The Old Gaol and Museum
Now fully restored, the Gaol is a complex of men’s cell blocks and some warders' quarters, built in 1852 for Imperial convicts shipped to WA as artisans and skilled labourers.
Women’s cells, the Great Hall and more warders' quarters were constructed of brick between 1872 and 1875. At this time the complex was also used as a colonial prison.
The Gaol was last used as a police lockup in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Extensive restoration from 1989 to 1996 returned the Gaol's condition to its original state. Cells, warders' quarters and the Great Hall contain displays pertinent to the times and usage of these stark quarters.
From Convict Hiring Depot
In Western Australia, unlike New South Wales and Tasmania, the convict system was based on the idea of rehabilitation. Convicts were transported from England over an 18 year period, between 1850 and 1868, and the Old Gaol began as a Convict Hiring Depot.
Most of the convicts had their ticket-of-leave and were hired to work by free settlers. They also manned the pilot boat and engaged in rebuilding York Street and Stirling Terrace, as well as transforming the track from Albany to Perth into a good road.
... to Civil Gaol
In 1873 the Convict Gaol was extended to perform as a public gaol and other buildings were converted to become the home of Albany's resident magistrates.
In the 1870s, Aboriginal prisoners were moved to the Albany Convict Gaol, due to many escapes from the town gaol in Lawley Park. These prisoners were held in a specially designed timber-lined cell and their carvings, which you can see today, are believed to be Australia’s oldest Aboriginal cell art.
In the late 1890s a lock up was built into the court house complex and the civil gaol came under the control of the Police Department in 1922, closing in 1940.
For the next 20 years the buildings were used for storage by the then Public Works Department until, in the early 1960s, the newly formed Albany Historical Society decided the Old Gaol would be an ideal place for their headquarters and, after much voluntary effort, a public museum.
Macabre highlights of your Gaol visit
See the displays, read the history ... and perhaps feel a the presence of a ghost or two.
There has only been one hanging at the Old Gaol - that of Peter McKean, alias William McDonald, who was executed for murder in 1872.
Albany's brush with a mass murderer
Another notorious criminal, mass murderer Frederick Bailey Deeming, alias Baron Swanston, spent a busy night in the cells at the old Albany Gaol in 1892. Deeming tried to remove his large moustache overnight by plucking and shaving with a piece of glass he found in the yard, during his transportation from Southern Cross, where he was captured, to the Eastern States.
The small book titled 'Albany's Brush with One of Australia's Most Notorious Murderers', compiled by Susanne Horton, is available from Albany Historical Society - see our Publications page for details of how to obtain a copy.
- Tours (self-guided, unless by prior arrangement)
- Night tours and venue hire
- Partial wheelchair access to most areas
- Postcards and souvenirs
- Books of historical interest
10 am to 4 pm daily
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Closed until 1 pm Anzac Day
Adult $5.00, concession $2.50
Children under 6 years free
School groups, price by negotiation (includes educational package)
Group Tour Bookings
If you would like to enquire about a guided tour for a group of seven or more persons at concessional rates, please complete our Group Tour Enquiry Form. We will get back to you as soon as possible regarding cost and availability.
Stirling Terrace (cnr Parade Street), Albany, Western Australia. Phone (08) 9841 6174.
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