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ALBANY CONVICT GAOL MUSEUM

Old Convict Gaol

Explore the fascinating convict past as you wander the cell blocks.

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Plan Your Visit | Albany Convict Gaol Museum

Explore the fascinating convict past at the Albany Convict Gaol Museum, as you wander through the cell blocks and look back to the era of the mid 1800s.

The gaol was built in 1852 which consisted of men's cell blocks and warders' quarters  for Imperial convicts shipped to Western Australia as artisans and skilled labourers. The Old Gaol was originally established with rehabilitation as a key principle, and convicts sentenced to transportation from England between 1850-1868, often served time in the gaol. Convicts who had obtained their ticket of leave, were hired by free settlers for labour.

 

Wander through the cell blocks reading the plaques about the colourful history and gain an understanding of the difficulties experienced by the early settlers. The timber-lined cells, housed Aboriginal prisoners in the 1870s and contain various carvings which are said to be Australia's oldest Aboriginal cell art.

The gaol was extended in 1873 to become a public prison with women cells, the great hall and more warden's quarters were constructed during this time, the complex was also used as a colonial prison.  It was last used as a police lockup in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It wasn’t until 1989 when work began to restore the gaol and was finalised in 1996, at which point, it became a museum. The gaol museum reveals stories about the early days of town settlement, colonial artefacts, the inmates who were kept there and the gaol facilities, as well as an exhibition on one of Albany’s most decorated soldiers.

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TICKET OF LEAVE

In Western Australia the convict system was unlike that of New South Wales or Tasmania. It was based on the idea of rehabilitation.

Convicts were transported from England over an 18 year period from 1850 until 1868. The Old Gaol began as a Convict Hiring Depot, while the actual Town Gaol from 1837 until 1870 was on land later to be made into Lawley Park.

The Convict Depot was built in 1852 but closed 3 years later. When shipping increased the Depot was reopened. Most of the Convicts had their Ticket of Leave. A Ticket of Leave allowed convicts to work outside the gaol before their sentence had expired and were hired to work by the free settlers.

 

Convicts also manned the pilot boat, rebuilt York Street and Stirling Terrace and upgrade of the track from Albany to Perth to a good road.

THE LAST HANGING

There was only one hanging at the Old Gaol on the 12 October 1872. Peter McKean (alias William McDonald) was hanged for the murder of his neighbour, William "Yorkie" Marriott on 30 June 1872.  The murder took place at Slab Hut Gully between Mt Barker and Kojonup.

 

To save 10 witnesses travelling to Perth for the trial, they held the proceedings in Albany.

 

McDonald had a dubious record and was the only inmate hanged at the Old Gaol. The hangman as well as the portable gallows came from Fremantle to do the court’s bidding.

The last person to be hanged at the gallows in Western Australia was Eric Edgar Cooke at Fremantle Prison in 1964.

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NOTORIOUS MURDERER

Frederick Bailey Deeming

The most notorious murderer - Frederick Bailey Deeming, alias Baron Swanston - was held temporarily in the Old Gaol in 1892.

 

Deeming committed numerous crimes and murdered several wives and all his children. He was traced to Southern Cross in Western Australia and was arrested by PC Williams. It has been suspected by some that Deeming was ‘Jack the Ripper’.

 

Deeming was escorted by Constables Grover and Evans by train to Midland and then by van to the Westside Lockup in Perth. Deeming’s case was heard at the police court in Perth. He was to go to Melbourne for trial. He was transported by train to Albany by Detectives Cawsey, Gurney and Inspector Waldock. He was received by the Gaoler McGovern and placed in a cell.

 

During the night he tried to get rid of his large moustache by plucking and shaving with a piece of glass he found in the yard. The next morning Deeming was put on the ‘SS Ballarat’ to the Eastern States.

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THE TOWER

The upstairs room was built in 1879 after the Great Hall. Although the design was included in the original plans, the exact purpose and subsequent use after construction are still to be determined.

 

It is constructed with a high window and has a fireplace on the east wall with access to the room by external wooden stairs.

One theory is that it was built for a mentally ill person. The story is about a young man who had periods of unmanageable behaviour, which included hurting his sister. He was incarcerated in the Tower and was only visited by his priest. During the times he was lucid, he wrote poetry.

FEMALE CELLS

During 1872-1875, women cells, the Great Hall and more warders'  quarters were constructed from clay bricks, which was sourced from the area now known as Foundation Park off Parade Street. The female cells are double in size and were added in 1874.  Most female prisoners were convicted of drunkenness, prostitution, or other minor offences.

 

There was at least one psychiatric prisoner; however, she was transferred to Perth. The female prisoners had a day room where they were allowed during the daytime. The female prisoners worked in the adjoining washhouse doing the washing and ironing.

 

People who have worked in the Albany Convict Gaol and some visitors have related experiences of ghostly happenings around the female cells. These include the sound of a baby crying. As several of the McGovern children died while living at the Albany Convict Gaol, there are theories that the ghosts belong to them.

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Guided Night Tours

Explore the darker side of Albany Convict Gaol. Join our Tour Guide, Joy Bradley in the dark as she engages you  as you walk the cell blocks with stories of loneliness, pain and suffering and a mother calling for her child. Be warned - these tours are not for the faint hearted.

The Guided Gaol Night Tours are run by a private contractor on behalf of the Albany Historical Society (Inc). Please contact Joy Bradley direct on 0448 187 835.

Please note the Self Guided Night Tours are organised by the Albany Historical Society. For further information, click here.

Hours 

Monday - Friday

Saturday
Sunday
Public Holidays

10am to 4pm
10am to 4pm
10am to 4pm
Subject to change

Admission

Adult                  

Seniors/Concession

Child (5 to 16)

Family

$ 10.00

$  6.00

$  5.00

$25.00

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Members do not need to purchase tickets. 

Location

267 Stirling Terrace, 

Albany, Western Australia 6330

The Haunted Gaol

While there are many haunted places and folktales around Western Australia, look no further than that of the Albany Convict Gaol and Museum, which is thought to be the most haunted place in Western Australia. From the paranormal activity, to the Black Hole – an eight by four foot punishment cell with stone walls and no windows.

 

The gaol’s most notorious ghost story  is over 20 drunken soldiers which were kept in the ‘hole’ for 24 hours and three of them died. Staff often say they hear wailing noises coming from the rooms, when nobody is around.

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