Cell Door, c1860s
Heavy steel cell door, peep hole with metal hook closure rusted shut, partially peeling red paint
This cell door was in use at the Queanbeyan lock-up until the 1970s. While the new Queanbeyan Court House complex was being built next door to the Old Police Sergeant’s Residence (now the Museum Building) temporary cells were located on the concrete strip where the Museum farm machinery now sits.
The first lock up at Irish Town/Dodsworth was a shambles – Constable O’Connor conducted a store at the lock up and practised extortion on the prisoners. Half of the prisoners committed before June and December 1839 escaped.
By 1860 Queanbeyan, population 300, had a Court House and a Police Station. The new Court House and Watch House had five cells, four male and and a large one for females.
The lockup was proclaimed ‘a public gaol and a house of correction’ in May 1862. In 1864 the Golden Age described the gaol as ‘a most cruel mode of punishing offenders’ with a cell eight foot by ten foot where prisoners were imprisoned for several months with little or no exercise. In 1876 the lockup keeper George Lesmond and his family fared little better – until additional rooms were built they were sent outside while the jury considered its verdict.
What did people do to end up in the lock up?
Drunkeness, stealing and debt. Many cases ended with a fine and serious offenders were sent to Goulburn Gaol.
All photographs Copyright QDHMS Inc.