The Old Dubbo Gaol began as a courthouse lock up in 1847. With the selection of the location for a new town along the Macquarie River it was one of the first government buildings along with the constable’s residence and the post office. The lock up, which was a slab hut of one main room and two cells, frequently leaked when it rained and was not the most secure area as it was not enclosed by walls.
Crimes brought about by greed, hunger and poverty saw many individuals locked away in the small confines of the lock-up and in 1859 Dubbo lock up was proclaimed a gaol. In 1871 a new gaol was built complete with 4 cells and a bedroom for the gaoler. This new police gaol, along with Dubbo being proclaimed a circuit court in 1874, saw more serious criminals locked away, including those who had committed such crimes as assault, murder, infanticide and sexual assault. The Dubbo Gaol was provided a gallows for those crimes deemed to warrant the death penalty. The first hanging occurred in 1877. Seven executions would follow including the notorious Jacky Underwood, who was involved in the Breelong Massacres later fictionalised in the novel “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” by Thomas Keneally.
The Gaol was upgraded to a Minor Gaol in 1887. The male cell division was expanded to encompass 13 regular cells and large padded cell for psychiatric prisoners was installed along with two dark cells for the punishment of prisoners. A fully independent female division was erected with separate exercise yard and bathroom facilities. Remand yards nicknamed “the birdcage” were built and an infirmary block with kitchen and food store was installed. The Gaol was then enclosed behind 12 foot high brick walls and an imposing gate entrance from the main street into the Dubbo Gaol.
The Gaol was closed on the 31st of August 1966. The 20 remaining prisoners were transported to Gaols around the area and with a lane way, the prison warders were transferred. Many of the fittings and objects were either removed from the site or buried. The Gaol was re-opened in 1974 as a tourist attraction through the persistent efforts of the Historical Society and Restoration Committee, re-claiming many original artefacts and performing archaeological digs. In 1997 responsibility for the Gaol was vested in Dubbo City Council's Community Services Division.
90 Macquarie Street, Dubbo NSW 2830
Phone: (02) 6801 4460
Fax: (02) 6801 4469
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