Swan Guildford Historical Society

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Colonial Gaol

The Colonial Gaol at Guildford was built in stages between 1841 and 1867. Very soon after settlement (1829), there was an urgent need for a gaol or lockup. Three hotels were in the town, often leading to drunk and disorderly conduct.
Back door to Gaol

A Short History of the Gaol

In addition, employers at that time were allowed to pay their staff in part with liquor, resulting in more drunken citizens and rowdy behaviour. To solve the problem a two cell lock up plus a constable’s room were constructed in 1841.

Over the years, the Gaol (really a small lock up) contained people for all types of crimes, including overnight stays to sleep off the ravages of drink. More serious criminals were locked up temporarily, then walked to either Perth or Fremantle Gaol to await trial and sentencing.

Parts of the Gaol were built by convict labour between 1850 to 1868. A Magistrate’s room was added in 1853. Cases were heard here until 1866, when the Guildford Court House (now the Swan Valley Visitor’s Centre) was built. At its full capacity, the Gaol had eleven cells. A large exercise yard was added in 1868, and a horse stable nearby. Other buildings in the justice complex included a house for the Police Sergeant and one for the Police Constable.

Demolition of some sections of the Gaol began in 1917. The horse stables were demolished in 1949. Today only four cells, the Magistrate’s Room (called the Justice Room), and a day room remain. In the area at the back of the Gaol, a brick footprint shows where the prisoners exercise yard was.

The Gaol was operational until 1969 as a police station, when the police moved to nearby Midland. Come for a tour to learn more about law and order in the early days.

Did you know: the words gaol/ or jail mean the same thing, a place to confine people for crimes. Historically, gaol was used in British English until around 1935, when the term prison was used instead.


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