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Old Melbourne Gaol
Location Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Status Museum
Opened 1st Jan 1845
Closed July 1924
Managed by National Trust of Australia

The Old Melbourne Gaol is a museum and former prison located in Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Currently it consists of a bluestone building and courtyard and is located next to the old City Police Watch House and City Courts buildings (both now occupied by RMIT University).



A land allotment of scrub to the north-east of the town was selected as Port Philip's first permanent gaol. It was modelled on Pentonville Prison, England, building of the first Gaol began during 1841 and gradually enlarged and changed until 1864. 1845 the wall ended and the outside dirt track became Russell Street. 1848 superintendent of the gaol was George Wintle. Gold rush crimes from 1851 saw a need to enlarge the prison. A second cell block, an extension on the north side of the original, was erected beginning 1852 and finished by 1858.

The first woman to be hanged at this gaol and also the first in Victoria was Elizabeth Scott on 11 November 1863 along with her co-accused, Julian Cross and David Gedge. During the 1850s 58 men were hanged in Victoria. The design of the new cell blocks is attributed to Henry Ginn, Chief Architect of the CVPWD. his design's were based on the universal specifications of the British prison engineer Joshua Jebb, or radiating cell blocks, a most modern design and had many features for prisoner control, it even had a crude form of a ventilation system, this system was a thermo-ventilation system, ducts were built into the walls and fed to a furnace but this system was never completed or brought into operation . The west wing cell block held female prisoners .

The bluestone walls with turret watchtowers were completed by 1864 and then demolished during the Great Depression of the 1930s to create a sea retaining wall at St Kilda; and then at Hampton which is also a beach-side suburb of Melbourne. It was later found to be laid with bricks that had the names and date of execution. A total of 14 marked bricks were found, one of which read "M.N 22.10.94", referring to Martha Needle, who was convicted of poisoning her husband, 3 children and brother-in-law, and was hanged on 22 October 1894. At St Kilda beach, this retaining wall is the one that swimmers lay their backs to from the grass. It borders the raised walkway and sand of the beach-front with bluestone.

Housing for other guards were 17 smaller homes along Swanston Street as of 1860 and the Chief Warden’s house was a palatial 2-story affair on the corner of Russell Street and facing Franklin Street built during the 1890s

The jail was closed in 1924 when Police stables were constructed. By 1924 it was a run-down structure; then parts of the Gaol were demolished. For a short time it was used as a Military prison during World War II. Later it was used as a storage facility for the Victoria Police Force whose headquarters were nearby in Russell Street. In 1972, the Gaol was reopened in its current role as a public museum.


The gaol was the setting for 135 hangings, the most infamous being that of bushranger Ned Kelly in 1880.

Name Year of birth Date of execution Crime
Bob January 20, 1842 Murder
Jack January 20, 1842 Murder
Charles Ellis June 28, 1842 Shooting
Martin Fogarty June 28, 1842 Shooting
Daniel Jepps June 28, 1842 Shooting
Roger September 5, 1842 Murder
Jeremil Connell January 27, 1947
Bobby April 30, 1847
Ptolemy April 30, 1847
John Healey November 29, 1847 Murder
Augustus Dancey August 1, 1848
Patrick Kennedy October 18, 1851
James Barlow May 22, 1852
John Richie November 3, 1852
George Pinkerton April 4, 1853
Aaron Durrant July 11, 1853
John Smith August 23, 1853
Henry Turner August 23, 1853
William Atkins October 3, 1853
George Wilson October 3, 1853
George Melville October 3, 1853
Michael Finnessy October 25, 1853
Alexander Ram October 25, 1853
John Smith November 23, 1853
Joseph West December 27, 1853
William Twiggem 1824 March 2, 1857 Murder
Chu-a-Luk 1827 March 2, 1857 Murder
Samuel Gibbs November 12, 1858 Murder
George Thompson November 12, 1858 Murder
Thomas McGee February 19, 1863
Julian Cross November 11, 1863 Murder
David Gedge November 11, 1863 Murder
Elizabeth Scott 1840 November 11, 1863 Murder
James Bennett December 1, 1863
Christopher Harrison August 3, 1864
William Carver August 3, 1864
Samuel Woods August 3, 1864
John Stacey April 5, 1865
Joseph Brown May 5, 1865
Peter Dotsalaere July 6, 1865
Robert Bourke November 29, 1866
Bernard Cunningham March 31, 1868
Joseph Whelan March 31, 1868
Michael Flannigan 1833 March 31, 1869 Murder
James Ritson August 3, 1869
Patrick Smith August 4, 1870
James Cusik August 30, 1870
James Sury November 14, 1870
Patrick Geary December 4, 1871
Edward Feeney May 14, 1872
An Gaa August 30, 1875
Henry Howard October 4, 1875
John Taylor (aka Weechurch) 1830 December 6, 1875 attempted murder
Basilo Bondietto December 11, 1876
William Hastings March 14, 1877
Ned Kelly 1854 November 11, 1880 Murder
James Hawthorn August 21, 1884 Murder
William O'Brien October 24, 1884 Murder
William Barnes May 15, 1885 Murder
Freeland Morell 1847 January 6, 1886 Murder
George Symes November 8, 1888 Murder
Filipe Castillo 1869 September 16, 1889 Murder
Robert Landells 1837 October 16, 1889 Murder
John Thomas Phelan 1861 March 16, 1891 Murder
John Wilson 1868 March 23, 1891 Murder
Fatta Chand April 27, 1891 Murder
William Coulston August 24, 1891 Murder
Frederick Deeming May 23, 1892 Murder
John Conder August 28, 1893 Murder
Frances Lydia Alice Knorr 1867 January 15, 1894 Murder
Ernest Knox 1873 March 19, 1894 Murder
Frederick Jordan 1864 August 20, 1894 Murder
Martha Needle 1864 October 22, 1894 Murder
Arthur Buck 1868 July 1 , 1895 Murder
Emma Williams November 4, 1895 Murder
Charles Strange 1874 January 13, 1896 Murder
Alfred Archer 1866 November 21, 1898 Murder
William Robert Jones February 21, 1900 Murder
Albert McNamara April 14, 1902 Arson
August Tisler October 20, 1902 Murder
James Williams 1885 September 8, 1904 Murder
Joseph Victor Pfeiffer April 12, 1912, Murder
John Jackson January 24, 1916 Murder
Antonio Picone September 18, 1916 Murder
Albert Budd January 29, 1918 Murder
Arthur Geoffrey Oldring April 15, 1918 Murder
Colin Campbell Ross 1892 April 24, 1922 Murder - pardoned 86 years later
Angus Murray 1882 April 14, 1924 Murder


The building is currently a museum drawing thousands of tourists annually. The Gaol is open every day except Good Friday and Christmas, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm, and special candlelight night tours can also be arranged.

The Old Melbourne Gaol is Victoria's oldest surviving penal establishment. It currently exhibits 19th century gaol life, including the death masks and memorabilia of some of Melbourne's most notorious criminals, including the death mask of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly. At the age of 25 years, he was convicted of killing one police officer, Lonigan, after a two-day trial, Edward "Ned" Kelly was executed 11 November 1880. A skull which is said to be Ned Kelly's was also on display for many years but thieves stole the skull in 1978 and it has never been recovered. It remains a mystery as to whether the skull actually was Kelly's in the first place. His body was buried within the gaol grounds , from 1865 all the hanged convicts were buried on the grounds, up until then they were buried in a local cemetery.

The tour guides delight in telling stories of ghosts, or photos being taken containing "ectoplasm" and the cells are small and quite scary. Parapsycologist (Ghost Hunters) have spent a night and claim to have recorded the voice of a woman, calling out "help"!. The first woman to be hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol was Elizabeth Scott, she was sentenced to be hanged at Beechworth Courthouse, but because the Beechworth Gaol was not complete she was brought to Melbourne and hanged at the Gaol. Three more female executions would eventually follow. This figure is far surpassed by the number of men executed at the Gaol - 131 in total.


External links

Coordinates: 37°48′29″S 144°57′55″E / 37.80806°S 144.96528°E / -37.80806; 144.96528



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