Redruth Gaol in the 1970s, before restoration
Redruth Gaol, 2004
Side view of Redruth Gaol, 2004
Redruth Gaol was erected in 1856 at a cost of nearly 3200 pounds. It was set back from the mine and the town, well outside any possible mining claims. Redruth Gaol was the first gaol erected in South Australia outside of Adelaide.
Thomas Perry was Gaolkeeper for 25 years and the gaol was often referred to as “Perry’s Hotel”.
The gaol provided accommodation for Perry and his family, the turnkey and 30 prisoners, male and female.
Punishment in the 19th century was much more severe than today. One boy in 1874 was sentenced to one month with hard labour in Redruth Gaol for breaking window in Paxton Square (in Kooringa, Burra).
Many spent time "at her Majesty's pleasure" in Redruth Gaol, courtesy of excessive drinking ("the drink" was the commonest cause of crime during the life of the mine). This is not surprising when one considers that until 1880, the legal minimum drinking age was just 12 years. Even more conducive to Burra's intemperate habits were the colony's hotel hours - 5.00am until 11.00pm on weekdays. Little wonder then that this place developed a fearsome reputation, with "the drink".
The gaol was closed in 1894 and prisoners were transferred to Gladstone Gaol, 70 kilometres northwest.
For a short time the building was home to the Wollacott family. Three years later following some renovations, it reopened in 1897 as Redruth Girls Reformatory. Thirty girls (aged fifteen and above) - the "incorrigibles" from other institutions in Adelaide were sent up here.
Interestingly, it would appear that the only ones to ever escape from the gaol, were the girls. They had a number of escapes. Finally in 1922 there was a riot amongst the girls, which brought about the Reformatory's closure.
The building was used in SA Film Corporations' 1979 film, "Breaker Morant".
It is now under the control of the National Trust.