Houses of Correction





In the early days of colonial settlement, gaols were predominantly holding cells in watchhouses, guardhouses, or military barracks, while the prisoner awaited physical (corporal) punishment, such as time in the stocks, lashing, wearing an iron collar, or for male convicts, transferral to chain gangs or treadwheels. 


The original gaols of Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) were not initially intended for confining misbehaving female convicts, the colony had greater concerns with bushranging and runaways. Governor Macquarie in letters to Governor Sorell in 1818, considered that there were not enough female convicts to warrant building a gender-specific barracks.  If some form of imprisonment was required for disorderly and ill-behaved females they could be sent to the Parramatta or Coal River (Newcastle) female factories in NSW, [refer to Punishments: Sent to Parramatta and Newcastle.]  Prior to the building of the Hobart Female Factory, located adjacent to the Hobart Town Gaol, short-terms stays in VDL gaols, from a week to several months, were for carrying out a sentence of the  bread & water diet punishment which was supervised in a solitary cell, or for hard labour (wash tub) punishment. Once the Hobart Female Factory was built, sentences requiring  imprisonment of females could be lengthened up to 2 years.


By 1830, nine Police Districts had been formed in VDL consisting of Hobart town, Launceston, New Norfolk, Oatlands, Campbell town, Richmond, Norfolk plains, Clyde and Oyster Bay.  They contained Government precincts which usually incorporated a court house, watch-house, gaol house, gaol-keeper’s residence and quarters for the prison staff (Javelin men), and in some locations would include military barracks and convict barracks for work gangs passing through. 


Around  mid-1830's, female convict records began to indicate that imprisonment was gaining momentum as a convenient punishment. Prior to this, imprisonment options were to escort the convicted women to a Female Factory, or to hold them in a local gaol that had not been designed to imprison women. Along with increased numbers of female convicts arriving in the colony, another of the triggers for increased imprisonments was the growing distaste for corporal punishment of females, coinciding with the building or renovating of gaols that actually catered for female prisoners.  Furthermore, in August 1835, an Act by Lieutenant Governor George Arthur enacted that every building used as a Gaol in the Police Districts of Hobart Town, Launceston, Richmond, New Norfolk, Oatlands, Campbell Town, and Longford should also be deemed a House of Correction and that the Factories in Launceston and Hobart Town used for the reception of transported female offenders were to become Houses of Correction. The superintendent of either a Penitentiary, Factory or Gaol was given the powers and authorities of a Gaoler. Any prisoner committed to a House of Correction, or sentenced to solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour, could serve their sentence in either a Gaol or House of Correction (Female Factory, or penitentiary for men). The convenience of female convicts serving a short sentence in a local gaol meant they could be easily returned to their places of assignment, if still wanted.


After the closure of the Female Factories, the gaols were the only option for incarceration of women locally convicted of crimes.


 See also Punishments: Gaol (Imprisonment)




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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].