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The cell doors have now been swung open, with visitors invited to 'serve time' learning about the facility, past prisoners and daring escapes.

A key anchor attraction of the Hunter, Maitland Gaol has a vibrant history spanning more than 150 years. After housing some of Australia's most hardened and notorious criminals, Maitland Gaol closed as a Correctional Institution in 1998.

Open 7 days, Maitland Gaol offers visitors the opportunity to indulge in a world class self-guided audio tour. Additionally, themed-guided tours and torchlight tours by night are regularly available and are a great way to interpret this unique attraction. Only the brave can battle a group sleepover night.

Maitland Gaol's foundation stone was laid in 1844 with the official opening and reception of the first prisoners occuring in 1848. Built of sandstone from Morpeth and Farley, it is considered to be the most intact country gaol in New South Wales and is the longest continuously operating correctional institution in Australia. After holding some of Australia's most hardened criminals, Maitland Gaol closed on the 30th January 1998. Inmates were transferred to other prisons with the final transfer at noon that day. The last buildings were completed on the site in 1993.

The closure of the complex was announced in 1996 as part of an upgrade to the state's prison system. It closed because security did not meet community expectations, conditions were considered unsuitable and the cost of operating the antiquated facility was excessive.

16 men were executed at Maitland Gaol between 1843 and 1897 - all for rape or murder. Executions were open to the public until 1861. The last man executed was Charles Hines in May 1897 for raping his stepdaughter. Hangings are believed to have taken place at the main gates and the back corner of the Gaol.

There were many escape attempts but most failed. Everyone who did get over the walls was caught within days. In 1977 "Maddog" Raymond Denning and 6 others escaped through an exhaust vent in the shower block. They were all back inside within 2 hours after a massive police swoop on the area. In 1980, a 5.5m long tunnel was discovered in Cell 7 in C Wing. It was hidden with a sheet of plastic painted the same colour as the floor. The tunnel was filled in with 2 truckloads of concrete.

In 1978, a 23-year-old inmate protested for 16 hours by sitting on top of the Gaol's Administration building. At one stage he disappeared over the roof returning with food. Armed with a softwood stake he waved to the Maitland Mercury and television journalists. In 1975 inmates rioted, setting fire to the maintenance block. They used a swag of home made weapons to attack the warders, protesting about the prison system and the Gaol's conditions. The infamous Darcy Dugan was blamed for inciting the riot, while 78 of the rioting inmates were transferred to other prisons.


Destinations to explore near Maitland Gaol (Jail)

Photos Courtesy Scott Westlake Photography

Distance & direction from Sydney: 162 Klms N NE

6 - 18 John Street, East Maitland

Tel: (02) 4936 6482   Website   Facebook   E-Mail

Maitland Gaol (Jail)

Historic Site, New South Wales