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On Friday the 29th of July 1859, the Kilmore gaol was opened for the reception of prisoners, after having taken a year and nine months to build. The buildings are surrounded by stone walls 16 feet high with half-round coping, and guard house overlooking the yards, which were also surrounded by stone walls of the same class, but even then prisoners made their escape. The dimensions of the building were 54 feet by 26 feet. The whole building was divided into eight compartments—four large and four small. There was four small cells for the prisoners, two on each side of the gaoler’s room which is in the centre.” At that time and for some

years afterwards some of the worst criminals in Victoria were sent to Kilmore for safe keeping, but from the time of the destruction of the Kelly gang of bushrangers in June, 1880, the building had been little used until the Kilmore dairy company took it over for a more peaceful purpose than keeping prisoners. The company paid pretty heavy rent for years, until they purchased the property from the Government for the small sum of £300, and paid cash down, so they secured the place for a mere song. It was intended to gradually make alterations and improvements until the place is an up-to-date butter factory, and about the first alteration will be the pulling down of the stone walls, the Kilmore shire council having agreed to purchase the stone broken into 2½ inch metal for road purposes in quantities required, at 5s per yard stacked at the factory.

ON This Day – 31st March 1908

It was arranged by the Penal authorities, that Mr. R. Paterson, governor of the Geelong gaol, shall take over, the charge of the Melbourne Gaol on this day in 1908. He return to Geelong in the evening, and hand over the care of the Geelong gaol to Mr Furnell, of Beechworth, who has been appointed to succeed him. Mr. Paterson was extremely popular with his staff, who regret his departure from Geelong.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 26th November 1855

The colony of Van Diemen’s Land becomes known as Tasmania

Fears that the French would colonise Van Diemen’s Land caused the British to establish a small settlement on the Derwent River in 1803. 33 of the 49 people in the group were convicts, and the settlement continued to receive convicts re-shipped from New South Wales or Norfolk Island up until 1812. Regular shipments of convicts directly from Britain began in 1818. A second penal colony was established at Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land in 1822, and three years later, the British Government separated Van Dieman’s Land from New South Wales. Macquarie Harbour was eventually closed down, to be replaced by Port Arthur. Transportation of convicts to Van Diemen’s Land ended in 1853. On 26 November 1855, the colony officially became known as Tasmania and elections for parliament were held the following year.

ON THIS DAY…… 21st November 1789

Convict James Ruse establish first working farm in Australia

James Ruse was born on a farm in Cornwall around 1759. At age 22, he was convicted of burglary and, due to severe over-crowding in British gaols, spent over four years on the prison hulks in Plymouth Harbour. He was one of the convicts who was transported in the First Fleet to New South Wales, sailing on the ‘Scarborough’.
Governor Phillip was aware of the need to build a working, farming colony as soon as possible. Thus, on 21 November 1789, Phillip selected Ruse to go to Rose Hill (now Parramatta), west of Sydney Town, and establish “Experiment Farm”, the colony’s first working farm. Ruse was allocated one and a half acres of already cleared ground and assisted in clearing a further five acres. He was given two sows and six hens and a deal was made for him to be fed and clothed from the public store for 15 months. Within a year, Ruse had successfully farmed the site, proving that it was possible for new settlers to become self-sufficient, and to feed a family with relatively little assistance to begin with. As a result of the success of Ruse’s venture, he was granted another 30 acres in March 1791, in the colony’s first official, permanent land grant. This was in addition to the area he was already occupying.

ON THIS DAY…… 6th November 1908

 A draft of four prisoners from Pentridge was received at the Geelong Gaol on this day in 1908.  The prisoners were placed in the Hospital ward for a change of air and discipline. 

 

ON THIS DAY…… 1st November 1791

Escaped convicts tried to walk to China

On the 1st of November 1791, a group of 20 male convicts and one pregnant female convict escaped from the gaol at Parramatta, New South Wales in an attempt to reach China overland. They took with them rations, tools and clothes. Whilst some of the convicts were recaptured, many simply died in the unfamiliar bushland of New South Wales. Many convicts believed that China lay beyond the Blue Mountains.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 1st October 1872

Reports of the public works committee, recommending the purchase of 200 yards
rubble stone to be broken at the Geelong Gaol, and that the damaged flagging opposite the premises destroyed by the recent fire in Ryrie street be removed and replaced by sound material, were adopted.

 

On This Day ….. 26th September 1803

Joseph Samuel was born in England and later transported to Australia after committing a robbery in 1801. Samuel then became involved in a gang in Sydney and robbed the home of a wealthy woman. A policeman who had been sent to protect her home was murdered. The gang was soon caught and at the trial Joseph Samuel confessed to stealing the goods but denied being part of the murder. The leader of the gang was released due to lack of evidence and Joseph Samuel was sentenced to death by hanging. In 1803, Samuel and another criminal were driven in a cart to Parramatta where hundreds of people came to watch the hanging. After praying, the cart on which they were standing drove off, but instead of being hanged, the rope around Samuel’s neck snapped! The executioner tried again. This time, the rope slipped and his legs touched the ground. With the crowd in an uproar, the executioner tried for the third time and the rope snapped again. This time, an officer galloped off to tell the Governor what had happened and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The Governor and others believed that it was a sign from God that Samuel should not be hanged.

 

On this day …….. 26th September 1803

Joseph Samuel was an Englishman legendary for the manner in which he survived execution. Convicted for robbery in 1795, he was sentenced in 1801 to transportation to Australia, one of 297 convicted felons aboard the vessels Nile, Canada and Minorca. Security in the early penal settlements of New South Wales was reinforced by the isolation of the colony: guards trusted the Australian wilderness to kill any convicts who attempted to escape. Samuel succeeded in escaping and, with a gang, robbed the home of a wealthy woman, and in the process, a policeman named Joseph Luker, who was guarding her home, was murdered. The gang was hunted down and quickly captured, and during the trial, the woman recognised Joseph Samuel as one of the culprits. He confessed to robbing her home, but denied having murdered the policeman. The other members of the gang, including the leader, were acquitted due to lack of evidence, but because the woman identified Samuel, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. On 26 September 1803, Samuel and another criminal, convicted of another crime and not a member of the same gang, were driven in a cart to Parramatta, where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the execution. Nooses were fastened securely around their necks from the gallows and after they were allowed to pray with a priest, the cart was driven away. This was the common method of hanging of the day, and caused death by slow strangulation. Not until the latter half of the 19th century did the British employ the drop method, which breaks the neck. The ropes used were made of five cords of hemp, which enabled one to hold 1,000 lb (~450 kg), for up to five minutes without breaking, more than sufficient for human executions. The other criminal ultimately died by strangulation, but Samuel’s rope snapped and he dropped to his feet, sprained an ankle and collapsed. The executioner hastily readied another rope, also five-hemp, and placed it around Samuel’s neck, forced him onto the same cart, and drove the cart away again. The other criminal was still kicking weakly at this point. When the cart drove out from under him, Samuel fell again, and the noose slipped off his neck, whereupon his boots touched the ground. The executioner was sure to have fastened the noose securely around his neck, and as he stood Samuel up to try again, the crowd had become boisterous, calling for Samuel to be freed. The executioner very quickly readied another five-hemp rope, ordered the cart driven back, forced Samuel onto it, fastened the noose around his neck, secured it very carefully and tightly, and then ordered the cart driven away. The rope snapped, and Samuel dropped to the ground and stumbled over, trying to avoid landing on his sprained ankle. Now the crowd stood around in an uproar, and another policeman, watching on horseback, ordered the execution delayed momentarily, while he rode away to find the governor. The governor was summoned to the scene and upon inspection of the ropes, which showed no evidence of having been cut, and the other criminal, who was successfully executed with an identical rope, the governor and the entire crowd agreed that it was a sign from God that Joseph Samuel had not committed any crime deserving of execution and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment instead. Parramatta’s town doctor tended to his sprained ankle.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 23rd September 1853

We have been credibly in formed that the prisoners in the Geelong Gaol have partly succeeded, since they have been ironed, in cutting their manacles. For a long time an infamous connivance has been going on, among those who have immediate charge of the prisoners. Two tennon saws, made of the best steel, and three triangular files, were found by Mr. Brodie, the Governor of the gaol, concealed in one of the cells

 

On this day …….. 13th September 1824

The city of Redcliffe is so named for its red cliff faces. The area was first recommended by Captain John Oxley as the site for a new convict settlement. However, Oxley cannot be truly credited with being the first white man to set foot in the area. In 1823, he set out to explore the Moreton Bay area, and it was there that he came across the stranded ticket-of-leave timber-cutter, Thomas Pamphlett, who together with his companion Finnegan had been living with the aborigines for seven months, after being shipwrecked off Moreton Island. Oxley and Settlement Commandant Lieutenant Miller, together with a crew and 29 convicts, sailed on the ‘Amity’ from Sydney and arrived at Redcliffe on 13 September 1824 to found the new colony. The settlement was established at Humpybong, but abandoned less than a year later when the main settlement was moved 30km away, to the Brisbane River. The name “Humpybong” was given by the local aborigines to describe the “dead huts” left behind, “humpy” being huts, and “bong” meaning “dead”, or “lifeless”. The name is still used today.

 

On this day …….. 18th of August 1786

The decision is made in England to colonise New South Wales with convicts from Britain’s overcrowded gaols.

Conditions in England in the 18th century were tough: the industrial revolution had removed many people’s opportunities to earn an honest wage as simpler tasks were replaced by machine labour. As unemployment rose, so did crime, especially the theft of basic necessities such as food and clothing. The British prison system was soon full to overflowing, and a new place had to be found to ship the prison inmates. The American colonies were no longer viable, following the American war of Independence. Following James Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific in 1770, the previously uncharted continent of New Holland proved to be suitable. Cook had claimed the eastern half of the continent for England, naming it “New South Wales”, and determined that a small bay in the south which he named “Botany Bay” would present the ideal conditions for a penal colony. On 18 August 1786 the decision was made to send a colonisation party of convicts, military and civilian personnel to Botany Bay, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, who was appointed Governor-designate. The First Fleet consisted of 775 convicts on board six transport ships, accompanied by officials, crew, marines and their families who together totalled 645. As well as the convict transports, there were two naval escorts and three storeships. The First Fleet assembled in Portsmouth, England, and set sail on 13 May 1787. They arrived in Botany Bay on 18 January 1788. Phillip immediately determined that there was insufficient fresh water, an absence of usable timber, poor quality soil and no safe harbour at Botany Bay. Thus the fleet was moved to Port Jackson, arriving on 26 January 1788. Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26, commemorates the landing of the First Fleet at Port Jackson, and the raising of the Union Jack to claim the land as belonging to England.