1 April

1893: Severe economic depression gripped the colony from 1890 to 1893, leading to many banks closing and many small and large investors ruined. Unfortunately this led to a rise in crime and particularly a rise in alcohol abuse, for many people like the chap below their lives ended much earlier than need be from over drinking. An inquest was held today after the death of Richard Francis Savidge, age 37. Savidge had been born in England and came to the colony several years ago, he had been sent to Gaol on 14 March on a charge of lunacy. He was seen by the Gaol doctors and subsequently bought before the bench whom directed he be transferred to Gladsville Asylum. However he was not in a fit state for transfer and remained in Maitland Gaol where he later died. The verdict of the inquest was that Savidge's constitution had completely broken down and that his condition was largely due to drink. 

1899: T.S. Petherbridge began his 12 months tender for the supply of firewood to Maitland Gaol. The tender was opened by G.F. Scott, W. Marsh and H.T. Williams who was the postmaster. All three men sat on the tender board for East Maitland, and recommended that Mr Petherbridges tender be accepted.

2 April 1892

George Petterson was very lucky to get of a charge of intent to murder, which he was appearing in the circuit court for, however he still arrived at the gates of Maitland Gaol today under a two years sentence of hard labour. The jury had returned a verdict of guilty, to a charge of maliciously wounding with intent to resist his lawful detainer. The judge agreed with this verdict and in light of a string of recent offences decided Petterson was to spend the next two years behind the cold hard walls.

3 April 1894

A stabbing case in Lambton led to the arrest and conviction of Edward Ridley. It appears Ridley had been drinking heavily in Tranters Hotel in Lambton and had started a fight with Archibald Witherspoon, during the fight Mr. Witherspoon had been stabbed. When he arrived home with the injury his father made a complaint to the police. The police sighted the wound and then went to arrest Ridley, who when discovered was heavily intoxicated with blood on his shirt. Ridley was taken to the police cells and charged the next morning, he had no recollection of the altercation but admitted that the knife shown to him by police was his, as was the shirt covered in blood. Ridley elected to be dealt with swiftly and pleaded guilty, he was fined 60 shillings, but could not pay so was sentenced to one months imprisonment which later that day he started.

4 April 1854

On this day Daniel Gardiner (alias Thomas Gardiner) was executed. He was indicted for the wilful murder of Caroline Gardiner, his wife, and found guilty within 20 minutes of the jury's retirement. 

5 April 1901

As ludicrous as it sounds using obscene language in public was a punishable offence in our newly federated state. The two examples described below are a small insight into the punishment one could receive for this crime. Fourteen days imprisonment was imposed on Rufus Thompson for having, on Wednesday evening, used indecent language in Mitchell Street, Stockton. John Ewan was given the option of a two pound fine or one month’s imprisonment for having used indecent language in Hunter Street, Newcastle.  Both prisoners were transferred today from Newcastle to Maitland Gaol where they served out their sentences with remark.

6 April 1891

An inquiry was held at Maitland Gaol today after a confine named Frederick Soames passed away on Friday night. The evidence produced showed that the prisoner became suddenly ill on Friday afternoon and died later that evening. The verdict was that Soames had suffered an attack of apoplexy, which is bleeding of the internal organs most likely blood vessels bursting in the brain. It was an unfortunate, but swift, death inside the walls of Maitland Gaol.

7 April 1866

Mrs. Thunderbolt is bought to court at Maitland under a charge of Vagrancy. During her trial she was also accused of killing a cow and getting about in men's clothing. Mrs. Thunderbolt admitted to killing a cow however disputed the men's clothing charge. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment and permitted to take her three children with her to gaol.

8 April 1899

Daniel Taylor is charged with having committed a serious offence on his step daughter, aged 15 and a half years. The jury deliberated for three hours over the evidence presented and eventually returned a verdict of guilty. The prisoner was sentenced to death and the judge made the comment that this kind of crime was the most degrading and completely sapped morality out of the community. 

The drainage improvements at the Gaol, promised by the Minister of Justice, had been affected without delay. Four prisoners and three free men had been employed to undertake the work that included excavating two large drains that would run through the reserve next to the courthouse. Unfortunately upon inspection many of the drainage pipes that had been supplied by the Colonial Architects office where found to be defective. Alderman of the city began to question the Government about the poor quality of the supplies and returned to the Gaol with a response that any quality appears to be good enough for country areas. It appears the issue of drainage became quite a political one with staff at the Gaol being assured that now that the work had commenced it would be completed in a thorough manner.

9 April 1851

William Hayes, who was in Maitland Gaol under a sentence of death, today made an open confession to Major Crummer that at the time of the murder he was convicted for, another man was also killed. His name was John Ahearn and Hayes told Crummer than this man was also buried on his farm. The second man was commonly known as Bothered Shawn as he suffered from some developmental delays. Hayes assured Crummer that whilst he witnessed both murders, he took part in neither of them. An investigation was undertaken and the body was discovered where Hayes said it would be and the body was confirmed as Ahearn. He had died from a fatal fracture to the right side of his skull, an inquest then commenced into Hayes involvement.

10 April 1863

It took three policemen to escort William Chapman to Maitland Gaol after he was found in a state of nudity on Horseshoe Bend. It was later discovered that Mr Chapman was a native of Glousestershire in England and had made his way to Morpeth to look for work after leaving the ship he had worked on for many years. Whilst in Morpeth he was charged with being of unsound mind, which was dismissed. Upon regaining his liberty he started making his way to Newcastle when he was arrested under the circumstances detailed above. He was charged with Lunacy and was so strong and violent when arrested that it took three policemen to escort him to Gaol, where he was held for the safety of himself and the public.

11 April 1890

A marriage between James Cousins (age 19) and Fanny Elizabeth Hawkins (age 14) took place today at the chapel inside Maitland Gaol. Cousins had been found guilty or so an hour previously of carnally knowing Hawkins. It appears the young people where very fond of each other but the Grooms father would not give consent for them to marry. The Governor and his daughters were present at the marriage as witnesses along with the bride’s parents. After the ceremony Cousin's was escorted back to the courthouse where the Judge dismissed the previous finding and let the young Mr. and Mrs. Cousins go with a few kind words.

12 April

1888: Sam Lee Wood, a Christian Chinese man, is bought before the circuit court on a charge of assault. The charge was laid by another Chinese man named An Cheo, who said he was assaulted by Wood over a 10 shilling debt. Recently Wood had made headlines after being involved with a trio of his fellow countrymen who were caught selling alcohol without a license. The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate reported that as usual the police prosecutions of china men are always provocative of great amusement. During the course of the trial many witnesses where dismissed either because they weren't credible or wouldn't take a formal oath. The case was clearly made out against Sam Lee Wood who was eventually sentenced to three months to cool off in Maitland Gaol. 

1899: Daniel Taylor who was condemned to death in the Maitland Circuit Court last week for capital assault on his step daughter Alice Mary Wratten, has been removed from the condemned cell. The assault happened on the Barrington River some time ago and when the assailant was bought before the courts it was assumed he would face the death sentence. The last execution in Maitland Gaol had happened in 1897 and records indicate that this sentence was commuted to life, however the reason is unknown.

13 April 1867

William Douglas charged with being of unsound mind, which was evidenced by his wild behaviour and determination to destroy him. He had only recently been released from Maitland Gaol where he underwent a short sentence for the same crime. He was originally from the Muswellbrook region and was caught trying to return in a state of nudity. As he didn't have the 20 pound sureties to keep himself out of prison he was returned to Maitland Gaol for a further three months, and put under the care of the Gaol's doctor.

14 April 1908

Joseph Griffin who pleaded guilty yesterday to having been an accessory before the fact in connection to the Telford Street fire in Newcastle, was transferred to Maitland Gaol today. He was convicted and sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

15 April 1900

At the criminal court in Sydney three men, Lancelot Ernest Johnston, Norman Johnston and William Frederick Caunt, were bought up convicted of conspiring together to bring about an illegal effect on Margarita Ethal Johnston. Margarita was the sister of the first two men bought before the court and the judge wanted these men to be as far away from each other as possible for a period of time. Accordingly, he sentenced Lancelot Johnston to three years in Maitland Gaol with hard labour, Norman Johnston two years hard labour in Goulburn Gaol and William Caunt, a chemist, five years hard labour in Bathurst Gaol.

16 April 1902

Herbert Harold Almond was charged with having assaulted James McDonald, by striking him with a lemonade bottle at the railways employee picnic in Muswellbrook showground. McDonald suffered a cut above his left eyebrow and a severe bruise on the bridge of his nose. The injuries were quite severe including blood loss and concussion, and McDonald was forced to take four days off work to recover. The bench considered that the assault had been entirely unprovoked and that is Almond had hit McDonald any harder chances where that it either could have killed him or rendered him with a brain injury. The accused was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour and was transferred to Maitland Gaol that afternoon. 

17 April 1902

The work to erect a new records office and a new office for the chief warder at Maitland Gaol was today completed. The room’s dimensions were 12 x 14 feet (3.6m x 4.2m) and are built of freestone from quarries at Ravensfield. The stone in each room was 12 inches (300mm) thick and was built on stone foundations, the ceilings were made from small corrugated iron. The two rooms were the first in the Gaol to have electrical lighting installed and were joined together by an archway. The work was completed by a contractor named Mr. R. Partridge Wall, who had previously been the overseer of works at Maitland Gaol for 10-11 years but had recently gone into the building trade himself. The District Architect Mr. A. G. Edwards expressed himself highly pleased with the quality of work and believed they were attractive additions to the Gaol’s other buildings.

18 April 1903

Matthew McLauchlan had a lucky escape from a life sentence when he appeared in Maitland Circuit Court today. He was arraigned on a charge of having committed an unmentionable assault on a boy named Robert Turnbull (9 years old), however he was further charged under a second count of another assault on Master Turnbull. The prisoner was found guilty on the first charge and when passing sentence the judge referred to the enormity of the crime and told McLauchlan he could have been sentenced to penal servitude for life. A sentence of five years hard labour was handed down and McLaughlan was transferred that afternoon.

19 April 1901

John Nelson, who was under committal to the Quarter Sessions on a charge of assault and robbery at Carrington, was charged by warrant with being about to abscond from his bail. Michael Jordan Junior said that he had become surety for Nelson leaving 80 pounds to assure his appearance at the Quarter Sessions, he now wished to surrender his bail. Nelson was ordered to be sent to Maitland Gaol on a warrant of commitment to assure that he would appear in court.

20 April 1858

Today in Maitland Gaol an inquest was being held into the death of James Rainsley who had died during the night. Rainlsey was admitted to the Gaol in early March and was in a state of extreme destitution, his body was covered in sores and was also an imbecile in the mind. He was treated by Doctor Wilson from the time of his admission and another prisoner was appointed to attend him to ensure that he would receive every nourishment possible. The inquest found that James Rainsley died of natural causes.

21 April 1899

Maurice Murphy was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for deserting the British registered ship Muncaster. Often upon docking men would leave their ships and would need to return by a certain date, if they did not return the ship’s captain would alert the authorities. There were many reasons given for desertion, including poor conditions, not being paid enough, being promised work on another ship or often a female.

22 April 1892

A series of unique events led to an interesting case coming before East Maitland Court today. Mary Greaves charged her husband Charles with having used threatening language towards her. A legal difficulty arose as Charles had already been charged and sentenced today for drunkenness and had been imprisoned in Maitland Gaol for 24 hours. As Mr. Greaves was already a prisoner the case of threatening language could not be proceeded with and was postponed for one week.

23 April 1896

Mr. H. Crothers, acting district coroner opens and inquiry today at Maitland Gaol regarding the death of a prisoner named Samuel Burton. The deceased, who died at half past 10 in the morning, had been admitted to the Gaol from Muswellbrook on 31 March under a sentence of two months for vagrancy. The newspapers at the time reported him as a 'Sundowner' it was understood that he came to Australia as an imperial convict. The inquiry found that his death was due to natural causes. A 'Sundowner' is an Australian term for tramp arriving at a sheep station in the evening under the pretence of seeking work, so as to obtain food and shelter.

24 April 1889

A most daring escape was attempted out of Maitland Gaol 126 years ago today. Prisoners working on the tower at the south east corner of the Gaol where called in for church, two of the prisoners managed to conceal themselves in the tower. Luckily Warder Shepard was outside the Gaol in the police yard and thought he spotted a hand drawing back inside the tower. He alerted another Warder that an examination of the tower was needed urgently. The door to the tower was opened and to his surprise two prisoners walked out, the prisoners where Stapelton in Gaol for cattle stealing and Dorias who was serving a nine year sentence for forgery. Both prisoners ran across the garden and over the paling fence at the front of the Gaol where two warders were awaiting them, they were ordered to stand or be shot, both prisoners surrendered and were marched back to the Gaol.

25 April

1851: William Hayes was executed for murdering Benjamin Cott at Dagworth on 13 November 1850 by beating him around the head with a blunt object. Hayes was originally from Ireland and came to the colony in 1837. He later confessed in Gaol that he had murdered and buried another man, commonly known as Bothered Shawn, on his property. 

1860: Today an inmate David Callaghan realised how fortunate he was that the Gaol had access to a working telegram line as he received news the day before his death sentence was to be carried out that he had been reprieved. The telegram service had saved the life of its first prisoner, this made history with it being the first time the telegram had done so. Callaghan's sentence was commuted to 15 years hard labour, the first three to be served in leg irons.

26 April 1860

Two men named Jim Crow and John Jones, were executed. Jim Crow was indicted for the rape of Jane Delanthy on 24 January 1860 and John Jones for the murder of Rebecca Bailey. Unlike previous executions only 60 people obtained permission to be witness to the extreme penalty of the law which was carried out in the morning.

27 April 1901

Two new prisoners where marched up the hill to the awaiting sandstone walls of Maitland Gaol 114 years ago today, both on a charge of theft. John Roberts was fined two pound, with costs, for the theft of a cloak. The presiding judge ordered if he could not pay the alternative was 14 days imprisonment. John Morrison was charged with having stolen two pieces of tailors lining and was also fined two pounds, but in default would spend one month hard labour. Both men either couldn’t afford their fines or chose not to pay them which led to the transfer by train to the Gaol.

28 April 1851

On this day debris from building of the new wings was becoming an increasing problem. It meant inmates had access to rubble that could easily be turned into a weapon, it also meant that the risk of escape was much higher as rubble tended to be piled around the walls.

29 April 1863

Today, Thomas Carlton arrived from the Armidale Quarter Sessions. He'd been sentenced to two years hard labour for horse stealing. When he was received into Maitland Gaol it was discovered that he was actually Thomas Anderson (alias Costelloe) who had escaped from Berrima Gaol in October 1862. Upon learning this, Maitland Gaol immediately applied for him to be removed, not only because of his history but also because the Gaol was already overcrowded. He was removed to Darlinghurst in May.

30 April 1866

Mary Anne Bugg, the half caste woman who was Captain Thunderbolt’s lover was released from Maitland Gaol today. Ms Bugg had been indicted previously for vagrancy in March and parliamentary outcries led to the Attorney General recommend her release on the ground that the charge was not properly prepared.