Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust

The Dunedin Prison, situated in an architecturally and historically important heritage precinct in Anzac Square, was first occupied in 1898 and is possibly Australasia’s only extant Victorian courtyard prison.

The Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust is in the process of raising funds for a feasibility study for the building, which was decommissioned in August 2007, after operating as a prison for more than a century.

Charities Services | Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust
Registration No: CC46118
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Dunedin Prison (Former)
Corner 2 Castle Street and State Highway 1; Dunbar Street, Dunedin
Registration Number: 4035
Historic Place – Category I

A Dunedin gaol has stood on this central city site since 1855. First occupied by immigration barracks, these were converted into temporary prison accommodation in 1855. The land was vested in the city as a site for a public gaol in June 1858. It was not until 1861 that new gaol buildings were readied. Additional buildings were added over the following years as need outstripped accommodation. With the appointment of Arthur Hume (1838-41?-1918) to the position of Inspector of Prisons in 1880, a centralised system of penal administration began. He instituted a programme of new prison building, designed to implement the ‘English system’ of penal reform.

Plans for the new Dunedin Prison were completed in 1892 by John Campbell (1857-1942), Government Architect. Modelled on New Scotland Yard, the prison was designed in a Queen Anne style including cupola domes, dormers, striped brick and Oamaru stone elevations, and fine detailing. The layout consisted of four blocks surrounding a central courtyard. Construction was delayed as the Dunedin community felt the central site could be better utilised. Work finally began, however, in 1895. The exterior was finished by April 1897 and on 16 June 1898 the prison was occupied.

Due to staffing shortages during World War One, police staff were relocated from their neighbouring barracks into the prison’s administration block. In 1959 the accommodation was converted into a women’s prison. In 1974, it became a male remand and short sentence prison and remained so until 2007 when it was vacated.

█ Source: Heritage New Zealand – List No. 4035

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Heritage, Inspiration, Project management, Site, Urban design

8 responses to “Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust

  1. Elizabeth

    Old Melbourne Gaol
    http://www.oldmelbournegaol.com.au/ (info and video)

    Wikipedia: Old Melbourne Gaol

  2. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Thu, 27 Oct 2011
    Ideas floated for former prison
    By Elspeth McLean
    The viability of restoring and developing the former Dunedin Prison as a tourist attraction should be known by the end of the year. About 60 people who attended a meeting last night in Dunedin to discuss the prison building’s future were told the Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust, keen to restore the building, considered ventures in the complex had to be self-supporting.
    The feasibility study [being undertaken by Octa Associates on behalf of the Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust] will include estimates of the costs of earthquake proofing, making the complex weatherproof, and upgrading the building for disability access including toilets, lifts, and stairs. It will also look at possible sources of income in a staged redevelopment.
    Read more

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Fri, 30 Sep 2011
      Trust keen to buy old city prison
      By Hamish McNeilly
      The former Dunedin Prison is being sought by a local trust after Ngai Tahu turned down the right to buy the historic property. Stewart Harvey, of the Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust, said he believed the trust now had first option on the historic property.

      A public meeting to discuss the future of the former prison would be held next month.

      Read more


      ### ODT Online Sat, 17 Mar 2012
      Grants support community projects
      By Allison Rudd
      The Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust received $10,000 towards purchasing the vacant Dunedin Prison near the Dunedin Railway Station. The prison opened in 1898 and was decommissioned in August, 2007 when the Otago Correctional Facility at Milburn was completed.
      Read more

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    “Tourist attraction” doesn’t sound like much better than wishful thinking, up against the costs of keeping it, AFTER it has had the outstanding maintenance etc seen to. I’d like to see a scheme for solid, earning its keep, use of it. It’s too good a building to let go without a struggle but how many desirables can we afford now, now that we’re locked into paying for so many undesirables?

    • Elizabeth

      You probably haven’t seen the feasibility and fundraising documents yet. The Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust, chaired by Stewart Harvey, with consultants Octa Associates (project managers), are doing a great job.

      Dunedin Prison (former) http://historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=4035&m=advanced

      The prison trust received a $20,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund to prepare a conservation plan for the decommissioned building.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Mon, 30 Apr 2012
        Prison rates relief bid
        By Allison Rudd
        The group planning to buy the former Dunedin Prison has applied to the Dunedin City Council for rates relief for the Castle St building. But Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust spokesman Stewart Harvey said on Friday the trust was still not in a position to confirm the purchase. The application was one of many the trust had made to various funders on the expectation the purchase would be confirmed, he said.
        Read more

  4. Hype O'Thermia

    Thanks for the reassurance. There are so many buildings that we shouldn’t have to lose, so many good sensible projects that can’t go ahead because they would need a fairly small amount of public funding but it’s all been chucked at projects that only make sense if you are a “stakeholder” – word that has rapidly changed meaning from “one who has a stake in ….” to “one who sees an opportunity to grab boot-loads of stakes and steaks.”

  5. Elizabeth

    The dark, cold corridors of the former Dunedin Prison echo once again to the sounds of rattling keys and shuffling feet.

    ### ODT Online Thu, 19 Feb 2015
    Prison ghost tours rattle the nerves
    By Chris Morris
    Welcome to the start of a new, darker take on public tours of the 117-year-old facility by the Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust. The trust, which bought the prison in 2012, has since begun running regular public tours on Saturday mornings. However, trust volunteers have trialled a new concept – ghost tours, with a focus on frightening, as well as informing, those who venture inside. […] The trial, which aimed to gauge public interest, would be repeated on Black Friday, March 13, and could become a regular event.
    Read more

    Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust
    Tour information and more at http://www.dunedinprisontrust.co.nz/

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