Year Opened: 1851
Year Closed: 1997
Pentridge Prison was established in 1851 as a result of increased pressure on the Penal system due to the gold rush and the need for a place to hold those convicted of serious offences.
The first stage was the 1850-1857 Pentridge Stockade Complex, a relatively ad-hoc group of structures built by prison labour and using predominantly local materials. None of these structures survive on the site, however the boundary of the prison was established at this stage.
Following the Stawell Royal Commission of 1870 an extensive work program for prisoners was introduced as part of the system at Pentridge and a complex known as the Industries was constructed. These included a timber yard, a woollen mill, carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ workshops completed in 1879 and tailors’ and bootmakers’ workshops completed in 1886. A female prison was constructed on the site between 1860 and 1865 which is now known as A Division. This was superseded when a new female prison was constructed on the site between 1887 and 1894 in order to provide completely separate accommodation for women. This section is now known as D Division. Pentridge remained the main female prison until it was replaced by the new women’s prison, HM Prison Fairlea in 1956.
Pentridge was also the location of reformatories for both girls and boys, established following the findings of the Stawell Royal Commission of 1870. The Jika Reformatory for Boys was accommodated in an existing building (F Division), between 1875 and 1879, while a purpose built reformatory was constructed for the Jika Reformatory for Protestant Girls (G Division), which operated between 1875 and 1893. In 1900 labour yards for A Division were completed.
During the 1950s these yards were later converted to a high security block which became known as H Division. In 1924 Pentridge replaced the Melbourne Gaol as the main remand and reception prison for the metropolitan area. The bodies of a number of prisoners executed at the Melbourne Gaol were exhumed and relocated to Pentridge, where they were reburied, possibly just east of D Division. Pentridge also became the venue for all subsequent hangings, until the last Victorian prisoner to suffer the death penalty, Ronald Ryan was executed in D Division in 1967. In April 1995 the Office of Corrections ordered that the six main towers at Pentridge be closed, since most of the high security prisoners from the gaol had been relocated to Barwon as part of the downgrading of Pentridge to a medium security prison. The prison was finally closed in 1997 and the land and buildings subsequently sold. Some alterations have been allowed to the walls mainly to allow access.
Information sourced from On My Doorstep
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