Old Melbourne Gaol dominated the Melbourne skyline as a symbol of authority when it was built in the mid 1800s. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929 the gaol was the scene of 136 hangings including Australia's most infamous citizen, the bushranger Ned Kelly.
The Old Melbourne Gaol was the first extensive gaol complex in Victoria. The first Melbourne Gaol was built in Collins Street West in 1839-40, but was far too small. A second gaol was built in 1841-4, adjoining the then Supreme Court at the corner of Russell and La Trobe Streets, but this was entirely demolished early in the twentieth century when the Magistrate's Court complex was built.
What was officially a new wing, but really stage one of the third gaol, was built in 1852-4. It was of bluestone rather than sandstone, and had its own perimeter wall. This new design was based upon the designs of the British prison engineer Joshua Jebb, and more particularly upon the Pentonville Model Prison in London.
The building was a model prison and based on the current prison reform theories of the day. In spite of the amount of building and extension work performed on the Gaol, the complex was consistently overcrowded. It was extended in two stages in 1857-9, and the boundary wall was also extended in 1858-9.
The present north wing, comprising the entrance buildings, central hall and chapel was begun in 1860. In 1862-4 a western cell block, virtually a replica of the present east block, was built to house female prisoners, and the perimeter wall was finally completed in 1864. The west wing extended into what is now the RMIT site, and has since been demolished.
Other building work consisted of support buildings constructed around the gaol complex. For example, seventeen jailer's houses on Swanston St (1860), a hospital in one of the yards (1864) and a chief warders house on the corner of Franklin and Russell Sts.
In a review of the penal system in 1870 it was recommended that the gaol be closed and the prisoners be moved to a more 'suitable' location. Between 1880 and 1924 the gaol was slowly rundown and portions of the original site demolished. The gaol was finally closed in 1929. It reopened briefly during the Second World War as a military prison for Australian soldiers who were Absent Without Leave. Later it was a storage depot for the Victorian Police force.
In 1972, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) began management of the Old Melbourne Gaol as a tourist attraction. The National Trust is Australia's largest community conservation organisation: its aim to conserve Australia's heritage for future generations.
The Old Melbourne Gaol was the place where Ned Kelly, Australia’s most controversial character, was hanged in 1880.
The son of an Irish convict, young Kelly frequently brushed with the law, becoming a fugitive in 1878.
Relentless police pursuit culminated in a shootout at Glenrowan, in which he was captured and the rest of his gang were killed. Ned’s famous revolver is on display at the Gaol today.
Until he was hanged in 1880, the wounded Kelly spent his days in the Gaol while his mother was serving a sentence in the women’s wing.
Come face to face with Ned when you gaze upon his death mask at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
GHOSTS OF OLD MELBOURNE GAOL
* Some people have taken photos of and experienced some very dark things.
* Irish Male whispering