Penitentiary Chapel, Hobart: Part 1

That is place it was built as a chapel and later used as a courthouse. There are a lot of photos, so I am breaking this into two posts. The second part is here.

Now it's owned by the National Trust. Have Trust Membership, Will Use. (Home Hill is a NT property too.)

It was built in 1831 to serve as the chapel for the adjoining prisoner barracks on Campbell St. The city gaol then was in Murray St.

Then in 1857, the Murray St gaol was closed and the Campbell St site became the city gaol until Risdon was built in 1960, which is now being replaced.


That's nicely unreadable isn't it?

Plan of whole gaol, from about 1847. The site stretched the length of two inner city blocks (you can see the tower of the chapel on the right, and white gaol buildings in the left, and of course there's a bit in between).

Anyway, it was demolished and now remains but the old chapel building and parts of the wall.

It was quite a bit taller when in use and stretched right along the two blocks.

This side, with its ornate brickwork and decorative windows, faced the prisoner barracks.

"Anno Domini MDCCCXXXI"


The original layout had three wings and a central pulpit. Under the seats, were solitary cells, for punishment.

Soon after it was built, one of the wings was converted for use by the free settlers of the city, who had become too numerous for St Davids Cathedral


In 1834, a new entrance was added and the northern wing adapted for use by free settlers. Access to the seats was via steps in the tower.

Tower inside

"Rural Dean Rev. Philip Palmer was installed as Penitentiary chaplain, but soon incurred the wrath of Lieutenant Governor Arthur by hanging a screen to shield the public from the gaze of the convicts. The screen remained even though the convicts sorely objected to being so segregated.

"Complaints were also forthcoming regarding the total lack of ventilation in the chapel and the disruption to services caused by the terrible noises which could be heard coming from the chained convicts in the cells beneath the floor." (From Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site.)

Come the following decade, and the free public moved out to a temporary location, and then onto Trinity Church.

The relocation of the city gaol to the Campbell St site was followed by a similar relocation of the city's court buildings. In 1859/1860, the former free settlers wing and the eastern wing were converted to criminal courts, with an with underground passageway connecting them. The third wing remained in use as a chapel.


The front of the building, facing the street, has the more utilitarian brickwork.


Close up of bricks, showing broad arrow & thumbprints.


As can be by their absence on the early plan, these single storey buildings aren't part of the original design.

Office room

They're smaller office-like rooms. On another plan they're marked as "Sheriff Office", so I assume built as part of the conversion to courts.



Court room two




Other court

Court room one

Other court

Other court

To connect the two courts and to provide easy access for prisoners, there's an underground passageway.

Going down

But that's for next time.

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