Old Castlemaine Gaol sells to consortium with residential plans

The heritage-listed old sandstone jail in Castlemaine Victoria has sold for $550,000 to a local consortium that plans to redevelop the site into a residential project.

The consortium plans to build 22 townhouses and 16 homes on the 1.73-hectare site and use the mid-19th-century building as a conference centre.

The group comprises Gary McClure, Trevor Butcher and Don Culvenor.

McClure told the Australian Financial Review he hoped the jail would become an arts and hospitality hub for the area.

“However the long-term viability of any proposal is crucial. We don’t want to start something that again fails within a few years from lack of support," says McClure.

McClure was referring to the previous tenant, CVGT, which relinquished its lease in November 2009 after failing to secure government funding to redevelop the site.

The jail was built from local sandstone between 1857 and 1861 based on the 1842-built model prison Pentonville in London. The Pentonville influence can be seen in the the radial wings, central hall and exercise yard.

Heritage Victoria says the prison, along with the Bendigo and Beechworth jails, are the closest Victorian representations of the panopticon design – a concept that allowed a single guard to watch all inmates of a jail without the inmates knowing they were being watched.

The 67-cell Old Castlemaine Gaol was designed by Charles Vickers in the Victorian period Academic Classical style.

The jail was decommissioned in 1990, with the cells later converted to accommodation. Since then it has been used as a function centre, school camp and conference venue.

Colliers agent Andrew Lewis negotiated the sale for Mount Alexander Shire Council.

The agents received six submissions over the six-week campaign, which kicked off on May 21.

Castlemaine, 120 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, is a former goldrush town and is now a fruit and farming area with population of about 8,000.

The site is zoned residential 1, though any development would require heritage approval.

Mount Alexander Shire mayor Janet Cropley told Fairfax the zoning and heritage listing would ensure development was sympathetic to the shire.

“This proposal represents the best chance for the jail to have a viable future whilst maintaining community access and use,” she said.

Alistair Walsh

Alistair Walsh

Deutsche Welle online reporter

Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?