Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

In 1797 two gaols were built in the colony, one at Sydney Cove and the other at Parramatta. Both were timber buildings and both were destroyed by fire.The gaol at Sydney Cove was built of timber logs provided by settlers. With a thatched roof, It had 22 cells and a separate brick building for debtors. The gaol was destroyed by fire in early 1799 and then rebuilt in sandstone. Behind a high wall on the corner of George and Essex Streets in the Rocks, it housed both male and female prisoners. Executions took place in its grounds, viewable by the public who could watch from a nearby hill. The gaol beccame overcrowded and dilapidated but stayed open until 1841 when prisoners were removed to the new Darlinghust Gaol and subsequently demolished.

-33.862185077776, 151.20764068687

01 Jan 1797
01 Jun 1841
Commemorated by

Prisons to 1920

CC BY-SA 2.0

Even a penal colony needs prisons. As early as 1796 gaols were built to hold criminals who had committed offences in the colony, and to hold the public floggings and executions that were thought to deter such crimes. Through the nineteenth century, attitudes changed, and prisoners were expected to reform and repent, although treatment got little kinder in the new buildings and systems that were devised.