A photo of the uncovered convict building remains overlayed on the original plan of the buildings (photo courtesy of Brad Williams)
College opened its doors earlier this month to allow the community to
experience newly installed interpretation which brings to life the story of the
site’s hidden archaeological remains of the former Launceston Gaol.
potential for works on the site to uncover remains of the earlier structures is
well documented, including in the Tasmanian Heritage Register entry for the
Launceston College. So when Launceston College proposed construction for a new
storage facility for the performing arts centre, the opportunity to complete
archaeological investigations was a necessary precursor.
Brad Williams’ investigations of the site uncovered the footprints of the condemned
cells, privies and female yard; as well as a small number of artefacts
including clay pipes, coins and broad-arrow stamped bricks.
said that the discoveries, and the potential to incorporate them into the
proposed development, were embraced by the Launceston College and the architect.
original project brief was to establish what remained of the Launceston Gaol
and to try to minimise impacts on those remains,” said Williams. Instead, the
finds lead to a revision of the original plans to incorporate the features into
“Of the 50
square metres where archaeological remains were found, only 3-4 square metres
have been impacted. That is a great outcome. It’s especially important because
this investigation really only scratched the surface. It is likely that other
archaeological remains exist deeper down, especially in the old cesspits
uncovered in the area of the 1830 privies.”
interpretation used on the site demonstrates a successful way to bring the past
back to life. The concrete floor of the storage shed includes red outlines
which mirror the footprints of the original buildings, while three trap doors
are strategically placed to allow visual inspection of the remains. Outside,
the use of gabion baskets as part of the landscape, replicate the original
footprints of the Gate Lodge, Watch House and Gaoler’s residence.
College’s new facility and surrounding landscape tells a deep story from
Tasmania’s important convict past. The open day highlighted that people are
interested in these stories, and are pleased to see heritage being brought to
Gaol was built on the corner of Paterson and Bathurst Streets just prior to
1823. An 1826 survey plan of Launceston shows two buildings on this corner, as
well as a perimeter wall. From this small beginning, the need for additional
facilities quickly grew, with major expansions in the 1830s (including the
establishment of the adjacent Female Factory) and the 1870s. In the 1830s
Government architect John Lee Archer's plans included a women’s ward and yard, a
condemned yard, eight solitary cells and privies; and in 1840 a large chapel
was erected. The major expansion in 1871, saw the development of a new cell
block including 20 cells and four large yards enclosed by masonry dividing
walls. Despite further proposed expansions, by 1913 the Examiner was reporting
that the Government had decided to demolish the Gaol.
Tasmanian Heritage Council congratulates Brad Williams, architect Adam Martin, the
project’s contractors, and Launceston College for embracing the past and
bringing it back to life through simple and effective interpretation.