Monday, November 23, 2009

Boggo Road Gaol

Jails are to Brisbane as flour is to bread - gradually add free settlers, buildings, roads and transport; carefully separate from New South Wales; leave to bake in the sub-tropical sun for 150 years and voila - a modern city of almost two million people. Brisbane originated as a jail because Sydney wanted to send its very worst convicts somewhere else, and so it's no surprise that jails have loomed large since then. I can't imagine the conditions that the free settlers in Brisbane must have endured, let alone the squalor and deprivation that would have surrounded the convicts. The picture below shows what the present site of the GPO looked like in 1850. St Stephen's church is in the background, and the building standing where the GPO is currently placed is a female convict factory.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library, ; #153725)

The factory was created by Commandant Logan to separate the female convicts from the rest of Brisbane's population, both free and convict. Women prisoners were subsequently moved to a stockade at Eagle Farm, and this site became a jail in 1837. Here is a photograph from 1863, showing blankets being distributed to aborigines outside the former female convict factory, which by then was being used as a police station.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # 7773)

Brisbane's most notorious jail for both men and women was Boggo Road at Dutton Park, which first operated for male prisoners in 1883. A separate facility for women was opened in 1903. There had formerly been jails at Petrie Terrace and St Helena Island. The entrance to Boggo Road Gaol (historical spelling) is pictured below around the year 1936.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62056)

In 1913, Queensland was the first Australian state to abolish capital punishment, but before then, executions were carried out at the prison. The gallows at Boggo Road are pictured below.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #110876)

The history of the facility continued until 1992, when the jail finally closed. There had been a deal of prisoner unrest during the 80s, largely as a result of the deteriorating conditions and poor sanitation there. A Commission of Review into Corrective Services was formed, and its findings led to the end of Boggo Road as a jail. For a while, it was possible to tour the jail, but the State government made the decision to convert the property into an "Urban Village", so the site is currently closed while this development takes place. A list of current correctional institutions can be found here, at the Queensland Government's Department of Community Safety web site. You can click here to see the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society web site.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Boggo Road is being gentrified, and my current photo, above, shows the front of the old prison and some new landscaping on the steep hill in front of it. It seems we can convert anything into housing these days - warehouses, wharves, wool stores, power houses, gas works and now - jails!

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Next: Battle of Brisbane


  1. I saw this great exhibition last year of this photographer who had been allowed to go into the gaol and take pictures of the inmates. They were brilliant - really up close and personal, black and white shots. I wish I could remember the name of the photographer.

  2. Found it! His name is Charles Page.

  3. Hey - thanks Cara. I found his web pages and the jail photos you mentioned. Really excellent work, isn't it? Thanks for the info.

  4. i could see john stuart on the roof of some part at boggo road from my primary school

  5. John Andrew Stuart was convicted of the infamous Whiskey Au Go Go multiple murders, and at one stage led a hunger strike from the roof of the jail. There is a brief history here:

    Thanks for that memory.

  6. My name is Jack Sim and I am the Managing Director of Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd & Ghost Tours Pty Ltd. My company established historical tours, ghost tours & re-enactments at Boggo Road Gaol in 1998 - NOT the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society Inc - that non-for-profit organisation is actively campaigning to have us prevented from running tours at the site in the future - could you please put up a link to our business which spent years and years promoting the prison's history on television and internet - ourwebsite is or
    We also publish books on the prison's history -
    It would be much appreciated. We are the only tour business in Brisbane which is actively employing staff to tell the history of Boggo Road Gaol. We need the support of local people.

  7. Good article. I am secretary of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society, a community group of wonderful volunteers, some of whom have worked at the gaol museum site since 1992. We are not-for-profit and do all our work for free. When the museum was open, the volunteers took through over 90% of tours and did 100% of on-site work. Could you please put up a link to our website at, and also take a look at our large range of Brisbane history books.

    I feel I must respond to the comment from 'Jack' Sim above. For a start, nobody is employing anybody at Boggo Road right now - it has been closed for over 4 years. Also, the BRGHS is NOT actively campaigning against his business - we have simply refused to work with Mr Sim because of his business methods, which include spending lots of money issuing baseless legal threats against us and members of other Brisbane community history groups.

    We aim to make sure that when the prison opens again, it is affordable, accessible and has integrity. We do not support private businesses trying appropriate public history for personal profit, and that is why we ask for the support of the public for a REAL community history group.

  8. Re: above two comments

    Both these comments have been published for the purpose of balance. My other alternative was to delete both, but I am reluctant to do that at present. However, this is not the forum for these issues to be aired.

    No further comments of this nature will be published here.

  9. The gaol site itself will remain largely a historic site. It will need sprucing up a bit for health and safety reasons, but should open again in the next 12 months. The main development is taking place next door to it.

    Its a great place for photographers. The historical society still receives numerous requests for photo and film shoot access, but we have no say in it and the people to ask are Public Works.

  10. I did time in 2 jail as a boy,scary dark days, violence a daily things,long time ago,I mean to show my family what yards cells I was in,old Woodford bwas wild too,old Wacol was good for farming, industry,some things were t that bad there were meaningful jobs for prisoners,now meds yard or cell everyday for most,back then hard labour was still law,not now,get em working,


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