I visited the Richmond Gaol as a child and all I remember are the dark, musty solitary confinement cells. What a surprise I got on my return visit today! Richmond Gaol is a beautiful, albeit sad, place. The almond tree in the courtyard, the sandstone bricks and the sparse but effective displays of artefacts are all stunning. The deciduous trees, in their Autumn colours, only added to this beauty.
The gaol buildings hold many treasures. Look for pictures drawn on the window shutters by convicts and for a pair of boots underneath the floorboards. There are also lists of convicts held who have been held at the gaol. You can check if one of your ancestors was imprisoned there, if you know your family tree.
I was surprised by how well presented and interactive the displays at Richmond Gaol are. You can shut yourself into a solitary cell, feel the weight of the leg irons and hear the voices of the convicts. There’s even a model of the gaol to view. You’ll learn about the personal stories of several of the staff and inmates. Read about the exploits of bushrangers, convicts, escapists and the gaolers. Who knew that a gaoler could end up imprisoned inside his own gaol?
The Richmond Gaol was an essential part of the convict system under Governor Arthur, particularly as a “half way” point between Hobart and Port Arthur. It was built between 1825 and 1840, with extensions added to stop overcrowding and escape attempts. You’ll learn about the gaol’s famous prisoners such as the hangman, Solomon Bleay, and the criminal Isaac “Ikey” Solomons, who is supposedly the inspiration for Dicken’s character Faigan in Oliver Twist.
Follow my directions to Richmond in my general post about Richmond. Once you’re in Richmond, park in the carpark on the edge of the village green or at the front of the gaol. If you’re walking, find the village green and walk across it to the gaol. The site is open from 9am – 5pm every day.
Admission to the Richmond Gaol is $9 for adults, $4 for children and $22 for families and tours are self-guided. You can enter the gift shop without paying for admission to the gaol. It is well stocked with Tasmanian gifts, including a storybook for children about convicts and my favourite: Tasmanian Devil oven mitts. You’ll understand what I mean when you see them! You can also purchase a certificate for $2.95 as a memento of your visit.