell. The alarm would alert the chief prison warder that either the guard had come to harm or was not doing his duty.

The Watchman’s Tell Tale

Some interesting facts…

  • Amazingly the place was set for demolition in 1974 but was saved by the actions of a handful of concerned citizens. Good for them I say.
  • Of the eight men hanged in the Gaol, two were Aboriginal, two were Chinese and one was Danish.
  • The gaol housed women as well as men although there were only a few female cells.

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