HM Prison Pentridge

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HM Prison Pentridge
Pentridge Prison Front Gate 2020.jpg
LocationCoburg, Victoria, Australia
Coordinates37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917Coordinates: 37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917
StatusClosed, under redevelopment
Security classMaximum security
Former namePentridge Stockade[1][2][3]

Her Majesty's Prison Pentridge was an Australian prison that was first established in 1851 in Coburg, Victoria. The first prisoners arrived in 1851. The prison officially closed on 1 May 1997.[4]

Pentridge Prison E Division Courtyard in 2020

Pentridge was often referred to as the "Bluestone College", "Coburg College" or "College of Knowledge". The grounds were originally landscaped by landscape gardener Hugh Linaker.[5]

Looking South towards the City of Melbourne from Pentridge Boulevard in 2020

The site is currently split into two parts.

The northern part of the prison, referred to as the "Pentridge Coburg" or "Pentridge Piazza“ site, is bordered by Champ Street, Pentridge Boulevard, Murray Road and Stockade Avenue.[6] It is currently under development by the developer Shayher Group, who has owned the site since 2013. The southern part of the prison, referred to as the "Pentridge Village" site, is bordered by Pentridge Boulevard, Stockade Avenue, Wardens Walk and Urquhart Street.[7] It is partially owned by the developer Future Estate. D Division is owned privately by Pentridge Cellars Pty Ltd.


Pentridge Prison B Division Turret in 2020
Looking East along Pentridge Boulevard in 2020
HM Prison Pentridge Shot Tower in 2015
Industry Lane Coburg Spring in 2020

The prison was split into many divisions, named using letters of the alphabet.

  • A – Short and long-term prisoners of good behaviour but during the late 1980s till its closure it became a scene of many monthly bashings, stabbings and bludgeonings.
  • B – Long-term prisoners with behaviour problems
  • C – Vagabonds and short term prisoners, where Ned Kelly was imprisoned (Demolished early 1970s)[8]
  • D – Remand prisoners
  • E – The hospital, later turned into a dormitory division housing short term prisoners
  • F – Remand and short-term
  • G – Psychiatric problems
  • H – High security, discipline and protection
  • J – Young Offenders Group- Later for long-term with record of good behaviour
  • Jika Jika – maximum security risk and for protection, later renamed K Division


Pentridge Prison Panopticon Ruin in 2015

In 2014, archaeological work in the former prison grounds led to the discovery of three rare panopticons (named after Jeremy Bentham's prison design of 1791) located near the A and B Divisions that were built of bluestone in the 1850s. The first uncovered and excavated was to the north of A division. The circular design, with walls coming out from the centre, created wedge shaped 'airing yards' where prisoners would be permitted access for one hour per day without coming into contact with each other. The panopticons fell out of use, due to prison overcrowding, and were largely demolished in the early 1900s.[8] The panopticons were based on the design concepts of British philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham. The footings of the first panopticon that was excavated and uncovered is located to the north of A Division and remains relatively intact. The excavation and uncovering of the other two panopticons next to B Division only revealed the remains of its rubble footings.

Pentridge Prison A Division Front Garden in 2014

Jika Jika High Security Unit (K Division)[edit]

Jika Jika, opened in 1980 at a cost of 7 million Australian dollars, was a 'gaol within a gaol' maximum security section, designed to house Victoria's hardest and longest serving prisoners.[9] It was awarded the 'Excellence in Concrete Award' by the Concrete Institute of Australia before being closed, 8 years later, amidst controversy after the deaths of five prisoners in 1987.[10]

The design of Jika Jika was based on the idea of six separate units at the end of radiating spines. The unit comprised electronic doors, closed-circuit TV and remote locking, designed to keep staff costs to a minimum and security to a maximum. The furnishings were sparse and prisoners exercised in aviary-like escape proof yards.

In 1983 four prisoners escaped from 'escape proof' Jika Jika.[9] When two prison officers were disciplined in relation to the Jika Jika escape, a week-long strike occurred.

1987 Jika Jika Prison Fire[edit]

Inmates Robert Wright, Jimmy Loughnan, Arthur Gallagher, David McGauley and Ricky Morris from one side of the unit, and convicted Russell Street bomber Craig Minogue and three other inmates on the other side, sealed off their section doors with a tennis net. Mattresses and other bedding were then stacked against the doors and set on fire. Wright,[9]Loughnan, Gallagher, McGauley[9] and Morris died in the blaze, while Minogue and the three others were evacuated and survived.

Prison works[edit]

HM Prison Pentridge Guard Tower in 2014

In 1851, an ad-hoc group of structures built by prison labour using local materials existed. None of these structures survived, other than the boundaries of the prison that were established. The second phase of construction, undertaken in the late 1850s and early 1860s, was the construction of Inspector General William Champ's model prison complex, based on British and American precedents.

Murray Road Bridge over Merri Creek

In 1924, Pentridge replaced the Melbourne Gaol as the main remand and reception prison for the metropolitan area. In 1929, Melbourne Gaol was closed and its prisoners relocated to Pentridge. The Victorian Government confirmed its intention to close Pentridge and replace it with two new male prisons, each accommodating around 600 prisoners, in December 1993. In April 1995, the Office of Corrections ordered that the six main towers at Pentridge be closed, since most of the high security prisoners from the gaol had been relocated to Barwon as part of the downgrading of Pentridge to a medium security prison. The prison was finally closed in 1997 and sold by the State Government of Victoria.

Since the site was closed, almost all of the buildings identified as being of no significance in the 1996 Pentridge Conservation Management Plan (1996 CMP) prepared by Allom Lovell & Associates have been demolished with the approval of Heritage Victoria. The remaining heritage buildings and landmarks of significance, including A, B, D, E and H Divisions, B Annexe, Pentridge's iconic entrance, the Administration Building, the Warden's Quarters, the Rock-Breaking Yards, the Guard Towers/Posts (or Observation Posts) and the wall surrounding the site have been retained and will undergo restoration works to ensure their stability and preservation into the future.[11] The site as a whole is also classified as a place of state significance by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) (National Trust).[12] The National Trust has adopted the levels of significance identified in the 1996 CMP.

Future of the site[edit]

Pentridge Prison Quarter Masters Building in 2016
Pentridge Prison D Division Entrance in 2020
HM Prison Pentridge D Division in 2020

A number of the heritage buildings are protected in the Victorian Heritage Register and will be retained and integrated into a new community precinct a mix of housing types, retail, public open space and open piazza as set out in the Pentridge Coburg Design Guidelines and Masterplan of February 2014 (Pentridge Coburg Masterplan).

This document forms part of the Moreland Planning Scheme and was approved by The Hon. Matthew Guy, the Victorian Minister for Planning between December 2010 to December 2014.[13] A similar Masterplan exists for the Pentridge Village site (Pentridge Village Masterplan).[14] The National Trust has expressed strong concerns about the nature of these Masterplans, which involves building high-density high-rise between the historic divisions.

In 2016, Shayher Group revealed plans for a new "urban village" including up to 20 new buildings with community spaces and landscaped gardens as set out in the Pentridge Coburg Masterplan. Work has been undertaken to restore the roof of A Division, and seven guard towers. The H Division's rock breaking yards were demolished.[15][16]

Grave sites[edit]

Ned Kelly the day before his execution by hanging. His remains were buried at the former Pentridge Prison site.

The grave site of bushranger Ned Kelly formerly lay within the walls of Pentridge Prison while Ronald Ryan's remains have been returned to his family. Kelly was executed by hanging at the Melbourne Gaol in 1880 and his remains moved to Pentridge Prison in 1929, after his skeleton was disturbed on 12 April 1929 by workmen constructing the present Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) building. Peter Norden, former prison chaplain at Pentridge Prison, has campaigned for the site's restoration.

As of 2011, most of the bodies have been exhumed by archaeologists and have either been re-interred in the original cemetery near D Division, are awaiting identification at the Melbourne morgue or have been returned to their families.[17]

In 2011, Ned Kelly's remains were once again exhumed and returned to his surviving descendants for a proper family burial.[18] The identified remains of Kelly did not include most of his skull.[17] DNA testing also established another complete skull believed to be Kelly's was not in fact his.[17][19]


Name Date of execution Notes
David Bennett 26 September 1932 Convicted of the sexual assault of a four-year-old girl; the last man executed in Australia for a crime other than murder
Arnold Karl Sodeman 1 June 1936 Strangled four girls over six years
Edward Cornelius 22 June 1936 Convicted of the murder of Rev. H. Laceby Cecil in December 1935 at Collingwood
Thomas William Johnson 23 January 1939 Convicted of two murders in October 1938 at a boarding-house in Dunolly
George Green 17 April 1939 Convicted of the murders of a woman and her niece at their home in the Melbourne suburb of Glenroy in November 1938
Alfred Bye 22 December 1941 Hanged sitting on a chair after nervous breakdown
Edward Joseph Leonski 9 November 1942 American soldier executed on behalf of the United States Army after general court-martial. Convicted of three counts of premeditated murder.
Jean Lee 19 February 1951 Last woman executed in Australia
Norman Andrews Accomplices of Jean Lee
Robert David Clayton
Ronald Joseph Ryan 3 February 1967 Last man executed in Australia

Last execution[edit]

Ronald Ryan, the last man executed at Pentridge Prison, was also the last man to be executed in Australia.

He was hanged in "D" Division at 8:00am on 3 February 1967 after being convicted of shooting dead prison officer George Hodson during an escape from the prison. Later that day, Ryan's body was buried in an unmarked grave within the "D" Division prison facility.

Notable prisoners[edit]

Entrance Buildings Pentridge Gaol c.1861 State Library Victoria H36668
Pentridge Prison Front Gate in 2006


  • 1851: Her Majesty's Prison Pentridge established
  • 1924: The Melbourne Gaol was closed and its prisoners were relocated to Pentridge
  • 1951: The last woman to be executed in Australia, Jean Lee is hanged
  • 1967: The last person to be executed in Australia, Ronald Ryan, is executed at the prison. Between 1842 and 1967, 186 prisoners were executed in Victoria, including 10 at Pentridge Prison.[22]
  • 1987: Five prisoners die in a fire in the Jika Jika unit during riots over prison conditions. Craig Minogue and 3 other inmates survived the fire.
  • 1997: Pentridge Prison is closed by the Victorian government
  • 1999: The State Government of Victoria sells Pentridge to developers Luciano Crema and Harry Barbon in partnership with Peter and Leigh Chiavaroli
  • 2002: Pentridge is split into Pentridge Piazza (also referred to as Pentridge Coburg), controlled by Luciano Crema and Harry Barbon, and Pentridge Village, controlled by Peter and Leigh Chiavaroli
  • 2007: Luciano Crema and Harry Barbon sell the Pentridge Coburg site to developers Valad Property Group and Abadeen Group
  • 2009: The Pentridge Coburg Masterplan and Pentridge Village Masterplan are approved by the Victorian Planning Minister following a consultation period
  • 2013: The Valad Property Group sells the Pentridge Coburg site to developer Shayher Group
  • 2014: A revision to the Pentridge Coburg Masterplan is approved by the Victorian Planning Minister
  • 2015: Chiavaroli sells the Pentridge Village site to Future Estate. Shayher Group commences construction of the Horizon apartments at the north-east corner of the Pentridge Coburg site.
  • 2016: Developers Shayher Group rebrand the Pentridge Coburg site as "Pentridge" and host an Open Day, allowing the community to visit the site. Restoration works occur on the roof of A Division, the Guard Towers and the Rock-Breaking Yards. The Horizon apartments, the first residential development at the site, are completed.
  • 2019: Construction of the shopping centre, cinema and Victoria Tower and The Rook apartments begins
  • 2020: The redevelopment officially opens to the public[23]


  • 1851 Frank Gardiner – one of fifteen to escape that day
  • 1899 Pierre Douar – suicided after recapture
  • 1901 Mr Sparks – never heard of again
  • 1901 John O'Connor – caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1926 J.K. Monson – caught several weeks later in W.A.
  • 1939 George Thomas Howard – caught after two days
  • 1940 K.R. Jones – caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1951 Victor Franz – caught next day.
  • 1952 Kevin Joiner – shot dead escaping
  • 1952 Maxwell Skinner – pushed off prison wall, broke leg[24]
  • 1957 Willam O'Malley – caught after 15 minutes
  • 1957 John Henry Taylor – caught after 15 minutes
  • 1961 Maurice Watson & Gordon Hutchinson – both caught next day[25]
  • 1965 Ronald Ryan, Peter Walker – caught in Sydney 19 days later
  • 1972 Dennis Denehy, Gary Smedley, Alan Mansell & Henry Carlson[26]
  • 1973 Harold Peckman[27] – caught next day
  • 1974 Edward "Jockey" Smith[28]
  • 1974 Robert Hughes & George Carter[29]
  • 1976 John Charles Walker[30]
  • 1977 David Keys[31]
  • 1977 Robert Wright – escaped by hiding underneath rubbish in a garbage truck.[32]
  • 1977 James "Jimmy" Loughnan and three others – escaped by climbing a rope that had been thrown over the wall and broke both his ankles, Father Sean Patrick O'Connell found him lying in his garden that night and took him to Ferntree Gully Hospital where he was identified and arrested.[33]
  • 1977 Peter James Dawson and three others[34]
  • 1980 Gregory David Roberts (at the time known as Gregory Smith) – escaped in broad daylight with Trevor Jolly and subsequently went to India after a brief period in New Zealand.[35]
  • 1980 Trevor Jolly[35]
  • 1981 Peter Gibb – captured after a month on the run. Discovered to have been staying in St. Kilda with another escaped criminal.
  • 1982 Harry Richard Nylander[36]
  • 1983 Peter Kray Morgan, Trevor Charles Bradley & Ross Anthony Burleigh[37]
  • 1983 David McGauley & Timothy Neville – escaped by climbing over the wall during a swimming contest between J Division and A Division, captured after 18 days[38]
  • 1983 Robert Wright, David McGauley, Timothy Neville & David Youlton – escaped from Jika Jika[39]
  • 1987 Dennis Mark Quinn[40] Recaptured in New Zealand 19 days later.

Usage in media[edit]

  • The front gate showing the "HM Prison Pentridge" sign is featured on the cover of Australian band Airbourne's debut album Runnin' Wild.[41]
  • Episode 2, "Homecomings" of the 1976 ABCTV adaption of Frank Hardy's novel Power Without Glory features John West picking his brother Frank West up from Pentridge Prison after serving 12 years for rape.
  • The 1988 John Hillcoat and Evan English film Ghosts… of the Civil Dead was largely based on events which occurred in Pentridge Prison's infamous Jika Jika Maximum Security prison during the lead up to the 1987 fire.
  • The 1994 Australian film Everynight ... Everynight details prison life inside Pentridge's H Division.[42]
  • The 2000 Andrew Dominik film Chopper was partially filmed in H Division.
  • In the 1997 Australian film The Castle, Wayne was a prisoner of HM Prison Pentridge.
  • Rupert Mann's 2017 photo essay, published by Scribe, Pentridge: Voices From The Other Side, contains interviews with, and portraits of, fifteen former inmates and staff who returned to the now forgotten prison to tell its true and brutal story.
  • Pentridge Prison is referenced by name only as the alternative men's prison in Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H
  • Episodes 578 and 579 of Australian soap opera The Sullivans feature the prison.


  1. ^ "Pentridge Stockade". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 3133. Victoria, Australia. 25 June 1856. p. 4. Retrieved 29 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "The Convict Hulks". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 3152. Victoria, Australia. 17 July 1856. p. 6. Retrieved 29 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "The Old Convict Hulks". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 12, 086. Victoria, Australia. 18 March 1885. p. 6. Retrieved 29 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ Egger, Simone & McClymont, David (2004). Melbourne. Lonely Planet. p. 69. ISBN 1-74059-766-4.
  5. ^ "Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital Precinct (listing RNE100229)". Australia Heritage Places Inventory. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  6. ^ Identified as "Precinct 9" in Moreland Planning Scheme, clause 1.0 and 5.9 of clause 37.08, Schedule 1 to the Activity Centre Zone.
  7. ^ Identified as "Precinct 10" in Moreland Planning Scheme, clause 1.0 and 5.10 of clause 37.08, Schedule 1 to the Activity Centre Zone.
  8. ^ a b Webb, Carolyn (10 May 2014). "Archaeologists dig major new find at Pentridge Prison". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Sawtell, Lydia (24 April 2012). "True Crime Scene details the escapes from Pentridge Prison in its 140-year history". Herald Sun. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  10. ^ O'Toole, Sean (2006). The History of Australian Corrections. UNSW Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-86840-915-4.
  11. ^ "Former Pentridge Prison, Conservation Management Plan" (PDF). Bryce Rawroth Pty Ltd. April 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 June 2016.
  12. ^ File number: B1303. See "HM Prison Pentridge". Victorian Heritage Database. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  13. ^ "Pentridge Coburg Design Guidelines and Masterplan" (PDF). Moreland City Council. February 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2016. See also, Moreland Planning Scheme, clause 12 of clause 37.08, Schedule 1 to the Activity Centre Zone.
  14. ^ "Pentridge Village Pty Ltd Design Guidelines and Masterplan" (PDF). National Trust of Australia. August 2009.
  15. ^ Webb, Carolyn (26 May 2014). "Developer Shayher Group wants to knock down Pentridge's H Division". The Age.
  16. ^ See generally "Home". Pentridge Coburg.
  17. ^ a b c Smith, Jeremy (2011). "Losing the Plot: Archaeological Investigations of Prisoner Burials at the Old Melbourne Gaol and Pentridge Prison". Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria (10). ISSN 1832-2522. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Ned Kelly farewelled by family". Australian Geographic. Bauer Media Group. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Scientists at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine have identified the body of Ned Kelly". Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  20. ^ a b Dunn, Mark (24 January 2013). "Coroners inquiry examined who was at fault in the 1987 fatal fire in the Jika Jika section of Pentridge Prison". Herald Sun. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Warders Witness Daring Escape From Pentridge". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 19 November 1951. p. 1 – via Trove.
    "Search For Gaol Escapee". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 20 November 1951. p. 4 – via Trove.
    "Gaol Escapee Says He Has Reformed". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 23 November 1951. p. 4 – via Trove.
    "Gaol Escapee Recaptured". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 19 December 1951. p. 1 – via Trove.
    "Gaol Escapee Well Guarded". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 20 December 1951. p. 4 – via Trove.
    "Convict Murderer Killed In Escape Bid; Companion Hurt". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 15 April 1952. p. 1 – via Trove.
    "Prison Staff Commended; Escape Foiled". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 16 April 1952. p. 4 – via Trove.
  22. ^ Robinson, Russel (4 June 2012). "Macabre and detailed hangman's journal reproduced in detail for True Crime Scene". Herald Sun. Retrieved 10 March 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ "Our Story". Pentridge Coburg. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Man shot dead in bid to flee gaol". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 April 1952.
  25. ^ "Police Surround House and Capture Escapees". The Age. Melbourne. 17 January 1961.
  26. ^ "'We'll consider goal probe': Search for 4 who escaped". The Age. Melbourne. 10 May 1972.
  27. ^ Dunn, Alan (2 February 1973). "Axe murderer escapes from Pentridge gaol". The Age. Melbourne.
  28. ^ "'Jockey' is back facing court again". The Age. Melbourne. 3 December 1989.
  29. ^ "Mattress pile clue to gaol escape". The Age. Melbourne. 5 October 1974.
  30. ^ "Tighten up order after Pentridge escape". The Age. Melbourne. 28 April 1976.
  31. ^ "Prisoner escapes over wall". The Age. Melbourne. 17 October 1977. p. 4.
  32. ^ "Out of jail under the rubbish and off". The Age. 26 January 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 9 January 2022 – via
  33. ^ "Prison pair left perching". The Age. 16 December 1978. p. 3. Retrieved 9 January 2022 – via
  34. ^ "Prisoner used jail gear for escape". The Age. Melbourne. 20 January 1978. p. 5.
  35. ^ a b Marshall, Ian (24 July 1980). "No news is dull viewing". The Age. Melbourne. p. 2.
  36. ^ Gray, Tony & Eccleston, Roy (21 July 1982). "Prison had two warnings of escape: Toner". The Age. Melbourne. p. 3.
  37. ^ "Remanded". The Age. 22 April 1983. p. 4. Retrieved 9 January 2022 – via
  38. ^ "Prisoners look on as two climb over the wall". The Age. 4 January 1983. p. 3. Retrieved 9 January 2022 – via
  39. ^ "How the four got out". The Age. 1 August 1983. p. 3. Retrieved 9 January 2022 – via
  40. ^ Athersmith, Fiona (30 March 1988). "Robber gets 12 more months for escape from Pentridge". The Age. Melbourne. p. 18.
  41. ^ "Home". Airbourne Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  42. ^ "Everynight... Everynight". National Film and Sound Archive. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2008.

External links[edit]