About Old Melbourne Gaol
The imposing bluestone structure of Old Melbourne Gaol opened in 1845 and in the 79 years of its operation, some of Australia’s most dangerous criminals passed through its doors, some never to emerge. Australia’s most famous citizen Ned Kelly – occupier of cell 113 – was convicted of murder and executed by hanging here in November 1880 and other infamous inmates included serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming – suspected by some to be Jack the Ripper – and vicious gangster Squizzy Taylor.
History of Old Melbourne Gaol
In total, over 130 people were hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol and the list of inmates, even by 19th century standards, was decidedly odd. Of course the usual rabble of murderers, rapists, arsonists and thieves were ever-present but it also housed children. Some stayed with a convicted parent but in 1857, three year-old Michael Crimmins was sentenced to six months for the crime of being idle and disorderly!
The prison didn’t last long by modern standards and by 1870, plans were afoot to slowly decommission the gaol and relocate prisoners to more suitable locations and it was slowly demolished, closing its doors finally in 1924 and being decommissioned in 1929.
Parts of the structure were incorporated into the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in the 1970s and today, the three story museum offers visitors a fascinating insight in to the antipodean penal system including the cells filled with letters, memorabilia, personal effects and the gruesome death masks of condemned men and women.
Old Melbourne Gaol today
See the chilling gallows and regular dramatisations of Ned Kelly’s story and get yourself arrested at the adjacent City Police Watch House complete with a padded cell.
Candlelit ghost tours are run throughout the year with some paranormal enthusiasts claiming to have heard female voices – one claimed to have recorded ‘a ghostly figure with a grotesque visage standing in a doorway’ but evidence is unsurprisingly lacking.
Old Melbourne Gaol is one of the city’s oldest surviving historical buildings and is a must see on any trip to Melbourne. It’s open daily – access is via guided tour only. Watch out for the rather grimly fascinating death masks.
Getting to Old Melbourne Gaol
The gaol is in the CBD in central Melbourne: a plethora of trams stop nearby including 30, 35, 1, 3, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72. Melbourne Central Station is a 5 minute walk away.
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