Thursday, 7 April 2011

Adelaide Gaol

On 6th April I visited the old Adelaide Gaol. Built in 1841, the prison was operational until 1988. During this time it held around 300,000 convicts, with 45 of them being executed at one of 4 locations in the gaol.

The original part of the gaol is one of the two oldest buildings in Adelaide. The gaol opened incomplete, after exceeding the estimated cost of building and almost bankrupting the state of South Australia. Over the years many modifications were made, with additional facilities added, and the location of executions changing several times.

The older parts of the gaol would have been miserable to live in, and the newer ones not much better. Small cramped cells with no light, and no heating, would have been almost unbearable. On such a warm day, there was a chill in even the more modern cells. A welcome relief for me, but certainly not for anyone residing there.

There weren't many people wandering around the gaol on my visit, and this made it eerie at times, particularly in the dark cell blocks and around the gallows. The permanent gallows in the hanging tower were particularly spooky and I daren't walk over the trap door underneath the beam where the condemned were strung up. Two cells are found in the hanging tower. One was the holding cell where the prisoner spent their final two hours before execution, and the other was for the executioner – containing the switch to open the trapdoor.

Gallows and trap doors
Executioners cell in the hanging tower
Holding cell in the hanging tower
 Between the inner and outer walls of the gaol, the 45 executed are buried, the location of their bodies marked by writing on the inner wall. Only one woman was executed at the gaol and indeed she was also the only woman executed in South Australia – Elizabeth Woolcock was convicted of murdering her husband and was put to death in 1873. The last person to be executed at the gaol was Glen Valence in 1964. As you walk between the walls you see that some of the executed are still remembered, with flowers also a marker to some of the graves.

 There are parts of the gaol that are suffering the wear and tear that is to be expected with an old building. The site is now looked after by the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society inn conjunction with the South Australian Government. Visit for further details.
For the full set of photographs visit:


  1. Hauntingly beautiful photos, made all the more striking by the history of the gaol. And the sky is impossibly blue in the outdoor shots - was there a little filtering help provided by the lens, or is it always that gorgeous there?


  2. I have a polarising filter which I use for the sky shots to bring out the colour a little. It is gorgeously blue here at the moment though!

  3. didn't walk over the trapdoor??
    bah, cmon!!
    that's where the fun is at ;) x