Maitland Correctional Centre | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Maitland Correctional Centre

Item details

Name of item: Maitland Correctional Centre
Other name/s: Old Maitland Gaol; Jail
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Detention Centre
Location: Lat: -32.7452117737 Long: 151.5898938010
Primary address: John Street, East Maitland, NSW 2323
Parish: Maitland
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Maitland
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Mindaribba
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT469 DP1002766
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
John StreetEast MaitlandMaitlandMaitlandNorthumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
NSW Department of IndustryState Government 

Statement of significance:

Maitland Gaol is of considerable significance because it is the oldest substantially intact country gaol in NSW. It is Australia's oldest structure in continuous use as a gaol. It is the only surviving example of the group of "Inspectors' Gaols" designed by the Colonial Architect in NSW and built during the 1840s. Together with the courthouse, it provides an elevated focal point at the north-west end of William Street, the grand axis of the 1829 town plan. In addition, Maitland Gaol was built of local stone and has a substantially homogenous character of a 19th century stone precinct. It is a showcase of stone, iron and timber work from the 1840s to the 1890s, much of it executed by local and prison artisans. (NSW Department of Corrective Services Heritage and Conservation Register, 1995)
Date significance updated: 29 Apr 11
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: Mortimer Lewis (1844 - 1848), James Barnet (1851 - 1875)
Builder/Maker: H Brodie and A Craig
Construction years: 1826-1875
Physical description: 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.
Modifications and dates: Demolitions, alterations and improvements
1972 - Maitland became maximum security
1977 - Escape of seven hardened criminals including "mad dog" Denning
Current use: Museum, Tours
Former use: Correctional Centre, Gaol


Historical notes: 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.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The First Stage: It is the oldest structure in Australia that has been continuously used as a gaol. It is a rare vestige from the first system of state prisons and is the oldest intact country gaol in NSW. 'A' Wing is the only surviving example from the 'Inspector's Gaols' designed by Mortimer Lewis and built in the 1830's and 1840's.
The Second Stage: Is the first of the major gaol complexes completed under James Barnet as colonial Architect
The whole Gaol Complex: Demonstrates early status of the town of Maitland and its place in the growth of the Hunter Region.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Has a high status and provided perceived value in the local community as a landmark in the urban townscape.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Provides evidence of changing penal attitudes and practices over the last 150 years.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

The recommended heritage requirements aim to retain the architectural character of the precinct, retain representative samples of types or elements, retain evidence of former usage and to permit adaptations to be carried out in a way that will leave evidence of the nature of the adaption and which will facilitate the future reversal of the adaptation.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementconservation management plan, 2 parts CMP consists of two documents - first volume, prepared by DPWS, dated 1998, second volume, prepared by Eric Martin & Associates, dated 2000 - both need to be read together Dec 19 2000
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 0129602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Department of Corrective Services: Interim Heritage and Conservation Register1995008State Projects Heritage Group  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Maitland Correctional Centre View detail
Management Plan (HC endorsed)Eric Martin & Ass2000Maitland Gaol CMP Part 2
WrittenHeritage Branch of Department of Public Works1995NSW Department of Corrective Services Heritage and Conservation Register
TourismHeritage NSW Maitland Gaol History View detail
Management PlanMaitland City Council1998DetailedProposal Maitland Gaol
TourismMaitland City Council2007Maitland Heritage Walk View detail

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: 5012147
File number: S91/02320/02, 09/00740

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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