The Maitland Gaol complex is positioned on top of the main hill at East Maitland. It is the focal point of the town and an important confirmation of the axial town planning concept of the Surveyor General of that time, Sir Thomas Mitchell.
Comprising of buildings mainly of sandstone and metal roofing, the building structures are set out on the same north-west bearing as the predominant street pattern of East Maitland. The cell block Wings 'A' and 'B' were located symmetrically about the Gate House axis in the 1840s being of equal distance from the axis.
The houses of the Governor of the Jail and of the Lieutenant-Governor project forwards from the gaol wall to form a court, with the main entrance at the far end.
The newer extension on the western side is of red coloured brick.
Demolitions, alterations and improvements
1972 - Maitland became maximum security
1977 - Escape of seven hardened criminals including "mad dog" Denning
Foundation stone of the gaol was laid in 1844. The first stage, built in 1844-9, included the south-east wing, the gate lodges and the enclosing wall of the original compound, all of stone. The second stage, built 1861-73 under James Barnet, included the north-west wing, the watch towers, the warders' quarters and the Governor's residence that flanked the entrance from John Street, the two storey building that contained a chapel and a school room on the first floor and workshops on the ground floor.
Construction on the eastern extension was completed in 1900. Work included perimeter walls, watch towers, women's cell range, workshops and female warders quarters.
Much of the masonry work at the gaol was carried out by prisoners using stones from Thomas Browne's Ravensfield quarry. The basic character has remained largely intact however, during the late 1960s and 1970s some alterations and additions resulted in the loss of some integrity of the 1870 gaol. The gaol forms part of the Court House Group at Maitland, and was still being used for its original prison function in 1994.
(NSW Department of Corrective Services Heritage and Conservation Register, 1995)
The most comprehensive history to date has been completed as part of the 1998 CMP. Key historical dates are summarised below:
1835 - First report that Gaol would be constricted.
1839 - Tenders called for the first stage.
1841 - Maitland was the third largest population centre
1843 - Local residents partitioned for completion of the gaol. First use of the site as a gaol.
1844 - Stone quarried at Morpeth by convicts. Works supervised by Mortimer Lewis Jnr
1846 - 1849 First construction phase
1849 - Gaol opened in January with one wing built
1861 - 1887 Second construction phase
1881 - Mounted Police barracks commenced
1883 - Eastern extension commenced
1896 - Gaol listed as one of Colony's principle prisons for women
1905 - Last corporal punishment in the State carried out at Maitland
1957 - Gaol noted as too small to serve as Hunters principle prison
1970 - 1980
April 1996 - The Hon Bob Debus, Minister for Corrective Services, announced the closure of Maitland Gaol as part of an overhaul of the NSW prison system. The gaol has been in continuous use as a prison since 1850 but its accommodation and working conditions were no longer considered appropriate in the context of the Government's plans for correctional facilities.
January 1998 - Gaol closed.
1998 - inviting proposals for the use of the site.
February 1999 - the Hon Richard Amery, Minister for Land and Water Conservation, announced that Maitland City Council was the preferred proponent. The Council has been offered a 50 year lease on the historic site.
2002/3 Federal Heritage CHPP grant of $212,100 awarded for adaptive reuse.