The first settlers to arrive in Adelaide in 1836 had no plans for a “gaol” ( middle-English meaning “jail”) because they apparently felt their new colony would have no crime. Time would prove them wrong. The first prisoners at the time were held in chains aboard the HMS Buffalo and Tam O’Shanter. When these ships had to sail back to England, the prisoners were transferred to a temporary “gaol” that was set up in a military encampment in the Botanical Gardens, where they were chained to trees. Two years later, another temporary, wooden, jail was built next to Government House. At this time, prisoners with long-term sentences were sent back east to the penal colonies in Melbourne and Brisbane. By 1840, plans were developed for the construction of a more permanent “gaol” to house up to 140 prisoners. The first fourteen of them to be incarcerated here were housed in what became known as yard number one while construction continued on the rest of the jail (which was completed in 1841). The first recorded “successful” escape from the gaol happened in 1897 (the three prisoners were later recaptured). Adelaide Gaol was built on a radial plan (i.e. all the cell block yards were accessed from a central point), which was called the “Circle” because wagons delivering supplies to the jail had to swing around this central point in order to leave once again. As the “gaol” evolved, Yards number One and Two were devoted to female prisoners; Yard Three housed the Debtors Prison and the Induction Center (for the processing of new prisoners); Yard Four housed male prisoners ( with the last three cells on the right reserved for the condemned); Yard Six replaced Yard Five in Oder to create a larger dining area. Between 1861 and 1883, thirteen executions by hanging took place on portable gallows set up between the inner and outer walls. In 1894, a permanent “Hanging Tower” had been constructed in which an additional twenty-one executions took place before Capital Punishment was abolished in 1976. Elizabeth Woolcock was the only woman executed in the jail in 1873. The Adelaide Gaol was decommissioned in 1988 and made into a museum. Archeological excavations since then have revealed evidence of hunting and fishing encampments having existed on this site by local indigenous peoples for decades prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
For nearly 150 years, the Adelaide Gaol (jail) housed prisoners.
Each day, the prisoners’ routine would be controlled by the ringing of this bell.
Prior to 1954, prisoners and family members had to line up on opposite sides of these sally port gates for visits. Seen behind the gates is the new visitor center...
...which allowed for more private and intimate time together.
Next to the Central Point Visitors Center is the Medical Officer’s Quarters...
...where prisoners were treated for all kinds of illnesses and injuries...
Each of the cell block yards off of the Central Point has their own purpose...
...for instance, Yards One and Two we’re devoted to women prisoners...
...while Yard Three has the Induction Center for processing new prisoners.
Before the “Hanging Tower” was built in 1894, executions took place on portable gallows between these walls...
Elizabeth Woolcock was the only woman ever executed in the Adelaide Gaol on December 30, 1873. She was buried in this spot between the walls.
Part of the archeological excavations that revealed the existence of indigenous people’s encampments prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.