Albany Convict Gaol, cnr of Stirling Terrace and Parade Street

Gaol4

Albany Convict Gaol has seen many uses in its lifetime. It was first built 1852 as a Convict hiring Depot. Convicts that were transported here from England over an 18 year period were housed here with the idea of rehabilitation.

In 1872 the gaol was extended and was converted to a public Gaol.

In 1922 the public gaol came under the Police jurisdiction and was finally closed in 1940.

For the next 20 years it was used as storage for the Public Works Department before the Albany Historical Society took it over in the early 1960’s for its base.

The Gaol has been fully restored and offers guided tours both day and night.

Phone: (08) 9841 6174

Facilities: Self-guided tour; partial wheelchair access to most areas; group tours available by prior arrangement. Night tours also available, - phone John 0407 387 484 or Joy 9841 3180

Open: 10am to 4pm daily; closed Christmas Day and Good Friday and until 1pm on Anzac Day.

Cost:
Adult $5.00, concession $2.50
Child $2.50
Family $12.00
Children under 6 years free
School groups, price by negotiation (includes educational package)

Building began on Albany’s old convict gaol in 1852 by British convicts who had been transported to Western Australia with a ticket-of-leave (a parole document issued to those who had shown they could be trusted with some freedoms).

The building opened in 1854 and was the third gaol built in Albany. It originally consisted of 12 men’s prison cells and a three-roomed cottage made from bricks made of clay extracted rom the town pit in lower Parade Street - the oldest street in Western Australia. The granite used to build the cell walls was quarried from nearby Mt Melville. As well as being hired as workers for Albany’s early free settlers, prisoners manned the pilot boat in King George Sound and were engaged in building York Street and Stirling Terrace, as well as turning the track from Albany to Perth into a usable road.

Additions were made to the gaol complex between 1872 and 1875 when the great hall, women’s cells and more warders' quarters were added. In May 1873, at a cost of 1,230 pounds the gaol was extended and became a public prison, whilst other buildings on the site were converted to become the home of Albany's resident magistrates. Also during the 1870s, Aboriginal prisoners were moved to the gaol, mainly due to the increasing number of escapes from the town prison in nearby Lawley Park.

These early Indigenous prisoners were held in a timber-lined cell, which have been adorned with the engravings of a kangaroo, a snake and a lizard. These images are believed to be the oldest Aboriginal cell art in Australia. Foreign seamen were also held in this cell and cut images of sailing ships into the walls. Notches have also been carved into the timber - a record of the number of days an unknown prisoner had left to serve. In September 1886 a railway track was cut through the block and separated the residency from the gaol.

The only hanging at the gaol was of Peter McKean, alias William McDonald, who was executed for murder on October 12, 1872. On March 26, 1892, the gaol sheltered the notorious mass murderer Frederick Bailey Deeming who spent a restless night in cell 15 whilst awaiting transportation to the Supreme Court in Melbourne. Deeming was wanted for killing his first wife and four children in England as well as his second spouse in Melbourne. During his brief stay at the gaol, Deeming shaved off his ginger handlebar moustache with a broken bottle he’d found in the yard, as he knew an eyewitness had used his distinctive facial hair to identify him. When confronted by his police escort on the morning of March 27, Deeming denied ever having a moustache.

In the late 1890s a lock-up was built into the prison’s courthouse complex and in 1922, until the late 30s, the civil gaol was under the control of the WA Police Department. In 1940 a decision was made to demolish the buildings, but because no tenders were received, the gaol remained intact. Later the Public Works Department used the buildings as a store and repair shop but vacated it in 1959. In 1968 the complex was handed over to the Albany Historical Society and in 1973, the National Trust of Australia classified the gaol as a heritage building.

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