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.
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: New Zealand Historic Places Trust
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr