In my recent trip to Melbourne, my visit to this three-story museum was one of the highlights of my trip. Located on Russell Street of Melbourne CBD (Central Business District), this museum once housed the most notorious criminals of Australia – one of which the ever famous outlaw & serial killer Ned Kelly (who some believed to be Jack the Ripper).
This place has a rich history of Australia’s penal & justice system as its walls were a witness to all executions & struggles of the inmates of the gaol. It also contains a lot of memorabilia from both inmates & staff – including the different tools & equipment used when executing criminals. Ghost & paranormal activities were also reported by staff & visitors. Conveniently, it is located right beside the old City Police Watch House and City Courts buildings.
How to get there
Location: 377 Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
It is pretty much a block or two away from the State Library of Victoria (Swanson St)- you can either walk or ride the free tram and coming from the library, the nearest tram stop is 6-Swanston St/La Trobe St or Stop 7 -Russell St/La Trobe St.
Admission Fee & Operating Hours
Adult is charged AUD 28; this already includes access to the Gaol & Police Watch House. The Gaol is self-guided but the Police Watch House access has a schedule – which is usually posted on the entrance or the staff will remind you upon purchase of your ticket.
They are open daily 9AM – 5PM (except Christmas & Good Friday).
Old Melbourne Gaol’s History
“It was first constructed starting in 1839, and during its operation as a prison between 1842 and 1929, it held and executed some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, including bushranger Ned Kelly and serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming. In total, 133 people were executed by hanging. Though it was used briefly during World War II, it formally ceased operating as a prison in 1924; with parts of the gaol being incorporated into the RMIT University, and the rest becoming a museum.”
The tour has two parts, one is the self-guided tour inside the Gaol where you can see the old cell blocks – each telling a story of the inmates who stayed inside & the crimes they committed or were accused of.The ground area is very dim, not just because they wanted to add drama to the experience, but being a prison, it does not have large windows & without the minimal light bulbs around the area – the only source of light is the ceiling.
The Gaol area is a three-story building and visitors are free to enter the prison cells with mannequins, posters or videos inside that share the story of the inmate or the place itself. On each floor corners, they display some of the tools and/or equipments used to torture or execute prisoners.
After your self-guided tour, the next part is the guided tour of the Police Watch House. It is located right beside the Gaol building but do note that the entrance is in front & not the side of the Watch House. So after exiting the Gaol museum, exit the gate & walk towards the front of the Watch House building. Usually, there is a line in front & staff are willing to point you to the right direction. Make sure as well to not lose your ticket as you need to show this to the ‘Chief Sergeant’ before you can enter.
This for me is the fun part of my Melbourne Gaol experience. Inside, the ‘Chief Sergeant’ will conduct an activity where all visitors will act as if they were a prisoner of the Gaol. Some of us were given specific roles to play as an outlaw & had the chance to stay inside a prison cell – all locked up & with no light.
Inside the Police Watch House, the ‘Chief Sergeant’ shared many stories of how inmates or suspects were booked & locked up. They have prison cells that were padded – dedicated to criminals who were mentally-insane or has the tendency to harm themselves or others. When you get to visit the padded cell room, take a look at the foot prints that go up until the ceiling – no one knows how those foot prints reached the top – just one of the mysteries of the Gaol.
There were also a specific cell where unruly or drunk criminals were hosed down with cold water – naked – to calm them down. One of which died due to pneumonia & was only found a few hours later. No wonder the place is rich of ghost stories because of the negative vibes these walls experienced all throughout the place was operational.
This place is highly-recommended when visiting Melbourne – make sure not to miss this place as it is both entertaining & educational – something that can make your vacation/trip worthwhile.