In September 1824 the first convicts arrived in Moreton Bay Settlement. The convict barracks were built in Queen Street during 1828 and 1829. During 1830 the Female Factory was completed and occupied by the women convicts, until their removal to Eagle Farm Settlement. The year 1839 saw the departure of the majority of convicts.
Alterations were made to the Female Factory and it was re-constructed as a gaol. This gaol and the former prisoners' barracks in Queen Street also, were sufficient for the purpose. However, when the necessity arose of providing Legislative Chambers for the newly constituted Parliament of the Colony, the building was converted into Queensland's first Parliament House.
The Government decided to build a gaol on Petrie Terrace opposite Caxton Street. Andrew Petrie was the contractor and the gaol was opened on 5 November 1860. Samuel Sneyd was an early Governor of the gaol. His son, Joseph Sneyd rose to a high position in the South Brisbane gaol.
Samuel Sneyd owned 31 acres on Stafford Road between Gibson Park and opposite to Victor Street as well as 3 acres at Bowen Hills where Sneyd Street perpetuates his name. He died at Enoggera on 4 July 1885.
The average number of admissions to the Petrie Terrace Gaol for the first six years were Males 475 and Females 75 but this average was reduced after 1865 when the hulk Proserpine was purchased by the Government and moored at Lytton where, about 70 prisoners were kept aboard. Women with infants were imprisoned at Petrie Terrace but a special diet or anything medically ordered was available. The records of Petrie Terrace Gaol likewise show the sternness of those times:
|Oldest Male Adult imprisoned||96 years old||Vagrancy.|
|Youngest Male imprisoned||10 years old||Stealing money|
|Oldest Female Adult imprisoned||76 years old||Stealing clothes.|
|Youngest Female imprisoned||11 years old||Stealing fowls.|
Petrie Terrace Gaol had been a badly designed building and was situated in what became a populated area. Nearby residents could overlook the prison yards and exchange signals with the prisoners. The prison was not surrounded by a wall in the early period, but later, a massive stone one was built as the only protection beyond the building, had been a wooden fence.
In early 1867, the Government, in view of the overcrowding at Petrie Terrace sought a new site for a gaol and decided on St. Helena Island one of the prettiest islands in Moreton Bay.
St. Helena was used as a prison chiefly for long term sentences from the years 1867 until it was closed in 1934 and the prisoners transferred to the South Brisbane Gaol. However, the Government in 1879 decided to transfer all prisoners to St. Helena and dispose of Petrie Terrace Gaol and the site. The intention was to build a prison on the outskirts of Brisbane to hold short term prisoners and those awaiting trial.
A survey of 24 acres had been completed by H. C. Rawnsley on 18 June 1863 of the area later occupied by the South Brisbane Gaol. Robert Porter secured the contract to build the jail in 18 months for the sum of £16,859. Specifications of the new jail were for a total area 310 ft. long and 244 ft. wide and an enclosed space of 270 ft. by 255 ft. in 2 two storeyed buildings containing 57 cells.
Walls were to be 20 ft. high and built on an 18 inch foundation of cut solid rock. One wing of the old Petrie Terrace Gaol was demolished and much of the material was used in the new South Brisbane Gaol. Much of the freestone was again used as well as doors and jambs (i.e. the side posts of the cell doors).
The bricks for the jail building and walls surrounding the gaol were made from clay dug from the paddock of 22 acres facing Ipswich Road which property was originally owned by Andrew Fenwick. Portion of the paddock was subdivided after 1911 and sold as residential sites.
The area for clay extraction consisted of a large excavation about 100 yards long, 75 yards wide and 20 ft. deep. The clay extraction area was between Reis Street and Byrne Street about 100 yards from the corner of Ipswich Road and Reis Street. The area was later filled in and nothing visible remains to show where the many thousands of bricks to build Boggo Road Gaol were obtained.
However, the brick making works of David Fensom at the above site was unable to keep up the full supply of bricks and at one stage, the contractor had to make some of his own bricks. Timber supplies were a difficulty and at one stage in August 1882 the work was practically at a standstill. The gaol was completed and the building and premises were proclaimed to be a public gaol and prison house of correction within the meaning of the Act in July 1883. Prisoners were conveyed to the new gaol on 29 June 1883 and the site has been continuously used as such from that time.
The Gaol stood on elevated but gently sloping land about 100 feet above sea level. In the passing of the years, the area has changed from the secluded bush-land spot with the many fine trees which Surveyor Rawnsley marked on his original plan in 1863. Boggo Road (from which the South Brisbane Gaol derived the colloquial name of Boggo Road Gaol) was cut down opposite the Gaol in 1886 at a cost of £200.
At the top end of the reserve opposite the corner of Boggo (Annerley) and Gladstone Roads the road at the time of the hill-cutting job was cut through the corner of the Gaol Reserve. The land between this portion of new road and Maldon Street (the original road) became what is now known as Gair Park. The name Annerley Road was given to Boggo Road in 1905.
The Women's Gaol was commenced in 1901, completed late in 1902 and the contractors were A. Lind and Son. It was built on the south western portion of the gaol reserve. It was built adjacent to the male prison and was constructed in response to a 1887 Parliamentary Inquiry, which recommended separate cells for each prisoner and a female section be established within the Brisbane Gaol.
The design of the prison has cell blocks radiating from the main building and enclosed by a 6 m high brick wall, which contains a main entrance gate, gatehouse and an observation tower in the south western corner. The north east part of the wall was demolished to accommodate the workshops that were built in later years.
It remained a female prison until 1921 until reorganisation divided the complex into three divisions. The women's prison was designated No 2 Division and was used for the detention of St Helena's long term prisoners. The female prison was relocated to a building on the southern end of the prison reserve. An extensive workshop block on the eastern wall was built and a tunnel connecting this building to the original men's prison, which became No 1 Division.
In the 1970s No 2 Division became designated as maximum security and the No 1 Division used for lesser offenders, remand and holding cells. Starting in 1968, No 1 Division buildings were gradually demolished and were replaced by a series of concrete wings which formed a large quadrangle. During the 1980s, No 2 Division became the centre of prisoner unrest.
Capital punishment was abolished in the year 1922 and subsequently the gallows were dismantled. A grim relic of that era is the gallows beam with its three hooks which is now among the exhibits at Newstead House.
Rawnsley Street is situated on the southern side of the area near the South Brisbane Gaol and was named after H. C. Rawnsley the original surveyor in 1863. The seclusion of the South Brisbane Gaol was ended soon after the completion of its construction in 1883. The Woolloongabba (Dutton Park) Boys' State School was built on the adjoining reserve approximately 300 yards distant from the Gaol in the year 1884 and the similarly named Girls' School on the northern side of the same reserve.
In the year 1891 the railway extensions of the Cleveland line from Ipswich Road to Melbourne Street and the South Coast line from Boggo Road Junction Station (now Dutton Park Station) also to Melbourne Street brought railway traffic and residential development. The Boggo (Annerley) Road of the early 1880's was barely formed and situated as it is between hilly ground on both sides, did not require much imagination to ascertain why the original name (Bolgo) had been corrupted to Boggo. Most of the road from the corner of Stanley Street (Clarence Corner), to the foot of the Gaol hill, was as boggy and swampy as the name implied. Annerley Road now days is one of the main traffic outlets to and from the southern end of Brisbane.
The administration of Queensland Gaols was the subject of a Board of Enquiry set up in 1887 as a result of representations made by Mr. Jessop M.L.A. for Dalby in 1886. New regulations were adopted, a number of reforms brought in and the Prisons Act of 1890 provided for the appointment of a Comptroller General of Prisons which position is held by Mr. S. Kerr at the present time at the South Brisbane Gaol.
As far back as the year 1894, the recommendation was made that when a new Gaol was necessary it should be on the railway line and situated between Brisbane and Ipswich. The more recent establishment of the new Gaol at Wacol was on the railway line and midway between the two cities above mentioned, not that the railway plays any significant part in modern day jail administration.