Built during the Gaol's second phase of construction and completed in 1868 this building has many stories to tell.
The Chapel is available to view during guided and self guided audio tours of the site, however is inaccessible during times when it is privately booked, having works undertaken and on some night activities. This magnificent building can be booked for private functions and events, get in touch with us to find out further information.
The two storey building was constructed on the site of the original Governor's and Warder's accommodation, inside the walls directly opposite the main entrance. The upper storey was immediately given over to use as a chapel and school room, as in the original design by architect James Barnet. Part of this design was the two distinct entrances for male and female prisoners and a partition that ran down the middle of the large room to limit contact between the two groups. The Chapel is one of the nicest buildings in the site and is set out with a lined cedar roof and large cedar beams, as well as red mahogany flooring. The sanctuary is raised and the original design had pews angled towards this raised area, where the clergyman would have conducted services.
This upper floor was used as a chapel and space for education of prisoners for about 100 years. With records in the 1960s indicating that the area was still regularly used by Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and the Salvation Army for religious teachings. As importantly the room was also used for the congregating of prisoners on mass for entertainment purposes, including films, music events including choirs and dance troupes from outside the gaol, the debating club, performances by prisoners and external parties, and other social activities such as poetry readings.
During the 1980s the use of this building changed dramatically as the lower and upper storey were converted into office and training spaces for the staff in Maitland Gaol. It was during this time that the original cedar furniture was removed and a number of building modifications took place. These include, but aren't limited to, the removal of the second internal staircase, the addition of an external staircase and new external door, the recovering of the floor, installation of false ceilings, plumbing and inefficient air conditioning. Many of these items, such as the internal partitioning, were removed at the time of the Gaol's closure, so it could be reused in other locations.
In 2007, seven years after Maitland City Council took responsibility for the site, a serious restoration project of the internal parts of this building was undertaken. It attempted to reverse the remaining 1980s modifications, returning it to a closure version of its original self. This project was a huge success with much of the original heritage fabric found intact. The original floor boards were uncovered under three layers of flooring including a clinky pine floor, lino and carpet. Where necessary some of the original boards were replaced, with timber specially sourced and dried for the site. The false ceiling was removed from the sanctuary to reveal the beautiful cedar panelling that is visible today. Also uncovered were the original markings on the floor that mark locations of panelling for the vestry, these notches and paint colours have been left to help visitors understand the layout of this space.
It was during this restoration that a heritage paint consultant was engaged to undertake paint scraping of the walls. Ultimately the aim was to choose a colour that would be suitable for the building once restoration was complete. Excitingly this paint specialist uncovered one of the four murals visible in the Chapel today. This was a complete surprise to the Maitland Gaol team as the murals weren't documented on paper or in the oral history recordings done at the time of the site's closure. Since that time the other three have been uncovered for visitors to enjoy. Some investigations were carried out in regards to who the artist may be, including a public call out for information. Whilst investigations so far have not revealed a signature it is believed they may be by Emlyn 'Ernie' B Dickson and were likely painted between the 1930s and 40s.
The restoration work during 2007 culminated the previous works that had been undertaken on this building including;
- Restoration of the remaining original staircase.
- Replacement of defective guttering and timber work externally to make the building watertight.
- Conservation of the timber windows, including replacement of missing and cracked glass.
- Paint removal from the external sandstone.