Maitland Gaol

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Maitland Gaol
Maitland Gaol Governors House.JPG
The former Maitland Goal and Governor's House
Former Maitland Goal is located in New South Wales
Former Maitland Goal
Former Maitland Goal
Location in New South Wales
Location John Street, East Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates 32°44′42″S 151°35′23″E / 32.74500°S 151.58972°E / -32.74500; 151.58972Coordinates: 32°44′42″S 151°35′23″E / 32.74500°S 151.58972°E / -32.74500; 151.58972
Status Closed (Museum)
Security class Maximum security
Capacity 174, but has reached 400+
Opened 1848
Closed 31 January 1998 (1998-01-31)
Building details
General information
Construction started 1826
Completed 1875
Technical details
Material Stone
Design and construction
Architecture firm Colonial Architect of New South Wales
Main contractor H. Brodie and A. Craig
Official name Maitland Correctional Centre
Type Built
Criteria a., c., e.
Designated 2 April 1999
Reference no. 01296

The Maitland Gaol, also known as Maitland Correctional Centre, is a former Australian prison located in East Maitland, New South Wales. Its construction was started in 1844 and prisoners first entered the gaol in 1848. By the time of its closure, on 31 January 1998, it had become the longest continually run gaol in Australia. It has since been turned into a museum and is a popular tourist attraction.


The gaol is in East Maitland, and this location was first used as a gaol in 1843; in the same year two prisoners were hanged there for the murder of a child. Permanent buildings were not begun until 1846 (though a foundation stone was laid in 1844), and the official opening was in December 1848.[1]

Flogging was in place whilst the gaol was being built. Executions were open to the public until 1861, and crowds were common.[1] Hangings took place at the main gates and the back corner of the gaol. Sixteen men were executed at Maitland Gaol between 1849 and 1897 – all for rape or murder. There is still debate as to where some of these executions took place throughout the gaol. The last man executed at Maitland was Charles Hines in May 1897 for raping his stepdaughter; however, he claimed he was innocent until he took his last breath. In New South Wales, the last corporal punishment occurred at the Maitland Gaol – a whipping, in 1905.[1]

In 1975 inmates rioted, setting fire to the maintenance block. They used a swag of homemade weapons to attack the prison wardens, protesting about the prison system and the gaol's conditions. The infamous Darcy Dugan was blamed for inciting the riot, while 78 of the rioting inmates were transferred to other prisons. Damage resulting from the riot was estimated at A$100,000.[1]

In 1977, Raymond Denning and six others escaped through an exhaust vent in the shower block. They were all back inside in two hours after a massive police sweep on the area.

A 5.5-metre (18 ft) long tunnel was discovered in Cell 7 in C Wing in 1980. The man who informed the warden of the tunnel had his throat cut so viciously his head swung back on his shoulders. His body was hidden with a sheet of plastic painted the same colour as the floor. The tunnel was filled in with two truckloads of concrete. There were many other escape attempts but most failed; of 32 attempted escapees, 31 were recaptured.[citation needed]

In 1978, a 23-year-old inmate protested for 16 hours by sitting on top of the gaol's administration building. At one stage he disappeared over the roof returning with food. Armed with a softwood stake, he waved to television and Maitland Mercury newspaper journalists.

In 1993, a block of modern prison cells were built above the kitchens designed to house only the prisoners who worked in the kitchens. These cells were designed to house, usually, only one inmate at a time. Only trusted inmates that showed good behaviour and had cooking skills worked in the kitchens.

Also built in 1993, 5-wing was a high-security cell block designed to house inmates who had committed heinous crimes or crimes against other inmates. 5-wing inmates had no contact with anyone at all. These inmates had their own exercise yards, which contained a shower. They were allowed in there for only an hour per day. This was the last cell block to be built before the gaol's closure in 1998. In this cell block was also a clinic designed to treat inmates who had swallowed razor blades or drugs.[citation needed]

In 1997, George Savvas and Ivan Milat had planned an escape from the gaol but were stopped by correctional officers. The day after the escape was planned for, Savvas was found dead in his cell after hanging himself. He and Milat were housed in the five-wing cell block.

Heritage listing[edit]

On 2 April 1999 the Maitland Correctional Centre was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register with the following statement of significance:[2]

Maitland Gaol is of considerable significance because it is the oldest substantially intact country gaol in NSW. It is Australia's oldest structure in continuous use as a gaol. It is the only surviving example of the group of "Inspectors' Gaols" designed by the Colonial Architect in NSW and built during the 1840s. Together with the courthouse, it provides an elevated focal point at the north-west end of William Street, the grand axis of the 1829 town plan. In addition, Maitland Gaol was built of local stone and has a substantially homogenous character of a 19th century stone precinct. It is a showcase of stone, iron and timber work from the 1840s to the 1890s, much of it executed by local and prison artisans.

— Statement of significance, New South Wales State Heritage Register.

Notable prisoners[edit]


Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the historic prison or can take guided theme tours.

Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles[edit]

The "Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles" is located in the Maitland Gaol and features clothing and accessories, textiles and related items.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Walsh, Brian; Archer, Cameron (2007). Maitland on the Hunter (2nd ed.). Tocal, NSW: CB Alexander Foundation. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-7313-0596-5. 
  2. ^ "Maitland Correctional Centre". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  3. ^ Soldatow, Sasha. "Hooton, Henry Arthur (1908–1961)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Allan Baker and Kevin Crump
  5. ^


 This article incorporates text by New South Wales State Heritage Register available under the CC BY 3.0 AU licence.

External links[edit]