The Stockade, which opened on the 3rd of February 1853 on a six acre reserve, was surrounded by a black, ten foot palisade fence, adjacent to thirty-five acres of forest. The Penal station was bordered by what is now Rathdowne, Newry, Canning and Princes Streets.
Convicts were sent from their detention on prison hulks to one of four stockades, Pentridge and Collingwood being the most important, as Richmond and Williamstown were only in operation between 1852-1855. The Collingwood Stockade was originally built to accommodate sixty prisoners, serving sentences from one to five years, the more serious offenders being sent to Pentridge.
Prisoners worked from sunrise to sunset. They were primarily involved in the quarrying and breaking of stone for the Corporation of Melbourne. The area which is now known as Curtain Square Gardens was originally a bluestone quarry attached to the stockade.
After a breakfast of bread and gruel, the prisoners were marched in single file to their labour.
"The prisoners worked beyond the wall or breat-work over a large area, prevented from escape by armed sentries at close intervals . . . There was no classification of prisoners except in regard to their capabilities of performing work and no set tasks were assigned to them."1
The prisoner worked on a system of labour credits&emdash;by working harder or by doing longer hours of work, he could gain remissions on his sentence.
"The promise is held out that when half the term of their sentence has expired, a ticket-of-leave will be granted to them . . . but the number of ticket-of-leave holders who are, resentenced for some crime, on gaining their liberty and come back to see the remainder of their original term, as well as their second sentence, proves that their good conduct is not the result of a reformation of their habits, but merely that the strictness of the discipline compels them to behave well . . . their receptions and discharges describe a sort of rotary process, out one month and in the next."2
The prisoners were locked in their dormitories at 6.15 p.m. and allowed to converse until 7.30 pm., when the silence bell was rung. Conversation after that time was strictly forbidden. A light was kept burning in the dormitories all night, and a warder remained on guard in each room.
Church of England ministers held services on Sundays and visited the prisoners every Tuesday. There was, however, no Roman Catholic priest in attendance. Full time medical officers were first appointed in 1853.
In 1856, a Committee investigating Penal stations states,
"Dr. Youl (Practitioner in Melbourne) and prison surgeon is supposed to inspect convicts once a month, but on their information has only inspected once in eighteen months."3
It was not until 1859 that two schoolmasters were appointed to Pentridge and Collingwood, a library being introduced in the same period.
Classes were held for two hours every night, the prison records stating that attendance was 'voluntary'. Statistics show that approximately two-thirds of the prisoners attended. This average appears extremely high until we learn that regular attendance at the classes was one of the requirements of good conduct and earned credits for the prisoner. Prisoners were informed as to their number of credits at the end of each month, the well-behaved were then permitted to have their wives visit them.
A Sunday School was established in 1857 and of the 300 prisoners confined, sixty attended regularly. Well-behaved prisoners helping to run the Sunday School could earn extra remissions.4
Scale of Remissions
Sentence in Years 3 5 7 8 10 12 15
Time in Stockade 2 3 4 3 31/2 4 4
Although originally built to house 60 convicts, by the second year the stockade had been extended to hold 300. In 1859 this number included fifty Chinese.
Richmond and Williamstown stockades had been closed through lack of finance, but Pentridge and Collingwood managed to be almost self-supporting. The prisoners worked at a rate of 2/- per man per diem of stone.
"The return of 61 prisoners on 104 working days ending 30/6/53 was £985.11.9. For the half year ending 31/12/54 the metal broken was valued at £2663.3.8 and with other earnings the total, from the stockade was £3714.8.3."5
Many kerbstones in Carlton at the present time still bear the arrow of convict labour. Collingwood was,
"considered the pet station . . . not only with regard to duty, but from its vicinity to Melbourne. The prisoners worked as well as any free man could work and the strictest discipline was maintained at all ranks."6
The original buildings, covering almost an acre, were of timber, because prison authorities had regarded Collingwood as temporary confinement. Pentridge in the early 1850's was also of timber construction, but as plans were being made for a more permanent structure there, it was expected that Collingwood prisoners would be eventually transferred.
"Buildings at the stockade although only of a temporary nature were considered somewhat superior to Pentridge."7
The Stockade lasted as a penal institution for thirteen years until 1866, during which time bluestone buildings were added.
The timber construction presented little difficulty to any enterprising convict bent on escape.
"The greatest danger of an outbreak was at night when the men were confined in buildings of timber requiring no great labour to cut through. On one occasion three of the prisoners feigned sickness and obtained permission to absent themselves from school . . . Thereupon they commenced cutting a hole in the roof and in less than half an hour had succeeded in getting out and lowering themselves by rope into the yard."8
The prisoners on this occasion were recaptured and sentenced to an additional twelve months.
The main hall of the Stockade was 60' x 25' and served as a dining room, school room and chapel. On each wing were dormitories of wood and iron. Canvas hammocks were arranged in three and four tiers along the walls. There were three dormitories so arranged; one of which could accommodate 150, the other two were smaller. For the Chinese and those prisoners ordered to sleep separately, there were ranges of cells. In 1857 another ward was built,. . .
"Standing bed places were replaced in a great portion of the dormitories by hammocks and partitions were removed. Ten stone solitary cells with yards attached were built and wooden cells formerly used for punishment, were now available for prisoners it was found advisable to separate at night."9
"One part of their arrangements deserves special notice. It consists of a handle inside each cell, which on being pulled rings a bell hung on the outer wall, and at the same time lets fall an iron, white-painted plate on which is inscribed the number of the cell from which the bell was rung. In this manner the sentry, without leaving his post, can notice the number indicated, and direct an attendant to give the required assistance to the inmate. This plan is said to be the invention of the Chief Warder."10
Anyone who has visited the Model Prison at Port Arthur, Tasmania will know that this system had been in use for some time. It is possible that the Chief Warder may have invented the system, but it is more probable he had been in service at Port Arthur and had seen it in operation.
'Although it would appear that great improvements had been made, it is interesting to contrast the opinions of a reporter for the 'Argus' in 1857, who made these first-hand observations.
"Passing through the dormitories we were at once impressed with the totally defective arrangements there. No-one who knew anything of prison discipline would think of putting any class of offenders in such a place, unless circumstances rendered it necessary or unless he desired to disseminate disease. The dormitories are about 24' square and 12' high. On each side supported by posts are a series of deep shelves and these are divided longitudinally into cots or cribs about 16" wide. The partition boards not more than 10" high and there like books ranged on a shelf, the convicts sleep. Should any contagious disorder arise amongst the men so confined, the most serious results must occur, escape from its influence being totally impossible. Every care is taken to prevent any such contingency and once a fortnight these dormitories are scalded out&emdash;that is, a deluge of boiling water is thrown down on them from the roof and afterwards distributed amongst the cots. The quantity used for each room is 300 gallons. Personal cleanliness is also enforced among the prisoners, no-one being allowed to neglect it. Some of the men are, however, careless in this respect and require repeated admonition. In one case it has been found necessary to use force and wash a prisoner without any regard to his opinion on the matter."11
At some time during its existence as a penal station, a bluestone wall was erected. Official documents do not provide specific details of its construction, but there are several references to its existence. In the newspapers of 1859 it was suggested, that if Collingwood was to be preserved, an outer wall was indispensable. Bluestone buildings were being erected within the stockade that year. The wall was in existence when the site became a school. Records show that the wall had fallen into disrepair at that time and that a pupil had fallen off it in the Canning Street area. The Education Department ordered its removal.
On the corner of Kay and Nicholson Sts., Carlton stands the 'Stockade Hotel' built in 1864, this stood just outside the penal station's boundary.
Bread and skilly (gruel or soup) constituted the convicts' diet. Prisoners were allowed, according to the 1833 Penal Act, one hour for breakfast and the same for dinner. At Collingwood, the prisoners were marched back from the quarries at noon for dinner and returned for work at 1 pm.
Daily ration for prisoners at hard labour in 1869 was,
Maize, oats or meal
These figures were current after the prison reforms of the late 1850's.
The opinions as to the quality of the food differ widely between those who had to eat it, and the visitors who watched the consuming of it.
"The prisoners at the stockade receive the same rations as those at Pentridge and great care is taken that the provisions supplied are not of inferior quality. At every meal a sample is brought into the office of Mr. Turnham the Chief Warder who examines it himself. It seems to us that the allowance is in excess, as it is estimated at the rate of that given to a hardworking labourer, while the amount of work performed by the convict averages very far below this standard. The coppers in which the soup is boiled are scoured once or twice a day and the most exact tidiness is visible in all the arrangements. "13
It is interesting to note that whilst we are told that the Chief Warder examined the meal, we are not told that he actually tasted it. Had the authorities been pre-warned of the pending visit by the press? There is no mention of the said reporter observing the convicts at work in the quarries, so on what authority did he base his claim that their work was 'very far below' the standard of the hard-working labourer.
It was to the convict's advantage to work well as he could halve his sentence by doing so. As the meal served was gruel, it would be difficult to prove that he had received a full daily ration, let alone an excess.
"On the morning of August 18th some of the prisoners complained to the Chief Warder (Mr. Turnham) about their rations, and a number of the most turbulent made use of threatening language . . . The men however went to labour as usual in the morning, but were observed by the overseer not to be working with their usual energy. As soon as they entered the mess room for dinner, indications of a disturbance began. A potato was thrown violently across the room. At 1 pm. when the bell was rung to 'fall in' for labour, the men refused . . . and collected in gangs about the yard. When any of the overseers spoke to them, they shouted and yelled. The excitement increasing it was thought unsafe for the officials to remain, so they left them. In the meanwhile the guards had taken their post surrounding the prison, some of them over two hundred yards from the station. A warder was also placed in the guard room where there were several stands of arms, with orders to shoot down any prisoner attempting to scale the walls."14
The initial resentment had persisted from breakfast until noon, when the men had again sat down to eat. It would have been far more feasible to have rioted, if that had been their intent, against a thinly spread guard while at work in the quarries. The writer also stated that the men were not working with their 'usual energy'. Another statement at variance with that made by the reporter.
The reporter also stated that 'great care is also taken' that the provisions supplied are not of an inferior quality. This does not appear to have always been the case.
Superintendent William Carter, after his dismissal by John Price, wrote an open letter to the 'Age' on 1/12/56 to vindicate himself.
"I joined on the 12th August 1853 . . . There was no store, the supplies (even the fresh provisions) were kept in a solitary cell; . . .Stores were received and issued with no check whatever; no stock taken . . .and during the whole of those three years, not the slightest survey has been made."
William Carter was no doubt irate at his dismissal and determined to justify himself publicly, so his arguments may well have been coloured by events. Hygiene and conditions could have improved in the five months rule under the new Superintendent. However, if what he said was true, then it takes little imagination to picture the damage done to supplies in a small, wooden cell, by ants, rodents, heat and dampness.
At least we can assume that the prisoners received sustaining meals of dubious quality and adequacy.
From the stockade dispenser's records15 we can ascertain a number of interesting facts. Taking a five month period, from May to September 1864, ages of patients treated range from 19-78 years, providing us with a sample of age ranges confined en masse.
1. Stomach & Bowel Disorders 20
2. Rheumatic & Respiratory 17
3. Ulcers and Contusions 13
4. Skin Diseases 5
5. Hernia 3
6. Venereal Disease 3
7. Mania l
8. Paralysis l
9. Epilepsy l
10. Enuresis l
Several patients were under treatment for more than one illness.
1. Stomach and Bowel Disorders:
The predominance of these complaints, one third of the cases, lends weight to the argument that close confinement, poor diet and unsatisfactory sanitation were strong contributing factors. One patient died after 89 days of treatment for 'Diarrhoea', including the use of aperients. It would appear more likely that the symptoms were those of either Typhoid or Cholera. It was not uncommon, where causes of disease were unknown, to label the illness by the symptoms produced. Patients were treated for these while the primary cause was left unchecked, also in many cases where cures were unknown, men were reported as cured and discharged. Nine other patients were diagnosed as suffering from 'Dyspepsia', spending a total of 15 days in hospital and a further 20 days of treatment. A seemingly long period for just indigestion.
2. Rheumatic and Respiratory Complaints
These were probably a result of unsuitable clothing, outdoor work, draughty quarters and perhaps the fortnightly dousing of canvas hammocks in winter. Five of these cases are described as 'chronic', one convict undergoing outpatient treatment for 2 and 1/4 months. One 'Bronchitis' case received one day's treatment but returned three day's later for an additional 55 days. A Chinese suffering from 'Cynanche' (Diphtheria) was hospitalised for three days and then received his discharge and returned to work.
3. Ulcers and Contusions
Two of the cases recorded were of Scurvy, one 19-year-old patient was under treatment for almost three months and no date of his discharge is entered. Another patient suffering from 'leg ulcers' spent two months under treatment including 48 days in hospital. Four cases of contusions are recorded although their causes are not specified, one patient spending 6 days in hospital. These bruises could well have been a result of their work in the quarries, but one cannot help speculating as to whether some were incurred through punishment.
4. Skin Diseases
These ranged from 'Acne' (20 days) to 'Leprosy'&emdash;37 days treatment, the latter patient being a 28-year-old Chinese. In 1857 the newspapers were clamouring for the expulsion of the Chinese from the goldfields; many charges were brought against them, not the least of them being 'carriers of leprosy'. These grossly exaggerated reports stirred up racial bigotry on the goldfields and fear in the cities. In the light of modern medicine it is more probable that these unfortunate scapegoats were suffering from Scurvy.
Considering the type of work performed by the convicts, this complaint would not have been unusual.
6. Venereal Disease
Cases of both Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are recorded, venereal disease being quite common at the time, but a cure was unknown. It was widely held in the past that the disease could only be contracted by contact with a female, consequently it was falsely believed to be non-infectious among males. As many complications did not appear until later in life, the illness that then appeared was thought to have no connection with the original disease. A warder is described as suffering from 'Orchitis', which is a complication of Syphilis. The three men are all young and aged between 19 to 32 years.
Any over-excited patient could be said to be suffering from mania as this term was loosely used to describe a variety of symptoms. The patient could well have been suffering from schizophrenia. In the early days it was not uncommon to find the insane confined with the sane, as 'Lunacy' was a police charge and the 'offender' was sent to a penal establishment for.a period of 7 days. As mental institutions were overcrowded, the offender could be imprisoned for an indeterminate time awaiting a transfer. In this case the patient was confined in hospital for 28 days.
A patient suffering from 'paralysis' was discharged for work after only 3 days in hospital. Either a miracle cure or again a diagnosis based on secondary symptoms.
If a man were an epileptic, his employment in the quarries would be a constant source of danger, not only to himself but to others in his labour gang.
This term could have been used to describe bed-wetting or symptoms of a deeper Syphilitic condition. This patient had previously been confined for the afore-mentioned 'Mania'. The involuntary loss of excrete is common amongst the insane. Syphilis in its latter stages causes insanity, marked by grandiose delusions, therefore we are left in doubt as to the exact nature of this patients illness.
Modern medicine was in its infancy, psychiatry unborn and antiseptics virtually unknown so it is doubtful whether the 'cures' were really effective.
In 1856 and 1857 Victoria's penal establishments were under fire from the public as reports of brutality, neglect and humiliation were exposed in the newspapers. A Citizens' Committee v John Price (Inspector General of Prisons) was set up to investigate 'cruelty exercised in Victoria'.
It is impossible to look at penal discipline without reference to this man. Price was originally a Hobart magistrate, who was assigned as Commandant to the infamous Norfolk Island Settlement in the 1840's. A martinet, Price restored order to the settlement, where the more depraved convicts were confined, by imposing harsher methods and greater severity of punishment. He was continually criticised and there was no doubt that the majority of the convicts hated him. Norfolk Island had become a 'Living Hell' and Price was described as, 'one of those human tigers who if they can obtain a uniform to cover their crimes are apt to get hanged for them, or come to a violent end'.16
He has been described as a monster, a sadist and conversely a fair disciplinarian who was only performing his duty. As warders and convicts were sometimes transferred between Tasmania and Victoria, Price was well known by gaoled and gaolers alike. Hatred finally manifested itself on Thursday 26th March 1857, when Price was violently battered to death. The convicts of the prison hulk 'Success', moored at Williamstown, had complained of the inadequacy and bad quality of their provisions.
A red riot flag had been hoisted and troops were called in to assist, but the prisoners would not be appeased until they had presented their complaints before Price.
Upon his arrival at Gellibrand Point at 3.30 pm., Price was surrounded by 15-20 men, angrily voicing their grievances. He ordered them to take their place first and suddenly the violence erupted.
"Price had been struck by one of the first stones thrown. He put up both his hands, one to the wound and the other to his hat. He stooped and turned round toward the sea and his assailants closed upon him and with yells of violence hurried him down the incline. He was then out of sight of all from whom he might hope for assistance, but one or two . . . About half way down the incline Mr. Price was again struck with a stone. The blow almost brought him to his knees. He recovered and about twenty yards further on was again struck and brought down on his hands and knees. Thence he was dragged, kicked and hustled about twenty yards to a pool of water about one foot in depth. He was dragged through this and about ten feet further on received four blows, some of which were from the flat of a shovel."17
Several convicts placed his bleeding body onto a hand barrow. The struggle had lasted five minutes.
The overseers who had been in close proximity had not been armed and the warders with rifles, appear to have watched from a distance, stunned by the sudden outburst. As Price was falling beneath the onslaught, one officer paused, according to his testimony, to retrieve his fallen cap, before summoning help.
It was later believed that the attack could have been premeditated, as thirty convicts had freed themselves from their chains, how it was not known. Two convicts took advantage of the confusion to escape to a hiding place in the quarries, where they were later recaptured.
Alive but unconscious Price was carried to Dr. Wilkins' house where he died at 4.15 pm., the next day. He had suffered five severe head wounds resulting in a fractured skull and internal injuries, and the fingers of his right hand had been badly smashed.
Of the convicts' reactions,
"It is said that they all display the most revolting indifference to the fate of their victim, in fact, some of them are positively glorifying in the fact of having 'done for him' and the same spirit is spreading to the convicts of other hulks."18
The reaction of the public varied, whilst all deplored the violence, the reasons for it seemed to depend on whether you were a subscriber to the 'Age' or the 'Argus'. For months the 'Argus' had defended Price against the Citizens' Committee and through its media, blamed the latter for the murder, stating anarchy and chaos would result from it. The 'Age', a champion of the Committee which consisted of doctors, clergymen and reformers, blamed the harsh system which had led to a brutal murder. It may have been that public sympathy, Price's censure, pressure from the press had added fuel to the fire, but it had been smouldering for many years.
Fifteen convicts all serving terms of sixteen to thirty-three years, were charged with the murder and stood trial. All but two were undefended. They stood in the docks; illiterate men, whose only defence was their eternal misery. Many offered no alibi; they showed their wounds and scars to the jury, testified to sleeping for nights on wet decks, and of the administering of castor oil for any illness. Their crime was terrible but so was their floating hell&emdash;the hulk.
Four trials were held, prime witnesses to the actual murder, being fellow convicts. Seven were found guilty: Williams, Maloney, Chesley, Brown, Bryant, Smith and Brannigan and were sentenced to hang. The jury had suggested a strong recommendation for mercy in the case of Smith and Brannigan as it had not been conclusively proved that they had struck a blow. Nevertheless all seven felons were hanged between the 28th-30th April 1857 at the Melbourne Gaol.
Sir Redmond Barry in his summation said that he, "Hoped that the recent trials would be productive of good in many ways, but more particularly as regarded the management of the penal department."19
"If there be any grounds for all the rashness and inhumanity which have been attributed to Price, he has paid a terrible penalty indeed . . . John Price is dead. He has gone to give an account of himself before another tribunal than that of the Citizens' Committee."20
He was just 48 years of age. He is interred in the Melbourne General Cemetery Carlton next to the grave of Sir Charles Hotham.
One of Price's duties as Inspector General was to inspect the Collingwood Stockade. All correspondence was sent through, or to, Price. On hearing the news of Price's murder, convicts at Collingwood expressed their feelings.
"It was not until evening that any feeling was manifested when loud cheers were given from the dormitories and so much noise made that the Chief Warder was compelled to interfere . . . the prisoners have conceived the idea that their warders are afraid of them and they have laughed at the Chief Warder for standing further off when the muster roll was called. They hooted the Superintendent and said that he carried pistols in his pockets, remarking that they didn't care for the '........squirts'."21
William Carter, Superintendent had previously attacked Price in an open letter to the 'Age' regarding his dismissal.
"I was at a loss to conceive on what authority you acted. The primary and only charge failed. You pronounced it to be malicious, the evidence showed it to be unfounded, and to carry out (perhaps your own prejudice) you bring a charge against me you, yourself; the accuser, the evidence and the judge . . . you insulted me before my warders and you treated me with the same craven, haughty contempt of a narrow mind, that you would have shown to a convict . . . You have been away from my station so long that I have even written to you to visit it. I have pointed out to you that the nearer way to your office was past Collingwood Stockade . . . You have ruined for the time my character here . . . you have estranged the affection of my family and the esteem of my friends." 22
Although a biased report, it does give us some insight into the character of John Price.
Any penal establishment in the 1850's would have based their disciplinary methods on the lash, leg-irons, solitary confinement and reduced rations, the severity of these depending on the officer-in-charge. Today these methods seem harsh enough without incidences of unnecessary brutality. Chief Warder Turnham at Collingwood was publicly condemned for his excessive use of the 'neddy' (a truncheon-like weapon).
"Dr. Singleton met the Inspector General (John Price) at the Collingwood Stockade. They have formally and solemnly recorded that they found Thomas Bourke with 'two wounds on the head, one on the chin, two on the cheeks (one near the right eye), one on the right hand, and one on the right ankle and a bruise on the hip'. All these wounds had been inflicted by the Chief Warder Turnham, with the exception of one on the face given by another warder after Bourke had been handcuffed when he was at the cell door. The personal traits of a distinguished man are always interesting to the public. Mr. Chief Warder Turnham, who thus amuses himself with obliterating the natural features of the prisoners is a functionary whose horny extremities are covered with yellow kid and patent leather and whose appearance generally displays a sort of mosaic of divers coloured garments and Brummagem chains surmounted by a very red face and a white hat neatly turned up with green."23
Brutal as Bourke's case had been, it was by no means the worst uncovered by the Committee. Evidence was given by Jeremiah Robins, a warder and locker at Pentridge, re a prisoner named McGuire.
"He was confined in the cells for having a hammer in his possession, concealed under his coat. I believe him to be deranged. The dispenser told me that McGuire had been burnt with vitriol down his back, the soles of his feet, the hinder parts, the joints, etc. He is now I believe in the Collingwood cells for biting off the nose of another prisoner named McCabe."24
If McGuire was insane, what can be said of the mentality of the official who deliberately poured sulphuric acid over a disturbed, confined man, by way of punishment. The biting off of a nose was not unique to this case, man, convicts are described in reports as minus an ear or a nose. When arguments broke out amongst convicts, chained hand and foot, their only weapon was their teeth.
There were many weaknesses in the stockade system of confinement There was no classification of prisoners, habitual criminals, the mentally insane and the first offenders were thrown together in continual contact. They worked side by side, often chained together and slept in the same dormitories.
"There are at Collingwood Stockade men of education, intelligence and ability whose offences against society have not been of that nature that would justify their being placed in constant communication with some of the 'father ruffians' there confined . . . It is quite impossible that any prisoner, unless he be of strange moral constitution; can escape being made worse, instead of better at Collingwood."25
Another defect was inadequate supervision. The quarry areas worked by the convicts necessitated the guard being thinly spread. On the 19th March, 1853 and the 20th May, 1853 several 'rushes' took place. The first report involved six prisoners in a labour gang who rushed their warders and managed to escape. There appears to have been some negligence on the part of the warders as several were swiftly dismissed. On the latter date eleven men attempted to escape, one of the fugitives was shot dead and the other ten recaptured shortly afterwards. In this incident, "Mr. Reilly, well-known subsequently as the city surveyor, arrested one after a severe struggle in which Mr. Reilly showed a considerable amount of courage."26
The Reilly St. drain which is constructed beneath Alexander Parade, is named after him.
Members of the public also had their say as to the standards of supervision.
"I observed a number of warders drawn up in a single file above the Corporation Quarries. I just got beyond the quarries when they commenced firing, the balls falling far short of the mark . . . My curiosity on returning led me to ask one of the sentries what the firing was for. He told me that they were discharging their pieces for the purpose of cleaning them . . . The whole guard consisted of twenty-four men, four were on duty as sentries and the remaining twenty were discharging their pieces . . . As these pieces cannot be cleaned and loaded in less time than two hours, the consequence is three hundred desperadoes are left-for the four men to keep. Surely Sir the present Inspector General is not fit for the head of the Department . . . As the Legislative Council will soon assemble again, I hope you Mr. Editor, as the representative of the public will not lose sight of the monstrous system that is carried on; the whole department being nothing more or less in the opinion of many, than a complete waste of public money."27
The next morning William Carter, Superintendent replies,
"As the letter is most maliciously at variance with the truth, I beg to state . . .
That the warders were not drawn up in single file.
That they were not above the Corporation Quarries.
That your subscriber had no communication with a sentry.
That the guard does not consist of twenty-four men.
That it is untrue that only four were on duty.
That the balls did not fall short of their target."28
The subscriber could well have distorted the facts and exaggerated the incident, however Carter does not deny that a large number of warders were engaged in discharging their pieces, nor that it took two hours to clean and reload them. The maximum number of warders at any time at Collingwood appears to have been thirty-seven. If we assume that twenty men were absent from duty, and this was not denied, then three hundred prisoners were being guarded by seventeen men. Instead of a list of denials, Carter would have served the public. better by providing a list of facts.
Trafficking and smuggling of goods were another flaw in the system. Reports of pipes, tobacco, knives and newspapers entering the stockade, are common. Perhaps the strangest piece of goods smuggled in, was a certain William Bateman. He was charged,
"with entering the Collingwood Stockade and holding conversation with the prisoners. John Moore, one of the warders had overheard Bateman informing some of the prisoners that they were to 'stick up a pole' and he would 'plant it at the foot', alluding evidently to some plan of escape. When observed he ran off and after a chase of about a mile and a half was taken into custody. Mr. Superintendent Carter informed the Bench that the prisoner had only been discharged from the Stockade on Monday last after two years imprisonment during which his conduct had been 'very good'."29
The enterprising Bateman was rewarded with two months hard labour, ironically enough, behind the palisade fence he had scaled. No doubt his fellow conspirators were pleased to see him as they then had more time in which to plan their next escape.
The stockade system had not really proved its worth to the community. Carlton was beginning to stir. The University had opened, metal roads were under construction, traffic was increasing. Miners were now returning from the gold-fields eagerly seeking land. The Corporation of Melbourne was attempting to cut prices on the bluestone being quarried, so in 1865 public meetings were being held to close the Stockade. The new gaol at Pentridge had been completed and in 1866 the Collingwood prisoners were transferred.
The last convict had shuffled away, the quarries lay idle, the forest reserve silent, but the buildings remained, awaiting their new occupants.