During the holidays, we booked a tour to visit Boggo Road Gaol.
Have you ever been there?
Hubby and I have been once before, when we did an overnight tour.
That was creepy and cold.
Only Division 2 of the gaol remains. It was closed in 1989.
Division 1 was where the current CSIRO building stands.
(The hanging gallows – they hung 42 people – would have been about where the CSIRO foyer is located.
Not a very pleasant welcome to the building.)
Division 2 was first a women’s prison and then later converted to a men’s prison for the ‘life-ers’
We arrived early on the morning of the tour (parking is difficult)
and took a walk around the outside of the prison.
On the right hand side of the front entrance was the warden’s residence.
Imagine living connected to a gaol.
I wonder if the warden had a family who lived with him at the gaol.
The tour started on time (I like that) and was led by an excellent tour guide.
She led us into the entrance of the gaol
and introduced us to the history of the gaol.
As we walked through the gaol, she described the purpose of each area
and often enhanced the telling with stories of real people and events.
The best bit of the tour, of course, was the notorious cell blocks
– Cell block D, E, and F.
(Hubby and I slept in block F on our previous tour.)
Inside the cell blocks it wasn’t entirely unpleasant,
but, then, I didn’t have to live there.
I was surprised by how few cells there were.
I imagined there’d be more.
Looking up, you see the wire gratings covering the void on each level.
According to the warden we talked to, this was to prevent inmates from jumping
– they’d tuck their hands into their trouser waists and then plummet head first.
These were obviously desperate people.
The cells themselves were cold and gloomy.
There was nothing more than a cement bed base and a wooden shelf,
with only one small barred and fenced opening to let in light and air.
Below is the cell that Hubby and I slept in on our previous tour.
Not exactly the Hilton.
And yes it was uncomfortable, even with the thin mattress supplied.
(Sadly, there are no photos of that tour as my camera was stolen a week after the tour.)
Probably our favourite story from the tour was that of Slim Halliday.
He was an infamous prisoner who escaped from the gaol twice and made several other impressive Houdini attempts.
He even managed to lift his cell door off its hinges and hold up a guard with a gun replica, carved from a bar of soap.
For this reason, his cell was modified to include additional locks and strongholds.
(Below is an ordinary cell door with only one bolt. Slim’s door, pictured above, has three bolts!)
The segment of wall that Slim escaped over, in both of his successful attempts, earned the nickname “Halliday’s Leap”
A tiny fraction of it still remains, jutting out from the wall.
(I wonder if they kept that little piece as part of history…and whether it’ll remain after the redevelopment).
The most appalling part of the gaol, in my opinion, were the exercise yards.
They were situated between the cell blocks and housed around 40 men each.
The space just didn’t seem large enough to comfortably house that many people.
Hanging from the top of the shed was the tv.
Apparently these hardened criminals loved watching “Days of our Lives” and “Neighbours”.
I would call that come kind of horrific self-imposed torture.
Oh but that wasn’t the worst of the exercise yards.
Within the yards, were the ONLY toilets and showers in the gaol.
Oh and those doors and dividers were a much later addition.
Prior to that, there was no privacy. This was gaol after all.
Back in your cell, if you had a call of nature, you had to use the toilet tin.
I bet that smelled lovely on a hot day in your cell!
While the inmates had an awful time in gaol (pretty much their own fault though),
we had a fascinating time…well those who listened!
Sadly, the guests with us, were incredibly rude and disrespectful to our tour guide.
Mothers let their children run wild, and adults, who should know better, talked nearly all the way through.
(Schools need to do a much better job at teaching social skills.)
If you are interested in touring the gaol, you are going to need to act fast.
Tragically, the tours will be stopped later this year,
with their future on hold and a little uncertain,
while developers move in.
From what we could gather from our guide and googling,
the buildings on the front left hand corner while be demolished (the light pink building and the grey ones to the side)
Two of the cell blocks will also be gutted
to accommodate various eating venues (like we need more of those!)
I think it’s a terrible thing to do to a historically listed venue
and also rather macabre.
Who wants to dine where people suffered and died!
Our guide told us that they are hoping to continue the tours in some sort of format,
however, I would encourage you to book a tour now,
well before the developers move in and do what they do best
– destroy the place
So, our tour, while excellent, was rather bitter sweet.
We thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the gaol,
but, at the same time, it was somewhat like a farewell.