The Hanging Towns

Jul 20, 2018 0 comments
Unsurprisingly, Queensland's capital seat of capital punishment was Brisbane, where a total of 80 people were 'launched into eternity'. 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 in 1830, although most convicts sentenced to death for crimes committed in the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement were executed in Sydney. In 1841 two Aboriginal men convicted of murder were hanged from improvised gallows on the side of the old windmill.

Find out which different towns and places the 94 people executed in Queensland were hanged in.
Hanging at the windmill. (Brisbane Telegraph, 1970)
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.

The Queen Street Gaol circa 1850, scene of executions in Queensland.
Queen Street Gaol circa 1850. (Queensland State Archives)
A new Brisbane Prison opened in 1860 on Petrie Terrace and became the scene of 26 executions. 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.
Petrie Terrace Gaol, Brisbane, scene of executions in Queensland.
Petrie Terrace Gaol. (S. Woolcock)
Plan of Rockhampton Gaol, scene of executions in Queensland.
Rockhampton Gaol, 1868.
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 hanged at Boggo Road died inside 'A' Wing, in the old No.1 Division (demolished 1978).

A' Wing, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, c.1915, scene of executions in Queensland.
'A' Wing, Boggo Road, circa 1915. (Comptroller-General's Report)
Rockhampton Gaol, c.1913, scene of a Queensland execution.
Rockhampton Gaol, circa 1913. (Comptroller-General's Report)

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.

Find out which different towns and places the 94 people executed in Queensland were hanged in.
Locations of executions in Queensland 1830-1913. (©C Dawson 2013)

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