Darlinghurst Gaol

Coordinates: 33°52′47″S 151°13′07″E / 33.87972°S 151.21861°E / -33.87972; 151.21861
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Darlinghurst Gaol
An aerial view of Darlinghurst Gaol, with the courthouse in the foreground, 1930
Former Darlinghurst Gaol is located in Sydney
Former Darlinghurst Gaol
Former Darlinghurst Gaol
Location in Greater Sydney
LocationDarlinghurst, New South Wales
Coordinates33°52′47″S 151°13′07″E / 33.87972°S 151.21861°E / -33.87972; 151.21861
StatusClosed; repurposed as an art school
Opened7 June 1841 (1841-06-07)

The Darlinghurst Gaol is a former Australian prison located in Darlinghurst, New South Wales. The site is bordered by Darlinghurst Road, Burton and Forbes streets, with entrances on Forbes and Burton Streets. The heritage-listed building, predominantly designed by New South Wales Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis, was closed in 1914 and has subsequently been repurposed to house the National Art School.[1]


The imposing entrance to the gaol
Grounds of the former gaol in 2011

Construction commenced with pegging out by Francis Greenway in 1821.[2] The Darlinghurst Gaol wall began in 1822 and finished in 1824 using convict labour, but due to a lack of funds, the site sat empty for 12 years. Construction of the rest of the complex did not begin until 1836, with completion of some of the cell blocks in 1840. The gaol was ready for occupation a year later, with the first prisoners occupying the gaol on 7 June 1841.[3]

The gaol was finally completed in 1885. The main material used for construction of the gaol is Sydney sandstone, cut into large blocks by convicts. Convict markings on the blocks are visible along the upper half of the wall on Darlinghurst Road. A tall circular chapel stands in the middle of the site, around which are sited the six rectangular cellblocks in a radial fashion.

Australian poet Henry Lawson spent time incarcerated here during some of the turbulent years of his life and described the gaol as Starvinghurst Gaol due to meagre rations given to the inmates. The site is now open to the public as The National Art School. The last hanging at the gaol was in 1907.[4]

Hangings were open to public viewing throughout several decades. People would gather at the front gate of the gaol in Forbes Street, and the condemned would be brought out on a platform built above the gaol gate. The public executioner Alexander Green lived for a time in a hut outside the eastern wall of the gaol, would then leave his house to the jeers and catcalls of the gathering crowd, enter the prison and do his job. Seventy-six people were hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol, but most of them met their demise on the scaffold inside the gaol in a corner of E-wing. Among those who met their demise at the end of a rope were bushranger Andrew George Scott, better known as Captain Moonlite, in 1880, and the last woman to be hanged in NSW, Louisa Collins, in 1889.[5]

Modern-day use[edit]

The site was transferred in 1921 to the New South Wales Department of Education, which adapted the building for use as the East Sydney Technical College. The National Art School was established in 1922 and is now the sole occupant of the site.

The Darlinghurst Road side of the Gaol, (commonly known as "the wall") was for many years a popular place for male prostitutes to offer their services.

Notable prisoners[edit]

Watercolour of the Gaol by inmate Henry Louis Bertrand, 1891

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Former East Sydney Technical College and Darlinghurst Gaol Including Buildings A". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Department of Planning & Environment. Retrieved 22 November 2017. Text is licensed by State of New South Wales (Department of Planning and Environment) under CC-BY 4.0 licence.
  2. ^ "Darlinghurst Gaol (former) (Place ID 2198)". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government. 21 March 1978. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  3. ^ Chronicle of Australia. Melbourne: Chronicle Australasia. 1993. p. 253. ISBN 1872031838.
  4. ^ NSW Police Website Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b R. v. Collins, Moreton Bay Courier (NSWSupC 8 December 1888).
  6. ^ "John Vane, Bushranger". 20 March 1909. p. 13. Retrieved 31 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beck, Deborah (2005). Hope in Hell: a history of Darlinghurst Gaol and the National Art School. Allen and Unwin.
  • Kerr, James Semple (1988). Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Sydney: National Trust of Australia (NSW). {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)

External links[edit]