A TURNKEY’S TRIBULATIONS, part 9. A couple of old jails.

I thought for a change I would get away from my old jail and introduce you to a couple we visited in our travels. This picture below is of the gallows at Fanny Bay Gaol in Darwin N.T. As you can see no expense was spared in its construction, a simple expedient structure for a quick death. Oddly enough the gallows were built in the infirmary. The jail itself was built in 1883 and was in use until September 1979. The last hangings were performed in 1952, when two Romanian immigrants were executed for the shooting murder of a taxi driver. As you can see the trapdoor opens into a pit, the hangman would operate it from the lever located out of sight of the condemned.Gallows at Fanny Bay

A typical layout for many small jails from that period, definitely not created to entice you back for another stay. Hmm, the condemned cell was definitely a one stay occupancy. Can you imagine how hot it would be in that block during a Darwin wet season?

IMG_0419

Well, they fixed that problem with these enticing suites situated in the middle of the yard.

comfy

The next gallows of interest are situated in Old Dubbo Gaol, in New South Wales and like Fanny Bay it is now a museum. That’s me looking suitably grim for the photo, hang on that’s how I look in all of them.

Me at the gallows

I won’t go into detail about the history of the jail except to say seven executions took place here between 1871 and 1905. Follow the below links.

http://www.olddubbogaol.com.au/history.html  Dubbo Gaol history.

 http://tinyurl.com/afkx57q   The story of hangman,  Robert ‘Nosey Bob’ Howard, the NSW state hangman it’s an interesting read I might add.

Lancaster Castle. I returned to England in 2002 for the first time since I’d left in 1960. I made the most of it and did all the touristy things and the one place I wanted to see was the castle. Up until 2011 it was still operating as a jail and what a varied history it has had. I made the tour with my late Uncle Jim and we had a great time, well as much of a good time as you can in an old castle. The below link takes you to the official Lancaster web site and it covers the history beautifully. We stood in the court-house and the age and beauty of it transfixed me. The crests of every High Sheriff of Lancaster are hung on the walls of the circular room. The furnishings are magnificent giving it an air of solemnity and power. I stood in the dock and found out where the term, ‘taken down’ comes from. There is a trapdoor in the floor where, after the convicted had their hand branded they were taken down to the cells underneath the court room. Yes, branded. You’ll see in the picture on the website where the prisoner’s arm was locked into a brace and the gaoler would then put the hot brand on it. This happened up until the early 1800’s and gave the judge an idea as to the type of person in the dock, whether the accused or a witness. Having to raise your right hand to swear an oath meant showing the world you had previous.

We stood for a while in the original dungeon built in the 13th century, the guide shut the door and the air vent, plunging us into total darkness. What an experience, I’ve been down a silver mine with the lights off and it wasn’t as dark as this. The execution chamber is something else, set in a tower on one side of the castle the gallows were erected on execution day outside one of the huge casement windows. This overlooked the wall between the castle and the church next door. Apparently the clergy would rent out space on top of the wall for those wanting a better view. The gruesome aspect of all of this was those waiting to be hung ( the executions took place on a certain day, I imagine when they had enough ) were brought in as the previous victim was being dragged back into the room by an assistant using a butcher’s hook under the chin. There is a chair on display in the room that was used to hang a young woman, Jane Scott, who was too weak to walk to the gallows. I felt a little chagrined at first, until I read the whole story. Her parents believed she had killed her infant and were going to put her in. She was charged with murdering her father and acquitted, then she murdered her mother and was sentenced to death. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. I recommend that you have a read through some of the stories on the Lancaster site, they go into great detail in many cases and are illuminating if nothing else about the ‘old days.’ You notice I didn’t say good.

http://www.lancastercastle.com/html/tour/language.php?c=1

I bailed out of doing my original post about a serial bi-sexual rapist this week, I need more time to give a balanced view on it. So that will be coming next week. Until then stay out of trouble.

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10 thoughts on “A TURNKEY’S TRIBULATIONS, part 9. A couple of old jails.

  1. Raani York

    Okay… here we go – I LOVE your blog post! As solid and great as I’m “used” from you… I love the pictures as well… some of them even made me shudder… and hey: You’re a great looking man, Laurie… 😉
    If I was only 25 years younger. *chuckle*

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Raani, there’s nothing like a tour of the gallows to get the creative juices flowing. Thanks for the compliment, I should be 25 years younger, I turned 61 in December.:-)

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      1. Raani York

        *chuckle* – Dearest Laurie… I thought I’d like to make me a little bit younger… since showing up as a middle aged boring woman. *grin* 😉

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Raani, I’ve had a few come my way and have been slack in not continuing them. So I’m going to set a few hours aside on the weekend and follow through with them.
      Laurie

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  2. liz blackmore

    Despite the reason for having the gaols, I like the history of them. It’s funny how one can hear the echoes of days gone by if you close your eyes and listen. Thanks for shaaring, Laurie!

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      There’s some great history and stories to come out of gaols ( I always used to write goals at school ) and many a story has been set in them. Old gaols have that feel and you’re right close your eyes and it’s there. You always feel as if you’re being watched. You’re welcome Liz.
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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  3. kelihasablog

    What a wonderful post Laurie. First, I love the pictures, I have an obsession with castles and history, and I love the links you added so I don’t have to go hunting for them 😀 You look good in your picture! You look like someone I wouldn’t want to make mad… or, someone I’d want of MY side if things got out of hand… LOL… Your lovely wife feels the same way I’m sure. Give her my regards! 😀

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Keli, glad you like the pictures I thought it would add a touch of realism to the post. Yes the links help and there are some interesting stories there. I LOVE castles and to stand down in that dungeon gave me goose bumps. To be in something that was built in King John’s reign, such history. Thanks for the compliment, my size? Well that’s why they used to use me as a battering ram in the coppers, lol:-) Yes my wife does and she says Hi right back.
      Cheers
      Laurie

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