Monday, January 25, 2010

Hive of Industry

Maitland Mercury, Monday 11 January, 2010

Welcome back to Maitland Gaol “Unlocked” as we take our first peak for 2010 behind the scenes of Maitland Gaol’s growing collection of artefacts.

From its earliest days Maitland Gaol operated as an “industrial prison”. Though the population of the gaol, which rarely exceeded 350 inmates, was considered small, there was on offer a multitude of opportunities to “keep idle hands and minds busy in employment”.

Records dating from the late 1830s indicate that convict labour was utilised in the original clearing of the site and construction of the gaol. Once the gaol was officially opened in 1848 inmates were required to work if healthy enough to do so. From unskilled labour to trades-work such as carpentry, painting, blacksmithing, stonecutting, book binding and tailoring, inmates were employed in almost every aspect of the day to day running of the prison. The small number of women incarcerated were usually employed in needlework, washing, sweeping and general cleaning.

The accompanying image includes scissors from the old Tailor Shop, a sign from the Upholstery Shop, and templates used in the fabrication of hospital theatre boots and assorted items for the armed forces. These artefacts relating to the honest toil carried out by inmates in the modern era under the supervision of Corrective Service Industries are testament to the work carried on throughout the entire 150 years that the Maitland Gaol operated.

As always, Mercury readers are encouraged to contact Maitland Gaol staff on (02) 4936 6482 or with information regarding the gaol’s operation.

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