Her Majesty’s Collingwood Stockade

Tuesday February 27, 2007

A plan of house allotments in Carlton printed in 1869

The word ‘stockade’ has been associated, particularly in recent years, with the Eureka Stockade conflict at Ballarat, which has overshadowed the word’s other use in gold rush era Victoria, as the term for a low security prison. Several of these stockades were opened in metropolitan Melbourne at the height of the gold rush including Pentridge (1850), Richmond (1852), Collingwood (1853) and the ‘Marine Stockade’ at Williamstown (1853). They supplemented other stockades constructed closer to the goldfields, and the prison hulks moored off Williamstown. The stockades contained prisoners with shorter sentences, or those having served part of their sentences on the hulks.

With few residents during the gold rush, North Carlton was colloquially referred to as Collingwood, in reference to the small settlement to its east, and its relative isolation from Melbourne made it an ideal location for one of the city’s earliest penal institutions — the Collingwood Stockade. Today, North Carlton’s rows of elegant Victorian terrace housing and wide streets now cover the district’s early history as the site of one of the Colony’s largest prisons.

The stockade’s register of ‘Personal Description of Prisoners Received Collingwood Stockade 1856’, held at Public Record Office Victoria, provides a fascinating documentary account of its prisoners, which totalled more than 300 at one stage. But also of interest in the register is a description of each prisoner’s origin, with many having only recently arrived in the Colony, from all corners of the globe. The Collingwood Stockade’s inmates reflect the cultural diversity of gold rush era Victoria. Most were single young men, some as young as fifteen. With no family in Victoria, and probably a limited social network, it is of little surprise that many soon found themselves in trouble with the law.

After the Collingwood Stockade closed in 1866, its buildings, many built by its inmates, were converted into an asylum for the reception of ‘lunatics’ transferred from Melbourne gaols. This institution, the Collingwood Stockade Asylum, existed until 1873, when the site was converted to its current use as Lee Street Primary School. Stockade prisoners quarried bluestone on land that now forms Curtain Square in North Carlton, and some of this was used on the stockade’s buildings. After these were demolished, the bluestone was salvaged and used for the footings and flaggings of the 1878 primary school building. This bluestone, and a stone tablet from the former Governor’s House fixed to the wall of the school, are today the only visible physical reminders of the former Collingwood Stockade.

Read the complete article on the AROV website.

Source of photograph: PROV, VPRS 795/P0 Building Files: Primary Schools, Unit 696, School No. 1252 Carlton, Lee St.

Peter Andrew Barrett

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