The Hanging Towns

Ninety-three men and one woman were hanged in the Queensland region from 1830-1913. Unsurprisingly, the capital seat of capital punishment was Brisbane, where 80 souls were 'launched into eternity', and the shadow of the gallows fell across just three other towns in the colony.  

The first men to die on the gallows in Brisbane were two convicts hanged in the yard of the convict barracks on Queen Street, although most convicts sentenced to death for crimes committed in the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement were executed in Sydney. In 1841 two Aborigines convicted of murder were hanged from improvised gallows on the side of the old windmill.

Places of hangings, Queensland (click to enlarge images)
The 1841 execution at the Brisbane windmill. Plan of Rockhampton  Gaol, circa 1868.
Prison on Queen Street, Brisbane, 1850s. 1860s prison on Petrie Terrace, Brisbane.
A Wing interior, Male Division, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane c.1915. Main gates of Rockhampton Prison, c.1915.

The opening of the first circuit sitting of the Supreme Court in Brisbane in 1850 ushered in a new era of criminal justice in the local area, and over the following decade eight men were hanged at the Queen Street Gaol. The first five were publicly executed on gallows in the street outside the gaol, with the remaining three being hanged inside a gaol yard after private execution legislation was passed in 1855.

A new Brisbane Prison opened in 1860 on Petrie Terrace and became the scene of 26 hangings. Meanwhile, the newly-separate colony was expanding rapidly and the reach of the hangman extended to both Toowoomba and Rockhampton during the 1860s. A one-off hanging was held in Maryborough in 1877, with the lock-up there being proclaimed a gaol for the duration of the event. 

The opening of the new prison at Boggo Road, Brisbane, in 1883 led to the centralisation of Queensland capital punishment. The only hanging to take place outside of the city after that time was at Rockhampton in 1890, at a new gaol there. Although Boggo Road had a state-of-art gallows built inside one of the cellblocks, the first three men hanged there were actually executed together on the old gallows brought over from the now-demolished Petrie Terrace and erected in an exercise yard. The other 39 people executed at Boggo Road died inside 'A' Wing, in the old No.1 Division (long since demolished).

While many other parts of Australia have preserved part of their hanging history, the only structure to survive out of these nine Queensland places is the windmill, now known as the Tower Mill. The A Wing of Boggo Road was demolished in the mid-1970s. There are no surviving gallows except for a part of the Boggo Road beam which now forms part of the artefact collection of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.

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