Clanging of the Locks

brassy-coloured, metal padlock

Tough voices, heavy footsteps, and the clang of brass padlocks on iron bolts echoed around the cold stone walls and floors of the cell blocks, day after day. ‘I often think of the clanging of the locks. If an inmate wanted something, he would usually get the lock and bang it on the bolt to […]

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Those Were the Days

In 1878, when her mother Margaret passed away, Phoebe Day (1855-1930) was just 23 years old. Unlike her nine older siblings, Phoebe was probably still living with her mother and caring for her since the death of her father, Edward, two years earlier. As the eldest sibling at home, Phoebe may have taken responsibility for […]

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In Memory of Bridget

In 1873, when shepherding in a lonely valley at Mulla Creek on Kamilaroi Country near Tamworth, 17-year-old Bridget Coleman (1856-1873) was assaulted and strangled. The lock of hair shown here is Bridget’s. Bridget’s brother Thomas, who was minding the sheep with her, discovered Bridget’s bloodied body lying face-down. Alarmed at the sight of her lifeless […]

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Serene Scenes

With razor blade in hand, working on a small section, the heritage painter carefully removed the outer layers of paint on a column in the chapel at Maitland Gaol. It was 2005, and Gordon Sauber, the Gaol Museum’s Coordinator was curious to identify the room’s original colour scheme. Built in 1867-8, the chapel remained in […]

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Marking Time

With smoke billowing out throughout the day, the red brick chimney of the Maitland Gaol cookhouse towered over the perimeter walls, serving as a focal point for the people of East Maitland. This date stone installed on the chimney and marking the year it was built, is now all that survives of the cookhouse (demolished […]

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Fighting Fear

It was fear that stopped Dave McGarry from re-offending when he was finally released from Maitland Gaol. Locked up from age nineteen, McGarry remembers how ‘everyone here was someone to be scared of… at least sixty per cent of the guys… all carried weapons’. Improvised stabbing weapons, known as ‘shivs’ in ‘criminal slang’ since at […]

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Justice Served

Setting out early one day in December 1840, a tall, dark-eyed Irishman named Edward Denny Day (1801-1876), the local Police Magistrate, led a police posse through the bush around Scone, not far from Maitland. They were tracking the escaped convict turned bushranger Teddy ‘Jewboy’ Davis and his gang, who for two years had been ‘terrorising’ […]

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For Your Thoughts

This 1826 penny, discovered in 2005 beneath a sandstone windowsill of A-Wing at Maitland Gaol, could only have been placed there during the building’s construction in the 1840s. For about 150 years the coin remained in place, witness to the thousands of inmates once incarcerated within the building’s walls, many of whom were female. When […]

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