In about 1992, the Bathurst Gaol changed its name to what we know it as today; The Bathurst Correctional Centre.
But this name change was probably the most insignificant part of the history associated with the prison dating back to about 1830. The original site of the Bathurst watch house / prison was behind the yet to be built Bathurst Court House – this beautiful building was opened in 1880. (pictured below).
As the prison population grew, the need for a new prison also grew and the Bathurst Gaol was officially opened in 1888.
The magnificent carved stand stone entrance is as elaborate today as it was in 1888. Designed to deter would be offenders by showing the magnitude and strength of the law, the keystone contains a carved lions head holding a key to freedom – or incarceration, depending on which way you choose to view it.
The Government Architect of the day, James Barnet designed this prison with a few over 300 cells. Thinking back to 1888, it was certainly grand as well as functional in design and layout but it certainly wasn’t comfortable. Here is a pic I took in January 2015. Still looks grand today in my opinion.
Grand maybe but was it humane?
Anyone who knows the Bathurst climate can attest to bitterly cold winters and very hot dry summers. The cells had no cooling, heating nor glass in the barred windows. Maybe a fitting punishment for breaking the law however modern prisons are treated very different today.
Perhaps driving the change in the treatment of prisoners was the famous Bathurst Gaol Riots?
The first riot was in October 1970. Prisoners rebelled against the poor conditions. Larger riots again took place in 1974 when noting appeared to have changed from the original riots. The latter riot was estimated to have caused around $10m and triggered a Royal Commission.
Bathurst Correctional Centre is visually today much the same from the outside as it was in 1888. This medium security facility serves as a major employer in the local Bathurst community and is well worth a drive by to admire the beautiful façade.
The Bathurst Correctional Centre is one of the sites visited on a Detour Adventures Historical Bathurst tour. This half day tour takes in over 45 historical points of interest covering around 80km around the Bathurst area. See www.detouradventures.com.au or call 1300 4 DETOUR (1300 433 868)