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