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The first hanging was in October, 1841, and the last was in October, 1908.

most of the people who were hanged were notorious criminals. One was the bushranger, Captain Moonlight. Another was the murderer, John Knatchbull, See Story Below

Of the 76 people hanged only one was a woman.

The woman, Louisa Collins, is said to have poisoned both her husbands with arsenic. See Story Below

 Photographs of prisoners were taken at Darlinghurst gaol in Sydney in 1872.

Work began on the jail in 1835 and it took 50 years to finish. By 1840 the Governor's residence, one men's cell block and the women's cell block were ready. 

1841 Darlinghurst gaol takes first prisoners

1841 june 7th early morning

113 men chained together at the ankles , 45 women some walking some in carts ,all in chains began the trek from the old gaol, lower George street  then along south head road to the new gaol on darlinghurst hill latter the same day gaol staff packed what was deemed necessary, including the death masks of those executed and various soft furnishings and made their way along south head road to the new gaol on the hill

1842 October George Stroud & Robert hudson become the first prisoners to be hung at the new prison, their execution witnessed by 600-700 people

1844 the knatchball execution see estimates of 10,000 plus people to watch the condemned hang

1853 public execution abolished

marked "g" is the gallows

the building is still standing on the corner of darlinghurst road (at top) & burton street (to the left)





Story of Darlinghurst Gaol

In the 1820s, Sydney needed a new Gaol.

The Government chose the site for the gaol site because it's on a hill, so it was easy to see from the city. This was important because Sydney was still a convict town in 1820. The gaol reminded people of this fact. It was also a good site because there was plenty of sandstone nearby for building,being sourced from the eastern side of the hill on the west estate, Barcom Glen.

Shown Below


The walls of the Woolloomooloo stockade were built by convicts from 1822-1824. The marks were made to show how much work each convict did.

as can still be seen on Darlinghurst road

The gaol was built using the plans of a jail in Philadelphia. The ideas was that it should be like a wheel. The chapel was in the centre and the cell blocks were the spokes.

The gaol was built for 732 prisoners. The women's cell block was for 156 women. But in the 1850s there were as many as 450 women there. Over the years, a total of 79 people were executed at Darlinghurst Gaol.

It was used as a prison from 1840 till 1912. In 1912 Long Bay Jail was opened and Darlinghurst gaol was no longer needed. But during the First World War (1914-1918) it was used as an internment camp.

In 1921 the site was made into a technical college. Since then the outside of the buildings have been looked after by the National Trust. The insides of the buildings were completely changed and made into classrooms.

389 bus stop nearby forbes street stop




Darlinghurst Gaol On Wiki






John Knatchbull

sentenced to hang

for the



Ellen Jamieson.


The execution

to be held outside

the gates

of the three-year-old gaol,

was scheduled

for 9a.m.

At the crack of dawn

scores of people,

children included,

were swarming across the racecourse (Hyde Park)

towards Darlinghurst Hill.

The Australian newspaper

judged the throng to be

10,000 strong.

The paper was

disdainful of the ghoulish mob

yet, at the same time,

congratulated them

on their

good behavior.


Captain John Knatchbull

aged 56 years,

was led out into Forbes Street,

at the gaol gates on the

Darlinghurst Ridge.


 Wearing genteel black broad­cloth,


captain knatchbull


“ascended the fatal scaffold without trepidation or fear,

and was launched

into another world

with a

noble and fervent prayer

trembling on his lips”.


the bell of

St Phillip’s tolled thrice


John Knatchbull was dead.


John Knatchbulls

“evil reputation”

has clung to his name

for over 120 years.



rape at mount rennie


The gaol chaplain, the Reverend Father Byrne, informed Duffy, Martin and Boyce of their fate.

The Anglican Reverend Curtis asked to be present at the execution of Robert Read.

In Read’s written view of the Mount Rennie episode, he emphatically denied being intimate with the girl.

He had fled Sydney with Boyce for fear of wrongful arrest.

It would be easier to die, he wrote, knowing he was innocent.

The procession of the condemned appeared at 9 a.m.

four boys, all under 20

and accompanying prison officials and ecclesiastics.

The executions, the first in NSW to be held indoors, were attended by 120 “privileged” spectators.

On the platform, the boys’ lips moved in prayer.

The Reverend Tom Curtis announced in a broken voice:

“On behalf of Robert Read, I desire to say he declares his innocence.

He will enter the presence of the Almighty God with a clear conscience.”

Tears streaming down his face, Curtis threw his arms around the 19-year-old boy and kissed him.

Then he stood back and buried his face in his hands.

Robert Read took several minutes to die.


Louisa Collins

At 9 a.m. 12 witnesses stood in the small yard below the gallows in Darlinghurst Gaol, five were members of the press. They were to witness the first woman to be hanged in that 48-year-old gaol and, as it turned out, the last woman to be hanged in New South Wales.

Louisa Collins appeared from the condemned cell dressed in a long, brown prison dress, her arms pinioned above the elbows. A female warder held each arm but not for support.

As she walked across the sunny patch of grass Louisa behaved

“as calmly as if she were performing an everyday function”

Minor Canon Rich, the gaol chaplin, followed behind.

She walked up the steps to where the public hangman, Robert ‘Nosey Bob’ Howard was waiting with his new young assistant, Mr Stepping.

To one side of the trap door was a chair with a piece of carpet thrown over and on this rested the noose of the rope.

Louisa stood calmly on the trapdoor.

Canon Rich whispered something to her and she inclined her head to catch his words.

The executioner signaled and Mr Stepping pulled the lever.

The trapdoor pin had jammed.

There was confusion and a warder seized a mallet and struck the wooden pin three times.

It gave and the trapdoor banged open.

Louisa Collins fell through in a slightly curved position. After swinging to one side she was suspended perpendicularly with her face towards the yard.

The body was left hanging for the regulation 20 minutes.


some of those hung

Charles Montgomery- Thomas Williams- alfred Grinnon- thomas Sheridan- Frank Butler- jimmy governor- joseph campbell- thomas moore- henry jones- digby grand & stuart wilson christopher briggs

29 October 1841 - Robert Hudson - Publicly hanged outside Darlinghurst Gaol for murdering a fellow convict.

He was executed with

 29 October 1841 - George Stroud -Publicly hanged outside Darlinghurst Gaol for murdering his wife.

Hudson and Stroud were the first men executed at Darlinghurst Gaol.

13 February 1844 - John Knatchbull - Former Royal Navy captain hanged publicly in front of Darlinghurst Gaol

for the murder of shopkeeper Ellen Jamieson with a tomahawk in January 1844.

21 September 1852 - Francis Thomas Green - Publicly hanged outside Darlinghurst Gaol

for the murder of John Jones at Buckley's Creek on 10 March 1852 with a pistol. This was the last public hanging in NSW.

21 April 1868 - Henry James O'Farrell - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh on 12 March 1868 in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf.

18 January 1901 - Jimmy Governor - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the murders of Helen Josephine Kerz, Mrs. Grace Mawbey, Miss Grace Mawbey, Percival Mawbey, Hilda Mawbey at Breelong, NSW.

20 December 1901 - Joseph Campbell - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the rape of 9-year-old Violet Oldfield at Queanbeyan, NSW.

14 April 1903 - Thomas Moore - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the rape and murder of 10-year-old Janet Irene Smith at Leichhardt, NSW.

7 July 1903 - Digby Grand - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol for the murder of Police Constable Samuel Long at Auburn, NSW.

7 July 1903 - Henry Jones - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the murder of Police Constable Samuel Long at Auburn, NSW.

29 October 1907 - Nicholas Baxter - Hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol

for the murder of Mary MacNamara at Enmore, NSW.






The Amazing Mr. Henry Keck, The First Governor Of Darlinghurst Gaol

Henry Keck was appointed to be the first governor of Darlinghurst Gaol. He had papers saying that he had been an officer in the British Army and in charge of Dublin Castle. This was his first deception. Many more were to follow. The papers were all forged.

He was an enterprising governor with a weakness for easy money, and his new job perfectly suited his talents. It didn't take him long to set up business operations designed to line his pockets.

First he organised vegetable gardens, a dairy farm, poultry farm and piggery inside the gaol grounds, using prison labour. His pigs were fed prisoners' grain and were the finest in the colony. All his produce was sold in the Sydney markets with proceeds to Keck - and a small allowance for the workers.

From this Keck moved into manufacture of clothing, boots, and, most successfully, cabbage tree hats. He did not however limit his activities to inside the gaol - he also sent out overnight fishing parties from Woolloomooloo.

Keck was a man of culture and found some musicians among his prisoners. He was able to train and assemble small orchestras which were hired out to functions around Sydney Town.

woodcut Old Convict Woodcut

However, his most enterprising exploit was the establishment of brothel activities within the gaol for prisoners with spare earnings. It operated from the women's cells and proved so popular that he expanded it to include prostitutes from local brothels outside the gaol. Finally Keck installed two prostitutes in the courthouse next door, using lawyers' chambers that were empty at night, and allowing prisoners access to the court through the underground passage.

The courthouse is outside the south wall (on the right) stockade

As well as being able to buy the services of prostitutes, prisoners were able to buy food, tobacco and rum. They were able to buy candles so that they could continue carrying out work for him at night in their cells. Some were allowed, for a fee, to have a few days out of prison in which to carry out their own affairs. Gambling was conducted on cockroach races and card games.

This state of affairs continued for eight years. Released prisoners who told of the proceedings in gaol were not believed as Keck was generous and popular in Sydney and inspectors saw only a smooth running operation.

His downfall came in 1849 when a prisoner was recognised on the streets when he should have been locked up. Next, Keck was seen driving around with a notorious thug as his coachman.

Finally, one of his orchestras became very drunk at a public function and refused to return to gaol. The story was published and warders came forward with sensational allegations.

Keck was sacked in 1849 and left the gaol. He was later appointed Clerk of the George Street Markets (now the Queen Victoria Building). He died in Surry Hills on Christmas Day in 1863, and you can find his gravestone in Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney.








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