The first gaol in Parramatta was built “on the north bank of the river near the south boundary of the present Prince Alfred Park” and was constructed of timber and thatch. This Gaol was built in 1796 and was a 100 ft long log walled structure enclosed within a high paling fence. In 1799 it was damaged in a fire and building work was not completed until early 1804. Several convicts were badly burned and at least one died later of his injuries.

The Second Gaol, existed from c1802 until c1841. The work on this gaol was begun in August of 1802. The Reverend Samuel Marsden was responsible for it as he superintended the public works of Parramatta. The second gaol was a rough shod construction built from locally quarried sandstone and was structurally and functionally inadequate. Unfortunately, this gaol deteriorated rapidly and required frequent repair and reconstruction. It is suspected that the convict workmen did their best to erect a place of confinement that would not survive for long. A linen and woolen manufactory was added to the gaol. George Mealmaker, a weaver from Dundee transported was appointed to oversee operations for the work of both male and female convicts. The gaol was finally completed in 1804. This gaol was badly damaged by fire on the 21st December, 1807 and eventually after many years of falling walls and proping up of the structure, in 1835 planning began for the construction of a new gaol.

The old Parramatta gaol continued to be used for some years as a place for Felons and prisoners awaiting trial. The old Gaol site was used as a dumping ground until 1874 when it was gazetted as Alfred Square (Prince Alfred Park). No traces of its buildings or structures remain.

Parramatta’s Third Gaol, was built at North Parramatta. Plans were drawn up for a new gaol in 1835 and in 1836 work commenced on a 250 feet square perimeter wall at its present location on the corner of Clifford and Dunlop Sts a short distance from the Female Factory. The gaol was built by the builders James Houison and Nathaniel Payten, during the time of Governor Bourke and Governor Gipps. Governor Bourke appointed surveyor, Mortimer William Lewis to be colonial architect and instructed him to prepare plans for the gaol. Nathaniel Payten’s tender for the erection of the Perimenter Wall was accepted in November 1835 and it was built during 1836. Building progressed through 1836 to 1842 and resulted in a perimeter wall, governor’s house cum chapel and three of the intended five wings. The Gaol was proclaimed by Governor Gipps to be a “Public Gaol, Prison and House of Correction” on 3rd January, 1842 and it was published in the Government Gazette of the 7th January, 1842 and the prisoners were transferred to the site on 15 January 1842. Parramatta Gaol was the oldest gaol complex in Australia and functioned from 1842 until 2012, and is the most intact of the early gaols of Australia.

The gaol was built by the builders James Houison and Nathaniel Payten, during the time of Governor Bourke and Governor Gipps. Governor Bourke appointed surveyor, Mortimer William Lewis to be colonial architect and instructed him to prepare plans for the gaol. Nathaniel Payten’s tender for the erection of the Perimenter Wall was accepted in November 1835 and it was built during 1836 and 1837. The Gaol itself was built a bit at a time over many years. The length of time that it took to build the gaol caused many problems, leaking rooves, unplastered walls, inadequate cesspools, were just some of the problems still being faced in the 1850’s.
Parramatta Gaol was proclaimed by Governor Gipps to be a “Public Gaol, Prison and House of Correction” on 3rd January, 1842 and it was published in the Government Gazette of the 7th January, 1842. The gaol was still not finished at this date, but the old gaol was in such bad condition that it was necessary to transfer the convicts to the new gaol and this was done on the 15th January, 1942. The prisoners were escorted by the military to their new accomodations.
Between 1928 and 1939 it was considered to be New South Wales principal manufacturing gaol. And in the war years, the 1940’s Parramatta Gaol was utilised as a factory to make war supplies, such as camoflage nets and for the reconditioning of military equipment and clothing for both military and civilian use. In the 1970’s a Linen Service was run from the Gaol. The roof and interior of the 1860’s workshop range was gutted by fire in 1975.

Parramatta Gaol: 20th Century

Parramatta gaol was designed to house habitual criminals and recidivists with long sentences who could be trained for productive work. By 1929, it had become the State’s principal manufacturing gaol, producing boots, brushes, tinware, clothes, joinery and foodstuffs. It also became a centre for rehabilitation, and the single cells were once more converted to multiple cells. It was closed from 1918 to 1922 and briefly used as a mental health facility.
Various unsympathetic architectural additions were made to the nineteenth century structure in the 1940s. In the 1970s, the Parramatta Linen Service, a large auditorium, and an extension to the 1846 gatehouse were built. In the 1990s, reception, administration and visitors’ buildings were designed to better match the original sandstone structure. The prison was briefly dis-established in July 1997.
In 2008, the Parramatta Correctional Centre is classified as a medium-security, short-term Remand Centre, Transient Centre and Metropolitan Periodic Detention Centre. It houses both un-sentenced and sentenced male inmates, including Drug Court sanctions and male periodic detainees. In 2012 Parramatta Correctional centre was closed.

Parramatta Gaol Timeline

Pew – 1788: The Burramattagal people inhabit the area
1788: Governor Phillip names the district Rose Hill due to its proximity to thriver and lush landscape
1796: First gaol in Parramatta was built “on the north bank of the river near the south boundary of the present Prince Alfred Park” and was constructed of timber and thatch
1799: Parramatta Gaol was damaged in a fire. Several convicts were badly burned and at least one died later of his injuries
1804: Parramatta Gaol building work was completed early 1804 at the cost of £1500
1807: Gaol was badly damaged by fire on the 21st December, 1807
1835: Planning began for the construction of a new gaol
1836: Work commenced on a 250 feet square perimeter wall at its present location on the corner of Clifford and Dunlop Sts a short distance from the Female Factory.
1836 – 1842: Building progressed through and resulted in a perimeter wall, governor’s house cum chapel and three of the intended five wings costing £34,168
1842: Prisoners were transferred to the site on 15 January 1842
Late 1850s: With better economic times, the gaol area was doubled, workshops and a cookhouse were built, two of the original cell wings were converted to male and female hospital wings
1883 – 1889: Three additional cell wings were built, largely by prison labor. One of these wings was reserved for prisoners certified insane
1897: Parramatta was the second largest gaol in the colony, with 364 men and eight women inmates
1899: all double cells were converted to single cells, electricity was installed, the prisoners’ circumambulatory walks were replaced by physical drill, and a sixth wing was completed
1929: Parramatta Gaol had become the State’s principal manufacturing gaol, producing boots, brushes, tinware, clothes, joinery and foodstuffs
1940: Various unsympathetic architectural additions were made to the nineteenth century structure
1970: Parramatta Linen Service, a large auditorium, and an extension to the 1846 gatehouse were built
1990: Reception, administration and visitors’ buildings were designed to better match the original sandstone structure
2008: The Parramatta Correctional Centre
2012: Parramatta Gaol Closed

References

Terry Kass et al, Parramatta, A Past Revealed, Parramatta City Council, 1996
James Kerr, Parramatta Correctional Centre: Its Past Development and Future Care, Commissioned by the NSW Public Works for the Department of Corrective Services. Sydney, 1995
New South Wales Heritage Branch website, State Heritage Register, www.heritage.nsw.gov.au
Heritage Group, North Parramatta Government Sites: Conservation Management Plan, NSW Department of Public Works and Services, 2000
Kerr James, Assessment of Cultural Significance and Recommended Heritage Requirements, Part VI, Parramatta Gaol Central Precinct Parramatta, June 1985
Archaeological Monitoring & Recording, Parramatta Correctional Centre, North Parramatta, Final Report.
NSW Government Gazette, No. 2, Friday, January 7th, 1842.-Proclamation of Parramatta Gaol.
Australian Dictionary of Biography-Lewis, Mortimer William, 1796-1789. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lewis-mortimer-william-2355
Parramatta Gaol, Vertical File, Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre.
Photo from the webpage: http://www.parragirls.org.au/history.php

by-sa

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, Parramatta Council Heritage & Visitor Information Centre 2014