Former Ballarat Gaol

SMB Campus

The Former Ballarat Gaol was one of the earliest constructions as part of the great gaol building programme which was a result of the report of the Select Committee on Prison Discipline of September 1857. All prisons built in Victoria after 1851 adopted London's Pentonville Prison design of 1842, which created a revolution in prison design. The complex was based on a central hall from which radiated wings of cells. The principle of the design being that one guard would stand in the centre of the hall and at one glance survey all cells.

Ballarat prison was designed to hold both male and female prisoners. It had 58 cells and could hold 74 prisoners. It is believed at least 12 men were hanged at the goal, the first in 1864 and the last in 1908.

The main gate is a monumental work. The arch keystone facing Lydiard St is beautifully executed. The gates themselves and the iron lacework over the top are quite distinctive. The arch under the flyover is also distinctive; the basalt keystone appears to have been cut from one single block of stone.

The materials used in the construction of the gaol were locally quarried basalt in combination with local bricks. The foundations to all the walls consisted of coursed basalt laid directly onto sand which would have been places on a natural rock base. When looking at the brickwork in the gaol wall note the negligible amount of movement in the joints. The nature of the clay in the bricks, the system of burning the lime mortar into the joints and the general shape of the wall would be contributing factors to the high degree of stability of the wall. About the time the wall was built, there were approximately 14 brick making plants in Ballarat.

In 1965 the prison was closed. The building was demolished to allow the Ballarat School of Mines expand. between 1972 and 1974 the gates and wall were restored. In 1981 the SMB Amenities building was opened. The building incorporates some features of the gaol wall, and entranced to the building is through the gaol gates. The SMB Campus also used the Former Warden's Residence and Former Governor's Residence.


  • 1856 Building of a new gaol commenced. A wooden structure erected in 1854 was in existence at this time.
  • 1857 The Public Works Department of Victoria by built the first cell blocks.
  • 1859 Additions commenced.
  • 1860 Gaolers and warders quarters and the towers and walls were built.
  • 1862 The building was completed, including a tunnel connecting the prison from the Courthouse. These included a tunnel connecting the prison from the courthouse. It cost £42,000 pounds and provided accommodation for 74 prisoners.
  • 1964 (7 March) The vacant gaol was open to the public for viewing.
  • 1964 (15 April) A letter to The Courier editor from John Irwin, Publicity Officer of the National Trust, discusses the absence of plans for the gaol site after demolition, and the significance of old buildings.
  • 1964 (19 Aug) Bolte announced the planned demolition of the gaol, which was to start before Christmas. The prisoners were transferred to Ararat.
  • 1965 Prison closed, and demolished to allow the Ballarat School of Mines to expand its buildings. The gates, part of the walls, watchtower, wardens quarters and Governor's residence are still in existence. Later the remains were skilfully adapted into the new student amenities section.
  • 1968 (4 Sept) Old gaol wall was demolished and the site levelled.
  • 1972 $8,000 allocated to restore gaol gates.
  • 1974 (29 June) Restoration of the entrance to the former gaol nears completion.
  • 1979 (15 Feb) A $2.75 million development for SMB was announced. The development include student amenities. Plans included a building linked to the old gaol.
  • 1981 (10 June) SMB Amenities Building was completed on the goal site.
Ballarat Gaol

Ballarat Gaol (Cat. No. 0113)
  Students enter the SMB Amentities building through a gateway that formed part of the Ballarat Gaol wall

Students enter the SMB Amenities building through a gateway that formed part of the Ballarat Gaol wall (Cat. No. 2023)