Mt Eden Stockade

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History of the Stockade

3D Reconstruction of Stockade by Raysan Kubaisi

By 1855 conditions at the Queen Street gaol had deteriorated to a state where yet another new gaol was planned. This, the Stockade, was on the lower slopes of Mt. Eden, and opened for business on 30 July 1856. This building, its subsequent additions, and most of the associated structures from that time, were situated within the present prison walls.

The earliest illustration found of the Stockade. At that time it consisted of one long two-storied building surrounded by a wooden fence. The small building to the west of the prison is the under-gaoler's house. The ramp or road leading down to the north is probably for cart access to the prison, with an apparent windlass at the downhill end of this.

It is possible that the latter was associated with the prison’s water. A report for 1861 records that while some of this was rainwater off the roofs caught in casks, in summer it came solely from a well outside the walls and was carried in by bucket (A.W.H.J. 1983:13). Another account identifies the well in Water Street (today some 300 metres to the west) where a large barrel was sunk into the ground (Franklin 1956:37).

Sixteen of the hardest cases at the Queen Street gaol were transferred to the Stockade on 13 September. Three were lifers: one for stabbing a captain at the Bay of Islands, one for a rape at Newmarket, and one for killing a Maori with a piece of wood in Chancery Lane (W.N. 1864b).

In 1858 another two-storied building was erected parallel to the first, to house the rest of the hard labour men from the Queen Street buildings, and the fence was extended around this. The first building functioned as the penal ward, the new one as the hard labour ward. To the south of the latter was the stone-breaking yard, which by 1864 at least was partially covered in (W.N. 1864a).

3D Reconstruction of Stockade by Raysan Kubaisi with Clough and Associates Ltd

By mid 1864 overcrowding in the Stockade was again a problem, with court-martialled soldiers held there as well, and at the end of August the provincial government approved the erection of another building which would connect the two existing ones on the east side. Tenders for this closed on 29 August, and it was expected that the addition would be ready for use in two months (W.N. 1864b). Figure 7 shows the Stockade probably at some time prior to this date.

At about the same time a new prison was planned to house debtors, female prisoners and those awaiting trial, who were at that time still in the Queen Street gaol. This new building, just to the west of the Stockade, was proclaimed a Public Gaol on 18 November 1865, and the remaining prisoners were transferred there two days later.

In 1866 a two-storied officers quarters was built outside the Stockade wall to the north.

The next major building event was the construction of the basalt wall around the main prison site. This started in late 1871 (J.A.P.C. 1871) and finished in late 1873 or early 1874 (J.A.P.C. 1873, 1875), after a total of more than 12,750 man-days of labour.