Darlinghurst Gaol

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Darlinghurst Gaol
Darlinghurst gaol new south wales.jpg
An aerial view of Darlinghurst Gaol, 1930
Location Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Closed 1914

Darlinghurst Gaol was an Australian prison located in Darlinghurst, New South Wales. The site is bordered by Victoria, Burton and Forbes streets, with entrances on Forbes and Burton Streets.


The imposing entrance to the gaol
Grounds of the former gaol in 2011

Construction on Darlinghurst Gaol wall began in 1822 and finished in 1824 using convict labour, but due to a lack of funds, the site sat empty for 12 years. Construction of the rest of the complex did not begin until 1836, with completion of some of the cell blocks in 1840. The gaol was ready for occupation a year later, with the first prisoners occupying the gaol on 7 June 1841.

The gaol was finally completed in 1885. The main material used for construction of the gaol is Sydney sandstone, cut into large blocks by convicts. Convict markings on the blocks are visible along the upper half of the wall on Darlinghurst Road. A tall circular chapel stands in the middle of the site, around which are sited the six rectangular cellblocks in a radial fashion.

Australian poet Henry Lawson spent time incarcerated here during some of the turbulent years of his life and described the gaol as Starvinghurst Gaol due to meagre rations given to the inmates. The site is now open to the public as The National Art School. The last hanging at the gaol was in 1907.[1]

Hangings were open to public viewing throughout several decades. People would gather at the front gate of the gaol in Forbes Street, and the condemned would be brought out on a platform built above the gaol gate. The public executioner Alexander Green lived for a time in a hut outside the eastern wall of the gaol, would then leave his house to the jeers and catcalls of the gathering crowd, enter the prison and do his job. Seventy-six people were hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol, but most of them met their demise on the scaffold inside the gaol in a corner of E-wing. Among those who met their demise at the end of a rope were bushranger Andrew George Scott, better known as Captain Moonlite, in 1880, and the last woman to be hanged in NSW, Louisa Collins, in 1889.

Modern-day use[edit]

The site was transferred in 1921 to the New South Wales Department of Education, who adapted the building for use as the East Sydney Technical College. The National Art School was established in 1995 and is now the sole occupant of the site. The Darlinghurst Road side of the Gaol, (commonly known as "the wall") was for many years a popular place for male prostitutes to offer their services.

Notable prisoners[edit]

Watercolour of the Gaol by inmate Henry Louis Bertrand, 1891

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NSW Police Website
  2. ^ R. v. Collins, Moreton Bay Courier (NSWSupC 8 December 1888).
  3. ^ "John Vane, Bushranger". 20 March 1909. p. 13. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Deborah Beck, Hope in Hell: a history of Darlinghurst Gaol and the National Art School, Allen and Unwin, 2005
  • Kerr, James Semple, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, S.H. Ervin Gallery, National Trust of Australia (NSW), Sydney, 1988

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52′47″S 151°13′07″E / 33.87972°S 151.21861°E / -33.87972; 151.21861