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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Old Melbourne Gaol

Or jail if you're North American!

The Old Melbourne Gaol was the prison built to keep law and order in the early years of the Victorian colony. It operated from 1842 to 1929, although the last prisoners were moved in 1924. Many of the prison buildings were demolished and what remains today operates as a museum.


The gaol is run by the National Trust and if you're a member then entry is free. This was a nice surprise as I didn't know that it was National Trust before I went to see it. So quickly whipped out the National Trust card and skipped happily through! Entrance also includes entry into the Watch house next door and an interactive experience, where you're sentenced and locked up.

The cells are on 3 floors with a metal gantry connecting them. There are displays in the cells, some are about life in the gaol, others are the stories (and death masks) of some of the prisoners.

Prison cell.

The most famous prisoner the gaol housed was the bushranger Ned Kelly. There's a display area with information and some memorabilia relating to him. Also replica armour for children to wear and be photographed with!

A photo of young Ned, it's unusual to see him without his beard. The older Ned grew a long bushy beard and that's the most common image of him. The revolver belonged to one of the constables who was after him.

This revolver was Ned's and there's a chunk missing at the base of the handgrip where a bullet hit. The piece of red cloth is from a scarf used to warn people on the train from Melbourne coming to capture Ned Kelly and his gang, that the gang had ripped up the train tracks to cause a derailment.

Ned Kelly's death mask, it seems that it was common in the 19th century to create these masks, the cells contain other death masks from prisoners.

Ned Kelly was executed (hanged) at the Old Melbourne Gaol on November 11th 1880 and his famous last words were "Such is life"

On the first floor looking back towards the entrance.

Cell accomodation

The gallows, with the trap door and the lever by the door to open the trapdoor for the prisoner to fall through. I was surprised to see the gallows in an open area of the gaol, I thought it would be in a separate room away from the cells, but it's on the first floor in a gantry landing.

The executioners box, an original one, containing the items needed by the gaol executioner.

Although the gaol was closed in 1929, it was reopened for a brief period during World War II to house AWOL soldiers.

A visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol can be quite a static experience where you walk through and look at the displays. Or you can do some of the more interactive tours, such as the Hangman's Night Tours or the Ghosts! What ghosts?! tours at night.

I only had time to visit the museum and enjoyed that experience, it was an interesting insight into some Australian history.


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