THE Guildford Gaol has reopened to the public after undergoing a $300,000 renovation.
Swan Guildford Historical Society president Celia Miller said the jail had a rich history.
“Ten years after Guildford was settled in 1830, it became apparent that the town needed a jail,” she said.
“The establishment of three public houses in Guildford led to many locals charged with drunken behaviour, but there was nowhere to put them.
“So, late in 1840, jack-of-all-trades John Welbourne was given £80 to build the jail with two small cells, a constable’s room and stocks.”
Ms Miller said after building the jail, Welbourne became the police constable, the local postmaster and a member of the Guildford Town Trust.
“Later he built and owned the Stirling Arms Hotel and operated an undertakers business from his home on Market Street,” she said.
Ms Miller said the jail hosted its most famous inmate in 1869.
“Bushranger Moondyne Joe had escaped from Fremantle Prison and, nearly two years later, was caught at the Houghton Winery in the Swan Valley,” she said.
“He was temporarily locked up at the Guildford Gaol, awaiting his return to Fremantle.”
Ms Miller said when the jail closed 100 years later it fell into disrepair.
“In the 1970s, with the jail building unused and in poor condition, its demolition was considered,” she said.
“But it was saved by the then Shire of Swan, renovated and handed over to the Swan-|Guildford Historical Society to be used as a museum.”
Ms Miller said the jail was significant and one of the few examples of public buildings dating back to the early decades of colonial settlement in WA.
“The City of Swan carried out an almost $300,000 renovation program on the colonial jail, which is a fine example of colonial architecture largely built by convict labour,” she said.
“The society runs tours at the jail, giving visitors an insight into the life and times of early settlers and inmates.
“Through the jail we tell the story of law and order in Guildford and the Swan district, together with a gallery of some of the jail’s inmates.
“Visitors also have a chance to walk inside a jail cell and see an exciting new exhibition of Guildford’s trades in the prisoners day room.”