Narrabri Gaol and Residence | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Narrabri Gaol and Residence

Item details

Name of item: Narrabri Gaol and Residence
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Gaol/Lock-up
Location: Lat: -30.3286099704 Long: 149.7860708220
Primary address: Bowen Street, Narrabri, NSW 2390
Parish: Narrabri
County: Nandewar
Local govt. area: Narrabri
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Narrabri
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Bowen StreetNarrabriNarrabriNarrabriNandewarPrimary Address
Barwan StreetNarrabriNarrabriNarrabriNandewarAlternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Narrabri Shire CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

Designed by Colonial Architect James Barnett, the gaol has functioned continuously as such for 101 years and, apart from the last 10 years, has operated in the way intended in the original design, representing a system of the administration of punishment that is no longer considered appropriate. The form of the buildings for a country gaol appears to be unique with its formal symmetrical facade and enclosing wall. It is an important part of the streetscape and a dominant element particularly in Bowen Street. Due to its function as a police gaol and its ancillary functions it has become an integral part of life of Narrabri and has strong associations with the local community. (Rhett Partridge & Partner:79)
Date significance updated: 01 Oct 97
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: James Barnet
Builder/Maker: J Conlon
Construction years: 1880-1881
Physical description: A formal composition consisting of a main central wing having an elaborate classical pediment and roof fleche flanked on the street by tall brick walls having rendered quoins and spheres above. A timber verandah frames the main entrance while at the rear there is an extensive range of single storey residential cell and service blocks all of similar stuccoed brick construction. (Parsons and Sheedy 1980)

The walls of the building are all solid, generally laid in English bond and are substantial. In the residential section, external walls are 350mm thick and internal walls are 225mm thick. In the gaol section the external walls are 450mm thick and internal walls are 350mm thick. The floors are generally raised approx 750mm above the footpath level.

The roof structure is timber with pine boarding on the rafters, oversheeted with corrugated galvanised iron. The structure is double couple close structure with collar ties and substantial ceiling joists. All timbers are cypress pine. (McBean & Crisp 1985:2,3)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good. Archaelogical potential is low.
Modifications and dates: 1880-1881 - built
1882-1883 - water tank added
1890 - addition (probably kitchen and wash house)
1898 - addition (probably 2 bedrooms, bathroom and verandah)
1946 - demolition of kitchen, wash house, bedrooms, bathrooms, external closet rear porch and steps and infilling the well. Dining room extension and providing a double door link to the exisiting dining room.

1988 - verandah on Bowen Street entrance completely reconstructed with floorboards replaced again in 2010 (DCE, 4).
1995 - perimeter wall to rear courtyard underpinned - extent is unknown (ibid).
1997 - perimeter wall to eastern courtyard underpinned and partially reconstructed (ibid)
Current use: Museum
Former use: Gaol


Historical notes: The first government structures to be erected on the site were the first court house, lock-up and lock-up keepers accommodation. In 1865 the lock-up consisted of two cells, accommodating a maximum of six prisoners. In 1875 this was extended by infilling the passage between the two cells, creating an extra cell for two additional prisoners. These structures were located in the area that now forms the forecourt to the second courthouse.

As a result of a number of escapes and influx of prisoners in late 1877, application for additional acccommodation was made by the Acting Gaoler.

Tenders were called in 1880 for the erection of a gaol and residence at Narrabri. The buildings were designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet and the plans were available for inspection at the Colonial Architects Office and at Narrabri Court House.

Tenders closed on 31 September 1880 and the tender of J. Conlon was accepted on 20 October 1880 for 3,590.8.6 pounds. The buildings were constructed from 1880 to 1881.

On the 10 October 1886 the site was notified in the Government Gazette as reserved for a gaolsite, along with reserves for the Court House and Police purposes. (Rhett Partridge & Partners:6-7)

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]
Designed by an important Colonial Architect James Barnett, it has functioned continuously as a gaol for 101 years and apart from the last 10 years has operated in the way intended in the original design, representing a system of the administration of punshment that is no longer considered appropriate. (Rhett Partridge & Partner:79)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The form of the buildings for a country gaol appears to be unique with its formal symmetrical facade and enclosing wall. It is an important part of the streescape and a dominant element particularly in Bowen Street. (Rhett Partridge & Partner:79)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It forms a significant part of the only important group of civil buildings in Narrabri. Due to its function as a police gaol and its ancillary functions it has an integral part of life of Narrabri and has stong associations with the local community. (Rhett Partridge & Partner:79)
SHR Criteria f)
It is one of only several country goals constructed between 1865-1890 during Barnett's time and is one of the last to be closed. (Rhett Partridge & Partner:79)
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:


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

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 0034402 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0034415 Mar 85 561183
National Trust of Australia register   27 Oct 80   
Register of the National Estate  28 Sep 82   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDCE Structural & Civil Engineers2016Building Condition Report - S2451 - Old Narrabri Gaol, Bowen Street, Narrabri NSW 2390
TourismHeritage NSW Narrabri Old Gaol Museum View detail
WrittenJohn Carr2010Narrabri Gaol Conservation Plan
WrittenK Parsons and D Sheedy1980National Trust Classification Card - Narrabri Gaol and Residence
WrittenMc Bean and Crisp Pty Ltd1985Report on Structural Condition of Former Narrabri Gaol
WrittenRhett Partridge & Partners1986Narrabri Conservation Plan
TourismTourism NSW2007Narrabri Old Gaol and Museum View detail

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045707
File number: S90/03726/001 & HC 33172

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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