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Grafton Correctional Centre

Item details

Name of item: Grafton Correctional Centre
Other name/s: Grafton Gaol; Grafton Jail
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Gaol/Lock-up
Location: Lat: -29.6766467673 Long: 152.9401957150
Primary address: 170 Hoof Street, Grafton, NSW 2460
Local govt. area: Clarence Valley
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Grafton-Ngerrie
Hectares (approx): 4.529
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
170 Hoof StreetGraftonClarence Valley  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Corrective Services NSWState Government22 Oct 98

Statement of significance:

The Grafton Gaol complex is significant as it demonstrates the development of the philosophy regarding prison architecture in NSW and the confinement of prisoners in the late nineteenth century. It is one of few gaol complexes designed by private architects in Australia. It is one of few known examples of the work of Henry Wiltshire. It continues the features of gaol design developed by the Colonial (later Government) Architects branch. It is one of the few public buildings designed by competition in the late nineteenth century; its design utilises characteristic materials of the Federation period. Its construction is related to the growth and expansion of Grafton.
Date significance updated: 08 Nov 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Henry Wiltshire, Government Architects Branch
Builder/Maker: Holloway Bros
Construction years: 1891-1893
Physical description: Grafton Gaol Complex originally consisted of a square compound, with brick walls, with one elaborate gatehouse providing access for staff, visitors and prisoners alike. The gatehouse features a machicolated parapet, a sandstone archway and elaborate panelled doors. A Range building was constructed within the compound, adjacent to the gatehouse to provide facilities for the prison officers and visitors. A sterile zone separated the cell ranges from the prison walls. Male and female prisoners were completely segregated with separate cell ranges, exercise yards, bath houses and hospital facilities. The (former) male cell range is largely intact. Workshop and kitchen facilities were incorporated in a new range adjacent to the male cell block. The Prison Governor's residence (now Administration block) was located outside the compound wall, adjacent to the main gatehouse. This building features polychromatic brickwork, tuck pointing and some sandstone detailing. Brick, with a sandstone trim and terracotta tiles, all characteristic materials of the Federation period, were used throughout the complex, the level of detail depending on the function of the building. The complex has been extended to one side. New watch towers have been built however elements of the original towers remain intact.
Modifications and dates: 1942 - Government Architects Branch
1960 - Government Architects Branch
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot, Gaol, Correctional Centre


Historical notes: The current Grafton Gaol complex is the third gaol to be constructed to serve the town of Grafton. The second complex did not contain the required number of cells, was floodprone and unhygienic. Despite this it was subsequently converted for use by the Lands Department.

The third gaol was selected by competition. During the early 1890s, due to pressure from private architectural firms, the design of public buildings was not automatically given to the Colonial/Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon. This process proved successful in the case of Grafton, but was subsequently abandoned due to difficulties with impartiality of some jurors. The competition was won by a Sydney based architect, Henry Wiltshire, who also received fourth prize. The design follows trends already evident in the gaols designed by the Colonial/Government Architects Branch.

Walter Liberty Vernon (1846-1914) was both architect and soldier. Born in England, he ran successful practices in Hastings and London and had estimable connections in artistic and architectural circles. In 1883 he had a recurrence of bronchitic asthma and was advised to leave the damp of England. He and his wife sailed to New South Wales. Before leaving, he gained a commission to build new premesis for Merrrs David Jones and Co., in Sydney's George Street. In 1890 he was appointed Government Architect - the first to hold that title - in the newly reorganised branch of the Public Works Department. He saw his role as building 'monuments to art'. His major buildings, such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1904-6) are large in scale, finely wrought in sandstone, and maintaining the classical tradition. Among others are the Mitchell Wing of the State Library, Fisher Library at the University of Sydney and Central Railway Station. He also added to a number of buildings designed by his predecessors, including Customs House, the GPO and Chief Secretary's Building - with changes which did not meet with the approval of his immediate precedessor, James Barnet who, nine years after his resignation, denounced Vernon's additions in an essay and documentation of his own works. In England, Vernon had delighted his clients with buildings in the fashionable Queen Anne style. In NSW, a number of British trained architects whow were proponents of hte Arts and Crafts style joined his office and under their influence, Vernon changed his approach to suburban projects. Buildings such as the Darlinghurst First Station (Federation Free style, 1910) took on the sacale and character of their surroundings. Under Vernon's leadership, an impressive array of buildings was produced which were distinguished by interesting brickwork and careful climatic considerations, by shady verandahs, sheltered courtyards and provision for cross-flow ventilation. Examples are courthouses in Parkes (1904), Wellington (1912) and Bourke, Lands Offices in Dubbo (1897) and Orange (1904) and the Post Office in Wellington (1904)(Le Sueur, 2016, 7).

The gaol was built by the Holloway Bros and proclaimed on 8th September 1893. The prisoners were transferred in November 1893. In 1942 structural alterations were carried out. With the opening of "Katingal", the gaol was classified as a special security unit for protective segregation cases.

Following the success of the Public Sector Association (union) in having Kirkconnell gaol near Bathurst reopened, on Thursday, 23 April 2015 at 11am, the PSA will hold a media conference at the front of Grafton Gaol to publically call on the Baird Government to fully recommission the prison to alleviate the overcrowding crisis in NSW correctional facilities and provide much needed employment in the area. The PSA has raised concerns that overcrowding is heightening the risk of violence in the state's gaols while workers compensation for Correctional Officers and other members is inadequate.
PSA E-news, 20/4/15).

On 17 July 2020 an official retirement ceremony was held at the front entry to the old gaol, attendedd by Corrective Services NSW Commissioner, Peter Severin. A lone piper led parole officers and staff of the Grafton Correctional Centre out through the gates of the gaol for the last time that day (Clarence Valley Independent, 22/7/2020).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Administering and alienating Crown lands-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 19th Century Infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes The rule of law-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Jail-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Incarcerating prisoners-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing making and using coats of arms and heraldry-

Recommended management:

Retain and adaptively reuse former cell block walls and former residence.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0080902 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register 00909 Feb 95   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Department of Corrective Services: Interim Heritage and Conservation Register1995009State Projects Heritage Group  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenHelisma, Geoff2016'New Gaol: 'Many EIS conclusions questioned'
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - part 2
WrittenState Projects Heritage Group1995NSW Department of Corrective Services Heritage and Conservation Register

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5011970
File number: H00/00298/01

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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