A Wing is available to view on self guided audio and guided tours during the day and night. Its the historic pastiche that makes this building of significant interest to our visitors and it can be booked for small private functions on a limited basis, feel free to get in touch with us for more information.
Original tenders called for the buildings construction in 1893 however no contract was awarded. Despite petitions and letters from local and notable people, such as Edward D. Day (Police Magistrate), work did not commence on the construction of the building until 1843. It was to be by convict labour, rather than free, and the gang was initially tasked with excavating the foundations for the building and moving the quarried stone from Morpeth to the Gaol site. The foundation stone was laid by Edward D. Day, Captain Day, William Lewis Esquire and other local gentlemen in February 1944 on a wet and windy day. Work would continue with the convicts in a haphazard way until 1845, at this point very little progress had been made and it was decided modifications were to the design of the building were required, these were made by the Colonial Architect. This not only simplified the original design but it would also reduced the size of the building and therefore the construction costs. In January 1846 convict labour ceased on the site and the now master stonemasons were transferred to Newcastle. At this point only the foundations of the building and three cells had been completed.
In the same month the government called for tenders for the erection of the 'New' Gaol at Maitland and in March 1846 Brodie and Craig of Sydney were awarded the contract. Building was underway by April and between then and December 1848 a significant number of local men were employed to assist in the gaol's construction.
By completion the building was 33 metres long and 12 metres wide. It housed 28 cells, 26 large cells and two smaller ones for condemned men. The outer wall of the building is solid sandstone 75cm thick and the internal walls are also solid stone but only 60cm thick. The original roof was covered by slate and light was permitted to the building from two large windows at either end made simply of iron bars. The first prisoner moved into the building on 30 December 1848. The men, women and children were transported from Newcastle Gaol and were brought up the Hunter River by steamer landing in Morpeth. These prisoners were housed in A Wing and this building would house the bulk of prisoners incarcerated in Maitland Gaol for nearly the first 50 years of the sites occupation.
Space was released in this building in the mid 1890s when women were moved to a new building constructed as part of an extension to the gaol. This allowed for modifications to be made internally that reflected the change in attitudes regarding reformation of prisoners. Major modifications were made to the cell size, reducing the cells to a single cell which would eventually house a maximum of two prisoners, rather than the five it had previously. This in effect doubled the number of cells but more than halved their capacity, however this size is what remains in situ today. Electricity was connected to the building in the early 1920s however the freedom for prisoners to use this electricity didn't come until the 1970s when the cells were fitted with power points. Running water and the sewer were connected to the building in 1975, finally bringing it into the 20th century.
A Wing is the oldest remaining building in the site and was used throughout the Gaol's 150 year operational history. When the site closed in January 1998 A Wing was the last wing prisoners were moved out of, bookending the sites 150 year history almost as it began. Since that time the building has been maintained in accordance with the heritage guidelines set out by the sites State Heritage listed status. Some of the works are listed below
- Conservation of timber windows at front of building including repair of timber sashes and replacement of cracked and missing glass.
- Plumbing works.
- Replacement of roofing timbers and iron on entrance to make the building watertight.
- Paint works undertaken to maintain paint colours as at sites closure in 1998.
- Replacement of defective guttering and downpipes to effectively carry the water away from the sandstone.
- Make safe removal of degraded sandstone.
- Extensive investigation and assessment of declining stone on the gable of A Wing - ongoing