1851: On this day in Maitland Gaol the prisoners were suffering from limited rations as the Gaol was having a problem acquiring bread and meat, as many of the local bakers and butchers had left town to join the gold rush. The poor quality of the rations meant that escapes or attempts at escape were even more likely.
1858: Officers were made aware that the Colonial Secretary's Office announced a repeal of the probation and tickets of leave regulations, meaning that any new prisoners in the system could not have their sentence shortened for good behaviour or work and that no tickets of leave would be granted. Previously, it was not uncommon for prisoners of Maitland Gaol to submit petitions for the reduction of their sentences on various groups, mostly good conduct.
Two prisoners were transferred today from Newcastle after being found guilty of being absent without leave. Both men were from the ship The Baron Aberdare which was docked in Newcastle. William Lake and his ship mate Peter Ward were sentenced to four weeks imprisonment in Maitland Gaol.
1901: Yesterday afternoon a girl, aged 17 years, named Agnes McCracken was charged with having attempted to commit suicide by poisoning. Miss McCracken was employed at the Duke of Edinburgh hotel in the Junction where the incident also took place. Evidence produced claims that after drinking the poison she climbed over the balcony and dropped to the roadway beneath, which was a distance of about 7ft (2.1m). The police were called and Miss McCracken received medical attention. Sadly she was transported to Maitland Gaol today to be held under medical supervision for seven days to assess her health. It appears that she was later sent to an asylum.
1905: A prisoner named Wilton escaped custody on 29 May whilst being transported from Newcastle to Maitland Gaol. Today another prisoner tried his hand at a similar escape, his name was Thomas Samuel Edwards.
1870: Unpaid child support is a crime that Maitland Gaol has dealt with since the 1870’s. For example, today in history, Alfred Nichols was bought before East Maitland Police Court for disobeying an order by the justice. It appeared that he had previously been ordered to pay the sum of 10 shillings a week for the support of his illegitimate child. The defendant had no cause to show as to why the money hadn’t been paid. Therefore he was ordered by the bench to be imprisoned until the order was complied with. The bench ordered that such imprisonment would not exceed 12 months and that for the inconvenience of the court Nichols will also pay seven shillings in court costs. Although this is an early example, records show that men continued to be imprisoned in Maitland Gaol for this crime into the 1970’s.
1902: George Smithewite, age 21 years, was arraigned on a charge of assaulting Isobella Charlton Smith (under the age of 14) at Wallsend on 18 April. Upon his appearance he pleaded guilty before evidence was presented. At 4.20pm after hearing the evidence the jury retired and returned around 4.50pm with a verdict of guilty of indecent assault. Once the verdict had been read, witnesses were called by the Judge as to Smithewaite's character and it appeared that generally he was of good moral character. The Judge explained to the court that the maximum sentence he could lay was five years in penal servitude, however he was only going to sentence him to six months imprisonment with hard labour.
1858: Today, E. Hann (Chinese) arrived at the Gaol from Tamworth where he was charged with being insane and unfit to be at large. In July the sheriff was asked if he could be discharged and placed in the care of one of his own countrymen, a medical certificate was included in this document suggesting it would be best for the prisoner. By the end of July, Hann had stopped eating and after an extra medical man was employed to look after him his condition improved. He was finally released from Maitland Gaol in August and it is believe his mind improved henceforth.
1915: Tenders were called to submit for the purchase of refuse food from Maitland Gaol for a period of 12 months. Tenders were to be lodged with the Gaoler by 9 June. Refuse food was the leftover food from the Gaol's production of food, or food that wasn't suitable for people to eat but could be used for animals. At this stage in Maitland Gaols history the fresh produce production was so that they were sending vegetables to other prisons.
The pioneer days of the colony saw the outback districts hold police courts in the open air, however an open air court in Newcastle city at the turn of the century was surely a spectacle.
A vagrant man named James McCabe was bought to court on a charge of having insufficient means of support. As soon as the prisoner, described as a mass of filth from head to food, approached the dock the occupants of the court where almost stifled by the stench. The bench decided that the stench arising from McCabe was too obnoxious to be endured at close range and ordered him to be taken outside. The case then proceeded near the neatly kept lawn with the steps being used by the magistrate to pass judgement. The accused was sworn on an old bible, which was afterwards ordered to be destroyed. McCabe was sent to Maitland Gaol for one month, the magistrate ordered that the prisoner’s clothes be destroyed and that he receive washing and fumigation urgently upon his arrival.
A meeting was held yesterday in Sydney by the Executive for the purpose of further considering the case of men now lying under a sentence of death. As a result Henry Sinclair, who resides in Maitland Gaol under a sentence of death for rape, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. Sinclair, who's execution date was set for today, had been reprieved until the Executive had made a final decision. He found out that he was to be spared but would spend the rest of his life confined behind bars.
1884: It was reported today, the fresh water had been struck inside the walls of Maitland Gaol. It appears that the water was not struck until a depth of over 180ft had been reached. That is the equivalent to 54m in depth.
1890: Prisoner John Smith was today bought from Maitland Gaol to the Quarter Sessions at Maitland for his trial regarding the charge of assaulting police. Evidence produced pieced the story together and the jury was ordered to decide whether Smith was sane enough to stand trial. James Thompson, the then Deputy Gaoler, provided evidence that Smith had been under his observation for six weeks and that he was a dangerous character. It appears during his time in prison awaiting trial his behaviour had been appalling, including regularly attempting to hit people with objects. It is also understood that he did not speak coherently or understand what was being said to him. Therefore during his time in prison so far, he had remained under almost constant medical supervision. The jury decided that Smith was not of sound mind and that his trail should not proceed. His Honour therefore directed the verdict be recorded and that the prisoner should be returned to Maitland Gaol and kept under strict supervision. When time permitted Smith would be dealt with under Section 59 of the Act, which would have him sent to a hospital for the insane.
Today, two new prisoners arrived, James Davidson and William Smith, who were convicted at the Maitland Circuit Court for holding up and robbing the Singleton Mail Coach. Smith and Davidson managed to escape the very same day they arrived at Maitland Gaol by stacking up the beds out in the exercise yard for airing, and using them to climb over the fence. They dropped into the general yard and from there faced the formidable task of scaling the high stone outer wall of the Gaol. They used the temporary cookhouses to reach the top where Davidson lowered Smith down by which time they had been spotted. To evade capture Davidson jumped from the top of the wall to his freedom and both men disappeared into the thick scrub that surrounded the Gaol. The two men parted ways and Smith disappeared with no trace of him ever being found. Unfortunately for Davidson he had suffered an injury from his jump and he was recaptured in Bundobah.
The new Governor of Maitland Gaol, Mr Joseph Micheal Seery was officially appointed. He had been the relieving officer since 23 December 1919. Mr William Urquhard, who had been the previous Governor, was officially appointed as the Super Intendant of the State Penitentiary and State Reformatory at Long Bay.
Sad Quarter Sessions Thomas Bolton, who pleaded guilty to attempting to commit suicide at Lambton, was today sentenced to three months imprisonment with the first seven days under observation. Cecelia Ross who also pleaded guilty to attempting to commit suicide in Stockton was sentenced to one month imprisonment. Sadly these two people were treated like criminals for attempting to take their own lives, with no attempt made to understand or access their circumstances. It proves how far we have come in terms of mental health awareness since the 17th century.
Arthur Wolland appeared on trial for the assault and robbery of George Peel on 22 May. Evidence presented outlined that he stole a watch, key and a sum of two pounds from Peel. Wolland pleaded not guilty but was undefended. The Crown Prosecutor provided evidence of the assault and robbery to the court. It appears the two men met in the pub and whilst in company of another man Peel shouted drinks, after which he placed his change in his pocket. Sometime later Peel left the pub and not being able to find a cab told the others he would walk home. Wolland offered to walk with him, the two men separated sometime later and when Peel was crossing the train tracks near his lodgings he heard footsteps behind him. He was struck from behind and knocked to the ground, whilst down he was robbed. Once Peel regained his composer and headed towards the police station where he reported the crime, sadly as he was intoxicated and charged then held in the cells. The accused was arrested the next day and the watch and some money were found in his possession. The jury found Wolland guilty. Inspector Thorpe provided information to the Judge that Wolland had been in the company of the lowest characters in Newcastle for the past 10 days. Wolland was therefore sentenced to two years hard labour in Maitland Gaol. The prisoner was transferred today to the Gaol in cuffs and leg irons.
James Edward Morris was laced in the dock on 12 June under a charge of bigamy. Evidence presented by Mr Rogers, Crown Prosecutor, showed that on the 22 October 1869 Morris had married Mary Short. He then unlawfully married Sophia Buckley on 22 March 1873. The prisoner pleaded not guilty and was undefended. Tim Foley, the district registrar for births and marriages in Muswellbrook, appeared and produced the register in which he had entered the marriage of Morris and Short. A statement from the prisoner was presented to the Judge, in which he stated that he had separated from his first wife and when ready to remarry he put an advertisement in the Maitland Mercury calling for her to come forward. He waited five months after which he presumed she was dead. He pleaded for mercy claiming as a man in his late 50's he would not survive prison. The jury returned a verdict of guilty without retiring but recommended mercy. Morris was sentenced the next day to three months imprisonment in Maitland Gaol.
James Brady was charged with continual wilful disobedience of lawful commands on board the British barque Confucius, and was convicted with the offence. Brady was sentenced to 14 days and to pay the costs of court out of his wages. Brady was transferred this afternoon to Maitland and would return to Newcastle at the end of his sentence.
During the sittings of the Quarter Sessions today the sheriff bought to the attention of the judge the plight of Frederick Keasey. It appeared that Mr Keasey had entered into a surety for the fulfilment of a maintenance order which has been made against Thomas Stedman. Keasey had been arrested due to the non fulfilment of the order in January and had been lodging at Maitland Gaol ever since. The sheriff pointed out that Mr Keasey had been in prison for five months and no longer had the means to pay the maintenance order. The judge fined Keasey and ordered he be liberated. During the proceedings no mention of Thomas Stedman was made.
A journalist from the Maitland Mercury today attended Maitland Gaol with Reverend J. R. Thackeray who invited the Mercury to have a look at the improvements which had recently been completed within the establishment. The report was extensive exclaiming that the new building was two stories in height and contained 84 single cells. The article also talked about the women's day room and hospital and informs readers that the women's laundry was near completion. The men's hospital which is designed to house 12 beds is currently being used as the women's day room until the new buildings roof has been completed. The report made note that in stark comparison to the gaol previously, it now almost looks overcrowded with buildings. Further buildings reported to be under construction included a blacksmiths, bath house, cook house and store rooms.
Stephen Wilton, the prisoner who affected his escape whilst on his way to Maitland Gaol on 29 May, was today remanded to the Police Court in East Maitland. Wilton had been captured in Sydney on Monday 19 June and using fingerprint technology proved to be the same man as that of whom escaped. Up until his fingerprints had been checked, he had refused to comment, however records show that upon being escorted back to East Maitland he confessed.
1880: John Joseph Hall and James Hall where both called for sentencing today after being found guilty of stealing sheep. There was much commotion around this case, as members of the public claimed they had seen a police constable conversing with the jurors outside the courthouse. It soon became evident that the police constable was actually attending to the sheep which had been presented as evidence in the court proceedings. Once this issue had been cleared Judge Wilkinson carried out the two lads sentencing. 'I would like to give you a light sentence but I cannot. I cannot help hoping that while in prison you may have the opportunity to gain an education, and that it will do you good' the Judge proceeded by saying he will do his best to keep the brothers separate from other prisoners. He also put to them that they had been found guilty of a crime against the law of this country and that they are being punished for it. Wilkinson spoke specifically now 'If you go breaking them after being punished once the punishments is increased and if you go on offending after all this that your lives will become a continual source of misery'. He then sentenced the two boys to Maitland Gaol for two years with hard labour.
1925: Sadly a gaol officer passed away in Maitland Hospital today. Mr Patrick Joseph Boland (Tom) passed away after nine days of illness. Double pneumonia was listed as the cause of death. Mr Boland was a respected member of the staff who had started as a Warder in Goulburn in 1899. He had since served around the state including in Berrima, Darlinghurst and Parramatta before coming to Maitland in 1918. The funeral took place with fellow staff members acting as pall bearers. A Government representative was sent and wreaths from the staff at Maitland Gaol and East Maitland Police were also accepted.
F. Lassetter and Coy's tender of 199 pounds has been accepted for the supply of a cooking plant.
Before Judge Purefoy, John Elliot was indicted for felony and maliciously wounding of George Mansfield. The incident took place at Jerry's Plains, on 11 June and Elliot was prosecuted by Crown Prosecutor Mr Ellis. Elliott pleaded not guilty and was undefended. The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.
Mary Nowland arrived at the gates today after being transferred from Newcastle Police Court where she was charged with a vagrancy act with having no stable means of support. Police Constable Billington found her lying drunk in a park in Islington and when asked said she had no home. During her appearance she told the judge she wanted to go to Maitland to attend the hospital there. The Magistrate happily obliged informing Nowland that he would send her to the Gaol located there. She was sentenced to three days hard labour.
At the age of 80, Rees Johns, a native of England, appeared at the Newcastle Police Court this morning on a charge of vagrancy. Johns pleaded guilty, after being found sleeping in a tramcar the previous night at the depot. Upon arrest Johns was asked what he did and he said nothing and that he had to beg for his food. He was sentenced to three months in Maitland Gaol, which would have provided slightly warmer lodgings and three meals a day for the winter. John, along with five other prisoners were transported to Maitland Gaol this afternoon.
A man named McGuiness was bought before Newcastle Police Court yesterday charged with the robbing of two men named Bristown and Lewis. It appears that the prisoner had pawned clothing and sold tickets to the men previously mentioned. Lewis and Bristow released the clothes and put them to use but within a few days the prisoner returned demanding there return. The men refused so he waited for his opportunity and stole the clothes saying that he had sold them too cheaply. The presiding Magistrate said to McGuiness that it was ungentlemanly to act in such a manner and ordered that he be imprisoned for two months. McGuiness was transferred from Newcastle to Maitland Gaol today.