Since 1996 the site of the old Darlinghurst Gaol has been the home of the National Art School. What an ironic combination of freedom and detention!
For 74 years, Darlinghurst Gaol was the main penitentiary serving the city of Sydney. In 1840, Prisoners were moved in from the old gaol at Circular Quay and in 1914 moved out to the newly constructed Long Bay Gaol. During WW1 the buildings were used as an internment camp and then, in 1921 were reconfigured to become the East Sydney Technical College concentrating in Fine Arts and Design. In 1996, the State Government removed it from the TAFE system, converting it into an independent school with its own governing board.
The amalgam of freedom and detention is palpable as one wanders the site: glorious sandstone buildings radiating as spokes from the old chapel hub. Random doors stand ajar, and incomplete artistic works tumble from benches, sprawl over window sills and peek half-hidden from garden beds. Students dressed in black with bovver boots and silver studs dart hither and thither with boards and bottles and boulders.
Time moves on. What care we now for those incarcerated behind these walls during the 19th century? Should we spare a thought for those like Captain Moonlight, Jimmy Blacksmith, Louisa Cooper and 71 others hanged within these walls? They lived by the sword and died by the sword. Or did they?
One of the inmates (on more than one occasion) was Henry Lawson, renowned in Australia as a poet and short story writer immortalised by Archibald's "Bulletin". Lawson was an alcoholic suffering from manic depression who bounced between the Reception House and the gaol for crimes such as wife desertion, and failing to pay maintenance and other small debts. His prisoner number was 103.
I pay tribute to the work of Jim Clarke that resulted in this video from You-Tube. At 8+ minutes, it is lengthy, but gives a voice to those who may be treated differently today.
Note: the vents that I posted on Monday showing gorgeous morning light were to cool a shed full of potterty kilns.