This prison was the longest continuously operating prisons in Australia, open for 147 from 1841-1988. It is one of the two oldest public buildings in Adelaide.
The Gaol is a State Heritage Place and a Museum and runs a number of different tours for the public. It is open every day of the week from 9am to 5pm.
The gaol was one of the very first parts of the Adelaide Park Lands to be lost to development, only four years after the founding of the colony. We've been losing more and more every year since then.
William Baker Ashton was the first Governor of the Adelaide Gaol. He was appointed before the Gaol was built and held this office for 15 years from 1839 to April 1854. Back in those days the Gaol was coloquially known as “Ashton’s Hotel”.
Ashton died one night while in office at the Gaol. The next morning when he was found, rigor mortis had set in making it impossible to bring his body down the steep narrow staircase from his apartment and he had to be lowered from an outside window.
The gaol and the area behind the fence is not under the management of the City Council. It is run by the State Government, through the Department of Environment (Heritage branch).
Tours of the Gaol offer a more detailed history of the site from infamous inmates to notable executions, but some key points are:
- Most of the prisoners hanged at the Gaol were buried within its walls
- The last person hanged here was in 1964
- Only one woman was ever hanged here - Elizabeth Lillian Woolcock in 1873