I’m a big fan of the Fremantle Prison and pre-pandemic always took visitors there for a tour so I was keen to see how the Albany Convict Gaol Museum stood up to its much better-known counterpart.
The Old Gaol is run by the Albany Historical Society who do a great job. We met several members during our visit and they were all friendly, helpful and eager to share their knowledge.
Starting life as a convict-hiring depot in the 1850s, the Old Gaol accommodated convicts transported from England as well as Aboriginal and women prisoners. Carvings in the cells are thought to be Australia’s oldest Aboriginal cell art.
Unlike other prisons of that time, the Old Gaol had an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than straight punishment. Many convicts worked on civil projects including building the town jetty and the road to Perth.
A central courtyard, surrounded by high walls topped with broken glass, is at the heart of the gaol, which was last used to incarcerate prisoners in the 1930s.
A hammock for sleeping and a dunny bucket for waste was all the prisoners had in their tiny cells. It was interesting to note that many cells were converted to two-person cells as prisoners suffered psychological problems when isolated.
The only prisoner to be hanged at Albany Gaol was Peter McKean alias William McDonald. He had been found guilty of the murder of former convict Henry Marriott and was executed in 1872.
Albany Gaol also hosted the notorious mass murderer Frederick Deeming who was eventually hanged in Melbourne in 1892. As well as murdering two wives and four of his children, Deeming was suspected of being Jack the Ripper. A replica of his death mask and poetry he wrote while in Albany is on display in his former cell.
The museum has many artefacts including tools, trunks, manacles, bullets and lamps dating from the early days of the gaol. There are more than thirty points of interest in the Old Gaol including an Anzac display and a photography display.
The Historical Society has worked hard to include as much information as possible in the museum and although there are no tours offered and it is not as large as the Fremantle prison, it is worth a visit.
Address: 267 Stirling Terrace, Albany
Phone: 0457 329 944
Opening hours: 10am- 4pm
Parking: Available just outside the building
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