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Richmond Gaol

Introduction

The gaol entrance as it appears today

Richmond Gaol is the oldest, still intact, gaol in Australia. It predates the penal colony at Port Arthur by five years. A cornerstone of the convict system devised by Governor Arthur, the gaol was erected by convicts in 1825-27 in several stages. The 1835 wing built to accommodate women prisoners are the best preserved female convict structures still existing in Tasmania.

Specific regulations drafted for the Richmond Gaol in the 1830s aimed to maintain a constant vigil on the prisoners. Floggings - usually carried out by convicts or ex-convicts themselves - were frequent. The colonial hangman, Solomon Bleay, was also imprisoned at Richmond Gaol, being escorted to and from Hobart and Launceston (the only places of execution), when necessary, to carry out his duties.

Many of the gaol’s prisoners remained unbowed by the system imposed upon them and escapes were frequent throughout its history. Convicts resorted to all manner of means to break out, including removing roof shingles, digging under the foundations and removing lintels over windows.

In 1945 the gaol was ceded to the State Government as a State Reserve under the Scenery Preservation Board and subsequently gazetted as an Historic Site under the National Parks and Wildlife Act in 1970.

The gaol, now a museum, is open daily from 9am to 5 pm. Phone (03) 6260 2127 for details.