Canterbury Provincial gaols in the 1870s


  • Christine McCarthy



Architecture, New Zealand, History, 19th Century, Prisons - Design and Construction


In 1874 Charles H Curtin, in a letter to the New Zealand Herald, noted the disparity between the availability of free prison labour and the building materials and the poor state of the Auckland Prison as a public building. He wrote "your wooden gaol, with a string stone wall around it, is something that I cannot make out, - so much material for making a stone gaol and free labour all at a hand." He suggests a certain illogical approach to the structures of incarceration. A patchwork nature to the prison system is also apparent in the smattering of its evidence in government reports such as the Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives. Rather than an image of the comprehensive or the systematic, the impression gained is one of ad hoc commissions and piecemeal reports. These were the days during which the Gaols Committee formed and Māori prisoners from Parihaka were detained without trial, but prior to the appointment of Arthur Hume, the first Inspector of Prisons (1880-1909). The abolition of the provinces also shifted the burden of responsibility back to central government, transferring the administrative paper trail. This paper examines the architecture of the New Zealand penal system early in this decade through a particular examination of gaols built by the Canterbury Provincial government.


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How to Cite

McCarthy, C. (2018). Canterbury Provincial gaols in the 1870s. Architectural History Aotearoa, 15, 60–71.

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