Parramatta Gaol: Building, prisoner’s routine and employment

Parramatta Gaol: Building, prisoner’s routine and employment

There were a number of sites owned by the Department of Corrective Services situated on over 10 hectares of land around the Parramatta Gaol. These included the Parramatta prison, the Parramatta linen service and the Merinda Periodic Centre. 

Parramatta Correctional Centre. Source: James Semple Kerr, commissioned by NSW Public Works for the Department of Corrective Services, 1995.

Merinda Periodic Detention Centre – is a single story timber building used to house maximum of 19 female inmates from Friday to Sunday. During the week, it was a conference centre and overnight accomodation for staff.

Motor maintenance and stores complex – repair and maintenance was carried out here for all the vehicles associated with Parramatta Gaol and Parramatta Linen Service 

PWD compound – consists of a group of nine galvanised iron sheds that were used to store lawn mowers and other garden tools used by the prisoners.

 Parramatta Gaol rooftops, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012
Parramatta Gaol rooftops, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Area East of the Parramatta Gaol 

Between the Dunlop St. and Barney St., there are two timber residences to accommodate officers. These residences were built in early 1900s. One of the residences on the southern side was used as officers mess hall, while the other one on the northern side was used as recreational hall. The northern residence was used as male detention centre to house 22 inmates on the weekends.

 There are two single story cottages between the Barney St. and Board St. One of the cottages was occupied by ten parole officers, one welfare officer and administrative staff of the Parramatta Probation and Parole Service. The second cottage was used for administrative functions on 24 hours basis e.g. handling of emergency situations, movement of prisoners for Parramatta, Malwa, Silverwater, Norma Parker centre and Emu Plains Gaols.

Prisoners spending – According to Parramatta Gaol Study conducted by NSW Department of Public Works in 1980 – prisoners in Parramatta Gaol earned between $12 to $32 per week. Collectively all the prisoners were earning $500,000. Many prisoners were sending all their money at home where as $48,000 annually was spent on radios, record players, tapes, books and art craft material. According to 1974 prison census, 53.7% of Parramatta gaol inmates were aged between 26 and 34, with 32.4% under the age of 26.

The Gaol Complex

Parramatta Gaol complex cover is spread in approximately 4.4 hectares – from Dunlop St. in the south to the banks of the Darling Mills Creek in the north. The Gaol area is rectangular in shape (345m x 130m) and has three defining areas: the Gaol, Linen service, and the sports yard, which was surrounded by 6 meter high secure walls. 

Linen Service– the Parramatta Linen Service had an industrial laundry, landscaped lawns, a gatehouse, and vehicle lock connecting the zone with the Gaol. Linen service used to provide laundry service to the range of state institutions and provide employment to the inmates. 

Gaol and Sports Yard – The Gaol zone is divided by Bootshop building into two sectors – the northern and southern sectors.

Northern Sector:

Gatehouse – the purpose of this was control the access of prisoners, visitors, staff, and vehicle access to the gaol. Gatehouse was also the communication centre for calling prisoners to the visits. CCTV cameras were also controlled from the gatehouse. 

Three radical accommodation wings

Wing 1 – approx 10.8m2 and accommodate 30 long term inmates

Wing 2 – app 9.3m2 and accommodate 30 cookhouse staff

Wing 3 – app 10.0m2 and accommodate 92 houses remand and reception inmates

Parramatta-Gaol Sports Yard, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Parramatta Gaol, Sports Yard, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Administration buildings



Cookhouse – used to provide cooked food for Gaol inmates. Food was prepared in the cookhouse building and was taken to all the wings by trollies for distribution.

Chapel – this was used for services conducted by the Salvation Army and for band practice, meditation and prisoners weddings. 

Parramatta Gaol Chapel, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

Parramatta Gaol Chapel, photographer Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2012

 Sports Yard 

Bootshop – The bootmaker or Tinsmith building separate wings 1, 2 and 3 from wings 4, 5 and 6. The bootshop is been used for various things over the years. Tailor shop was at the first floor whereas ground floor was used for office, building maintenance workshop, prisoners canteen and television repair shop. 

Southern Sector:

Three accommodation wings 

Wing 4 – app 6.9m2 and accommodate 78 long term prisoners and prisoners under observation

Wing 5 – app 7.2m2 and accommodate 82 long term prisoners

Wing 6 – app 8.0m2 and accommodate 83 segregated and protected prisoners


Parramatta Gaol, six Wing, Geoff King, digital born, 2012

Parramatta Gaol, six Wing, Geoff King, digital born, 2012

Boilerhouse – used to generate the power for the prison complex. Later the building was used as printing workshop, light metal workshop, boiler room and store.

Stores and Ablution block building

Employment – 170 to 240 prisoners were involved in prison industry:

Parramatta linen Service: 100 – 120

Cookhouse: 15 – 20

Building maintenance: 10 – 20

Tailor shop/bootshop: 4 – 14

Light metal shop/Boilerhouse: 3 – 12

Blacksmith: 1 – 7

Ground maintenance: 6

Printing workshop: 3 – 6

Store: 3

Auditorium sweepers: 3

Wing sweepers (3 per wing): 18

Wing storemen: 7

Garbage truck: 1

There were various activities in which prisoners could participate:

Sports: athletics, boxing, volleyball, football, cricket 

Leisure: reading, debating, yoga, music, creative writing

Arts & craft: glass painting, copper craft, woodcraft, veneer inlay, oil and water painting 

Daily routine of the prisoners

7am – 8am: Breakfast

8am – 11.45am: Prisoners are housed in the circle or in the protection yard.

11.45am – 12.45pm: Lunch given in their cells

12.45pm – 3pm: Prisoners are housed in the circle or in the protection yard.

3pm – 3.30pm: Prisoners are secured in their cells

3.30pm – 4pm: Dinner

4pm – 7am: Prisoners locked up in their cells

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2016

Jervis, James, The Cradle City of Australia: A history of Parramatta; 1788-1961
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
Public Works Department, Historic Building Group, Parramatta Gaol Historical report, October 1980
Planning & Environment Commission, NSW and Council of the City of Parramatta – Historic buildings and sites: Parramatta; 1975
Terry Kass et al, Parramatta, A Past Revealed, Parramatta City Council, 1996
Parramatta Gaol, Vertical File, Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre.
Photos taken by Geoff King, Parramatta City Council, 2015
Photos taken by Peter Arfanis, Parramatta City Council, 2015
Photos from Local Studies and Family History Library, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre

World War One – Battle of Beersheba

World War One – Battle of Beersheba

Ride into History: The Charge of Beersheba. It is likely that the above photograph is of a re-enactment some weeks after the event (AWM: P03723_001)

The Battle of Beersheba is one of the most notable mounted charges by the Australian Light Horse Regiments. On 31 October 1917, (more…)

Eastwood Brickworks

Eastwood Brickworks

The Great Northern Brick Company Limited was registered on 1 March 1912 with a capital of £10,000 in £1 shares of which 4,500 were issued fully paid-up to Herbert S Leary and George H S Holliday (more…)

Eastwood – A Brief History

Eastwood – A Brief History

Eastwood 1924

Eastwood became part of the local government area of City of Parramatta. The Wallumedegal Aboriginal people lived on the land bounded by the Lane Cove and Parramatta rivers. (more…)



Eastwood Falls on Terrys Creek near Albeura Rd Epping 1915

The indigenous history of Eastwood includes the period when the Wallumedegal people lived in the territory bounded by the Lane Cove and Parramatta rivers. (more…)

Macquarie Timeline

Macquarie Timeline

1761 Lachlan Macquarie is born on the Isle of Ulva, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. Of six boys, only four survived – Hector, Donald, Lachlan and Charles – and one girl, Elizabeth.

1776 Macquarie joined as a Volunteer in the 84th Regiment, aged 15.

1778 Elizabeth Campbell is born, one of four surviving children. Her father is John Campbell of Airds.

1781 Macquarie transfers to the 71st Highland Regiment, serves in New York, Charleston and Jamaica. He returns to Scotland, where there is a famine.

1787/1788 Macquarie recruited 17 men for the regiment which enabled him to be given a company to serve in India.

1789 Macquarie is promoted to Captain Lieutenant. The 77th Regiment embarks on the Hercules for Tellicherry, India.

1792 Macquarie ill with fever for five weeks. Meets Miss Jane Jarvis, a ‘Dulcinea’.

1793 Marries on 8 September, makes a home in Bombay, aged 32. The Regiment is sent to Calicut. The Macquaries purchased two slave boys in Cochin, Hector and George, later freed, remains with Lachlan Macquarie, a faithful servant for all his life.

1796 Jane becomes ill and dies of consumption on July 15th. Macquarie is inconsolable.

1798/1799 Regiment fighting Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore.

1800 Macquarie promoted to Major.

1803 Returns to England, stays in London Society.

1804 In June he returns to Scotland. Murdoch MacLaine died. Macquarie took possession of newly acquired Jarvisfield. Lachlan Macquarie and Elizabeth Campbell meet.

1805 Lachlan Macquarie proposes to Elizabeth Campbell and she accepts. A long engagement follows.

1806 The last review of the 77th Regiment, who were returning home. The tenth anniversary of Jane’s death. Macquarie visits her tomb.

1807 On 30th March, he embarks on the ship Prince of Wales to return to England. He took seven months to reach London. He marries Elizabeth Campbell in the ancient church of St. Peter & Paul, Holsworthy, Devonshire on 3 November. She was 24, he was 46. They moved to Perth, Scotland where the regiment was garrisoned.

1808 In October, Elizabeth gives birth to a daughter, Jane, who dies three months later.

1809 The Rum Rebellion in NSW ends and Gov. William Bligh escapes to Hobart. Lachlan and Elizabeth, embark on the ship Dromedary in May with George Jarvis, Joseph Big, a coachman and Mrs Ovens. Their ship enters the Heads on 30 December 1809.

1810 Macquarie takes his responsibilities as Governor. In January, William Bligh returns to Sydney, then departs again in May. Celebrates St Patrick’s Day with convicts, holds a May Day Fair at Parramatta, and opens a Race Course in Hyde Park. Signs an agreement with Alexander Riley, Garnham Blaxcell and D’Arcy Wentworth for a ‘Rum Hospital’. Plentiful harvest, cattle and sheep are increasing. Macquarie announces that the lower classes are inadequately supplied with livestock. A cow on 30 acres can be purchased and paid for in grain inside 18 months, and must be kept for three years. Sheep from government flocks are available on similar terms. St Phillip’s church is completed. The turnpike road to Parramatta is completed. A foundation stone is laid for a church at Richmond. Improvements begun on Government House and dairy, Parramatta. Names Liverpool and the Macquarie Towns – Windsor (earlier called Green Hills), Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce.

1811 Seven Police Districts are named. A new government barge is launched, called Elizabeth. 249 couples are married under Macquarie’s proclamation. A foundation stone for Sydney Hospital is laid. Elizabeth Macquarie, Lachlan’s mother, dies in Scotland, aged 82. Macquarie visits Van Diemen’s Land, Port Stephens and Newcastle. He sends George Evans to explore Jervis Bay and the Illawarra. Streets are laid out in Parramatta.

1812 Elizabeth Macquarie opens Mr West’s watermill, for grinding wheat.

1813 A Public Fair is held in Parramatta – the first by public authority. Macquarie travels the colony and visits the Nepean River, Emu Island, Hawkesbury River, Wilberforce, Eastern Creek, Rooty Hill. In Liverpool he opens a new store and granary. Macquarie sees off the expedition by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth to find a way over the Blue Mountains. There is great progress in the roads and buildings of the colony. The harvest produces plenty of of [sic] grain, subsistence for double the population. By August it is in short supply. With very little rain, severe depletion of livestock. St John’s, Parramatta beings renovations and steeples. The Female Orphan School at Parramatta is begun.

1814 After several miscarriages, Elizabeth gives birth to Lachlan Macquarie Junior on 28th March. Famine. In October many bushfires. George Evans is sent to explore the land over the mountains, and discovers the Bathurst Plains. Muster shows that in the first ten years of the colony 5958 convicts had arrived. By 1810 – 11, 500 convicts. From 1812 to 1817 – 3978 males and 681 females. In 30 years – 15, 794 convicts transported to NSW. Francis Greenway arrives in NSW, a convict and a civil architect.

1815 Macquarie and his party, including Elizabeth, found Bathurst. A Supreme Court is convened in NSW.

Compiled from: Meet The Macquaries At Parramatta


Neera sahni, Research Services Leader, Parramatta Heritage Centre 2016

Page 5 of 9« First...34567...Last »