Gaols

Houses of Correction

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Houses of Correction

 

Houses of Correction were prisons used for detaining offenders convicted of minor offences.  Combining punishments such as corporal punishment, solitary confinement and hard labour with correctional measures that included education and religious contemplation, it was hoped that time spent in a House of Correction would lead to repentance and reformation. Female Factories, in comparison, played a more holistic role in the ongoing care of female convicts by providing housing (board and lodging)[1], health care, taskwork, training, education and religious reflection.  They also received convicts on their arrival in the colony, housed pregnant women awaiting childbirth, and at various times operated as depots managing work assignments (during the Assignment period) and employment placements (during the Probation period).

 

The original House of Correction was Bridewell Prison (and hospital), established in London in the 16th century[2]  with the aim of prisoner ‘rehabilitation through education’[3], which involved short periods of imprisonment and hard labour. The term ‘Bridewell’ was adopted by several more prisons including the imposing Edinburgh Bridewell in Scotland.  Over time the role of the Bridewells evolved as ‘the training and work provisions fell aside, and these institutions came to be used to punish an ever wider range of crimes’.[4]  Several female convicts experienced time in British ‘Bridewells’ for minor offences before recurring crimes contributed to their being transported to Van Diemen’s Land.

 

The term ‘House of Correction’ first appeared in VDL female convict conduct records around 1826. Notations record female convicts being confined in the gaol “at a House of Correction” (eg the George Town or Hobart Female Factory) or in a gaol “as a House of Correction” (eg the Launceston Gaol). These distinctions were soon shortened to the abbreviation “H of C”; often no location was designated, making it difficult for historians to trace convicts.  

 

The first indication that regulations were to be introduced governing Houses of Correction, Gaols (Penitentiaries), and Factories came in November 1829, when newspapers published the following proposal ‘By His Excellency's Command J BURNETT’ (extract):

GOVERNMENT NOTICE.

No. 261.

Colonial. Secretary's Office,

Nov. 19, 1829.

HIS Excellency the Lieutenant Governor is pleased to direct, that the following notice of the general

objects of a proposed act, which is about to be laid before the Legislative Council, to be intituled " An Act to make the Penitentiaries and Factory, at Hobart-town and Launceston, respectively,

Houses of Correction, be published for general information.

1.—The penitentiaries, at Hobarttown and Launceston, to be houses of correction for males, and the factory to be a house of correction for females.

2-—The person in charge of those buildings, to have the same authority as a sheriff or gaoler,

3.—The buildings used as gaols, at certain places within the Island, to be and be deemed houses of correction, as common gaols.

4 —The sheriff to have the power of 'removing prisoners from- one gaol to another, at his discretion.

[5]

 

It was not until August 1835 that this proposal was included in AN ACT to consolidate and amend certain of the laws relating to the Courts of General Quarter Sessions and to the more effectual punishment and control of Transported and Other Offender.[6] Lieutenant Governor George Arthur decreed 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 Female Factories in Launceston and Hobart Town used for the reception of transported female offenders were also to become Houses of Correction. The superintendents of these establishments were 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. [7],[8] 

The Consolidation Act 1835: Clause LXIX.-AND BE IT ENACTED that where any Act of Parliament authorises or directs in any case, a committal to a House of Correction or the passing of a sentence of solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour a committal may be made to or any sentence of solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour be carried into effect in either of the said Gaols or Houses of Correction … And every such Gaol or House of Correction shall for those purposes be deemed to be a House of Correction within the intent and meaning of every such Act of Parliament.[9]

 

Female convict records from 1835 indicate that imprisonment was gaining momentum as a preferred punishment, coinciding with the growing distaste for corporal punishment of females, and increasing arrivals of convicts in the colony. The timeline also coincides with the building or renovating of gaols that incorporated quarters specifically for detaining female prisoners, meaning that imprisonment, accompanied by the inevitable hard labour, could be undertaken at any convenient location in VDL (Tasmania) functioning as a House of Correction.

 

As the convict establishments progressively closed down, several were converted to gaols and designated as Houses of Correction:

  • -In October 1852, the buildings comprising the Brickfields Hiring Depot were closed, and the hiring services relocated to the Cascades Female Factory.[10]From November 1852 Brickfields was proclaimed a gaol and, for the next seven years, operated as a House of Correction for the reception of male and female offenders.[11] During this time it also provided nursery services for convict women.

The Lieutenant Governor has issued, by Proclamation, that henceforth the buildings known as the Brickfields Depot, situate at the upper end of Argyle-street, Hobart Town, in this Island, shall be a House of Correction for the reception and punishment therein of transported and other Male and Female Offenders within this Island or its Dependencies. The Hobart Town Advertiser (Tas. : 1839 - 1861)Friday 29 October 1852 - Page 4

  • -In 1855 the Launceston Female Factory was transferred to the local authorities (Sheriff's Department) and proclaimed a gaol and House of Correction.
  • -In 1856, the Cascades Female Factory, following the cessation of transportation, was transferred to local authorities (Sheriff’s Department) and continued to operate as the Cascades House of Correction or Gaol until 1877, when inmates were moved to Campbell Street Gaol, also known as the Campbell Street House of Correction.

In 1874, the Parliamentary “Penal Commissioners’ Report” on penal discipline was released. This report found that, variously, the prisons and Houses of Correction in VDL no longer had the means to carry out discipline, classification, prevention, correction, or reform, thereby failing in the original concept of a House of Correction, suggesting also that 'some of the establishments might more properly be designated depots of casual labour than Houses of Correction'.  In its conclusion, the report suggested ‘Upon the whole, hard work is such truly only in the case of women, at the Penal Factories’.[12]

 

[1] https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52845638/view?partId=nla.obj-127447543#page/n109/mode/1up, Image 35

[2] https://www.londonlives.org/static/Bridewell.jsp, accessed 10/12/2021

[3] Roberts, L. A. (1984). Bridewell: The World’s First Attempt at Prisoner Rehabilitation Through Education. Journal of Correctional Education, 35(3), 83–85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41970751accessed 10/12/2021.

[4] https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Punishment.jsp#imprisonment-house-of-correction accessed 19/12/2021

[5] The Hobart Town Gazette, Saturday 21 November 1829 - Page 2

[6] , (ANNO SEXTO Gulielmi IV. Regis •No. 2), known as The Consolidation Act.

[7] August 20, 1835, The Hobart Town Gazette

[8]http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_act/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750.pdf

[9]http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_act/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750.pdf, p.667 clause LXIX

[10] The Hobart Town Advertiser , Thursday 18 November 1852 - Page 2

[11] Colonial Times (Hobart), 26 November 1852, p.2 in Van Diemen’s Women, A History of Transportation to Tasmania, by Joan Kavanagh & Dianne Snowden, p.156.

[12] PENAL COMMISSIONERS' REPORT, The Mercury, Wednesday 25 August 1875 - Page 2

 

 

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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].