The Visits Centre gave prisoners the opportunity to spend precious time with friends or family.
Visitors had to show 100 points of identification, before passing through a metal detector. All personal belongings had to be left in lockers inside the visitors processing unit. Before visits, inmates would put a special suit on over their underwear. It had a zip at the back of the suit and cable ties were used at the zip on the neck, wrist and ankles to stop contraband being hidden. Box visits also took place in this area from 1993, these boxes can still be seen by the public. The two rooms at the back of the building were used for police and lawyer visits.
By 1863, four watch towers were built to keep an eye over Maitland Gaol. These towers were originally staffed 24 hours a day, however this ceased with the introduction of razor wire, electronic fences, sensor systems and video surveillance cameras. Tower duty was the most tedious job within the prison system. It was a five hour shift during which warders were not allowed to read, write or do anything that may distract them from their jobs. A further two watch towers were added once the extension to the prison was completed.
The Gaol's food was regarded by many as the best in the state. In the 1800s the current kitchen area was originally two separate buildings which housed the bathhouse and the morgue. Then in 1980 it became one building that was fitted out as the kitchen downstairs and cells upstairs. Working in the kitchen was a prized job and only 10-15 well trusted inmates with some cooking skills were able to cook meals for the other inmates and live in the cells above the kitchen.
The last menu board for the Gaol was as follows:
- Breakfast: rolled oats, corn flakes, two slice of toast with jam, milk (300ml), tea
- Lunch: sliced roast meat (silverside or beef), baked potatoes and pumpkin, green peas, roast beef gravy
- For sweets: jam sponge cake, chantilly cream
- Dinner: spaghetti bolognaise and fresh fruit
The Exercise Field at the back of the Gaol originally was the location of two buildings, the Women’s Day Rooms or D Wing and the original Cook House. These buildings were demolished in the 1970s and the space was redeveloped into a more active exercise field. During the 1980s and 1990s several demountable buildings were erected in this area to store sporting equipment and the library.
This area was the subject of an archaeological investigation and restoration project following the Gaol’s closure. The sites of the two demolished buildings were established and the position of the buildings and associated yards was represented in the space, marked by pavers and sandstone blocks. The location of the chimney of the Cook House, a prominent local landmark in East Maitland during its time, was represented by orange pavers and following the discovery onsite of the date stone from the chimney, this was erected in an interpretive display against the rear wall of the Gaol, representing the form of the chimney’s original construction.
This field is now used for some of the Gaol’s most successful events including Bitter & Twisted.
As B Wing housed the largest number of prisoners within the Gaol it had two adjoining exercise yards. The first is relatively small and on the left side of the building contains the muster lines (painted in red), outdoor seating and outdoor toilets. On the right side of the building behind The Chapel and Administration building is the second larger exercise yard. This had a basketball court set up in it and access to a basic gym.
A series of Tract cells similar to those associated with A Wing (which still exist) were located in this area. The B Wing Tract Cells were demolished in the mid 1900s and the space came to be used for all sorts of different sports including tennis, handball, basketball and board games.During the 1960s a number of different groups came to the Gaol to play competitive tennis against the inmates, these groups included St Vincent de Paul.
The chapel was built in 1867-1868. In the earlier periods of the Gaol’s history it was the first building to welcome new prisoners and issue each person with a bible on arrival. Chaplains visited inmates to provide spiritual guidance, exhortation and support. The Chapel was used for compulsory religious services up until the late 1950s. It was also an area that prisoners could enjoy performances by groups from outside the Gaol, including the Salvation Army band. In the late 1860s and early 1870s the chapel was used on occasion to perform a marriage ceremony. Often it was for two prisoners housed within the Gaol, however records show that on at least one occasion a prisoner in Maitland Gaol was married to his fiancée who was not a prisoner.
Following the closure of the Gaol in 1998 a restoration project was undertaken in 2005 which uncovered the cedar lining on the ceiling and the original floor boards all of which can be viewed today. Today, the chapel can be explored and is an ideal venue for a corporate event, cocktail function or wedding ceremony.
Take the time to investigate the new interpretive hospital display that has recently opened to the public for the first time since the gaol closed in 1998. Wander through the ward, view some of the collection of artefacts and listen to stories about the hospital, its staff and the prisoners who were treated there.This location of the hospital is its last within the Gaol walls, with it occupying as many as three other sites before this. The ward was designed to house up to seven men only, but didn’t have the equipment to look after terminally ill prisoners. Therefore prisoners would be housed in here only if they were suffering viral conditions or after returning from surgery.