Built to partially house the increasing number if convicts transported to the state, Old Perth Goal is one of the oldest buildings in Perth, and a reminder that Western Australia was briefly a penal colony under the British Empire.
The first prisoners to be incarcerated at Perth Gaol were transferred from both Fremantle Roundhouse, as well a smaller lockup within the City of Perth which was located on St Georges Terrace, where the Deanery building now sits. The construction of Perth Gaol also coincided with that of Fremantle Prison, which took much longer to complete due to its size.
Convicts transported from Britain first arrived in 1855. A total of 42 convict voyages would see 9721 prisoners shipped to Western Australia. The last of these, on board the Hougoumont, reached Fremantle on 10 January carrying 42 inmates. The cessation of convicts to Australia was strongly objected by the Colonial Government at that time.
Executions took place in the prisoners’ yard and were shielded from public view after early complaints. The vast majority of the prisoners whom were executed here were convicted for murder, with the notable exception of James Fannin, who was hanged on 14 April 1871 for rape, the last man to be put to death in Western Australia for that crime.
Throughout the 33 years that the gaol building was in use as a prison, inmate numbers steadily grew to a point were overpopulation necessitated the transfer of all prisoners to other correctional facilities around the state. At times towards the end of its use, Perth Gaol housed over 150 people.
The Gaol building temporarily found use as Perth Courthouse in 1888 as well as by various police departments when necessary. In 1891 the building was renamed the Geological Museum, then one year later, Perth Museum.