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The Gallows


The dark shadow in the middle is the old gallows

Over the years that the jail was open, 76 people were hanged at Darlinghurst Jail.

Public hangings were held until 1852. These were held outside the front gate in Forbes Street. Many thousands of people watching the hangings of infamous criminals and murderers. Women and children watched too.

Later, the gallows were built into the fork of the Y-shaped building, where the staff toilets are now. The arch of the doorway to the gallows can still be seen, and you can still see the date (1869) carved in the stone above the arch. The new gallows were thought to be humane because they were close to the condemned prisoner's cell.

Knatchbull Poster

An advertisement for a pamphlet about John Knatchbull

The first hanging was in October, 1841, and the last was in October, 1908. Of the 76 people hanged only one was a woman. Some of the people who were hanged were notorious criminals. One was the bushranger, Captain Moonlight. Another was the murderer, John Knatchbull, who had previously been a Navy Commander. The woman, Louisa Collins, is said to have poisoned both her husbands with arsenic.

The hangman at Darlinghurst Jail was Alexander Green. He was also called "The Strangler". He lived in the park next to the jail, and the park probably got the name of "Green Park" after him. The local people hated him and later in life he moved into the jail for his own safety.

Today the security officers who work in the college at night can tell you many stories of ghosts who now haunt this building where the gallows once stood. They tell stories of strange sights and sounds. And after dark, they say, lights come on for no good reason.

The college has its own memories.

Taken in part from "Blood on the Sandstone", The Sydney Morning Herald, June 22, 1991, by Geraldine O'Brien.

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