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TAS Country : March 3rd 2011
6 Tasmanian Country Friday, March 4, 2011 NewsGaol project gives town SKILLED: Plaster restorer Mark Woodley works on internal trim. TREASURE: Plan of the gaoler's residence. A place of imprisonment and death has become a place of rebirth for a Southern Midlands town, reports Jennifer Crawley REMINDER: Prison rules found under paint layers near the gaoler's back door. Mayor Tony Bisdee THE soon-to-be-opened Oat- lands Gaol and the restored Callington Mill have trans- formed Oatlands. ''We used to average two to three hundred a week through the visitors centre,'' Southern Midlands mayor Tony Bisdee said. ''Now we are averaging be- tween 1600 and 1700 a week.'' An estimated 22,000 visitors have flocked to Oatlands since the mill opened late last year, Mr Bisdee said. And a $500,000 transformation of Oatlands Gaol is set to further boost visitor numbers to the heritage town off the Midland Highway. The Southern Midlands Council took over the lease of the building from the State Government in 2007 when it was on the verge of collapse. ''An engineer went up and said we had between five min- utes and five years before it completely collapsed,'' council heritage manager Brad Wil- liams said. The 12-room two-storey Georgian sandstone building looms large in the town land- scape. Up to 20 tradesman have been employed on site and much of the main building work has been completed. Specialists are hanging heri- tage wallpaper and painting the traditional hard plaster made with slaked rock lime mixed with sand. Every aspect of the gaoler's residence is authentic. No mod- ern acrylic paint has been used. The replica wallpaper is made to exact specifications from remnants of the original and hand screen-printed on thick art paper. The colours are drab and institutional downstairs where gaol business was attended to but bright and gaudy in the officers private quarters up- stairs. There was a local shortage of wood when the gaol was built, so green timber was used for the upstairs flooring. Hundreds of items that fell between the gaps of the shrink- ing boards have been retrieved. Women's purses, children's toys and coins rescued from under the floor will be on display when the gaol opens in May. The gaol was built by convict labour in 1836. Every part of the gaoler's residence that could be was made from stone --- including fireplaces, floors, and even the internal stairs. Painters have uncovered the 1859 prison regulations for the ''Keeper of the Gaol'' on the rear entrance to the gaoler's resi- dence. The regulations state that condemned men are entitled to a meal the night before hanging. The gaol could hold up to 180 men and 20 women. The 4000m2 complex included separate cells and yards for women and men, a shed for debtors, a hospital, chapel, the gaoler's residence and accommodation for the ''javelin men'' --- guards who were still prisoners. A six metre tall, 70cm thick wall separated the buildings but was not too effective in prevent- ing escapes. There were 12 in the first year. Oatlands Gaol was the largest regional gaol in Van Diemen's Land and the only regional gaol attached to a Supreme Court. ''Thousands of men and wom- en prisoners were led through the gates, and 18 men lost their lives there. Five died on the gallows, the rest were publicly executed in front of the gaol,'' Mr Williams said. The complex was downgrad- edin1863andusedasa municipal prison. It was closed and, apart from the gaoler's residence, demol- ished in 1937. But remnants of the original stone floors and sandstone walls have been uncovered by archae- ology students including the passageway between the con- demned men's cells and the gallows. A permanent conservation lab has been built in the kitchen of the residence where archae- ology students will learn and practise conservation skills. Mr Bisdee said the gaoler's residence would be used to provide comfortable accommo- dation for students taking part in future digs around Oatlands and ''unearthing the treasures that have been covered up''. The Callington Mill has cre- ated interest across Australia,
February 24th 2011
March 10th 2011