Owned by Southern Midlands Council, and the largest building remaining of the Oatlands Military Precinct, is the 1837 Oatlands Gaol complex. Comprising of the two-storey Georgian Gaoler’s Residence, as well as a c2000 square metre former gaol yard and the lower portion of the formerly 6-metre high sandstone perimeter wall, these are the remains of the largest regional colonial gaol in Tasmania. Most of the gaol buildings were demolished in 1937, and in 1954 the yard was filled to accommodate the municipal in-ground swimming pool. A historical report and archaeological survey of the site was commissioned by Council in 2003 (Williams 2003), and determined that the site has a very high potential to yield significant archaeological remains relating to Tasmania’s early penal system.
The pool is still in use, and the Gaoler’s Residence has been vacant for at least 20 years. The pool is considered to have exceeded its practical working life, and a working group has been formed to explore the options for establishing a new pool elsewhere – demolition of the old pool would then essentially free up the Gaol to be restored and promoted as a heritage site. The Southern Midlands Recreation Plan (Hepper 2006) explores some of these options, and a feasibility study has recently been commissioned. The development of a new multi-purpose pool facility is a priority for Council, however funding has not yet been sourced.
Until recently, the Gaoler’s Residence was in a severe state of deterioration, with an Engineer’s report (Spratt 2005) detailing a range of urgent rectification works required for the stabilisation of the building. A remedial works report (Bjorksten 2004) detailed works required throughout the building. A conservation management plan was developed for the site (Williams 2006), which consolidated the Engineer’s report and remedial works report, and developed conservation policies to guide the implementation strategy detailed in that plan. An $800,000 works program has recently been completed, which has fully restored the Gaoler’s Residence. Currently, an interpretation fitour of the building is being undertaken, as is landscaping of the part of the yard not being used by the pool.
Conservation planning documents which have been commissioned by SMC for the Oatlands Gaol site include:
- Williams, B. 2004: Oatlands Gaol Historical Report and Archaeological Survey
- Bjorksten, B. & E. 2004: Oatlands Gaol, Remedial Works Report 2004
- Spratt, P. 2005: Oatlands Gaol Structural Assessment
- Townsend, A. 2005: Oatlands Gaoler’s Residence Wallpaper Analysis
- Williams, B. 2006: Oatlands gaol Conservation Management Plan 2006
- Williams, B. 2007: Effect of Chlorinated Water on the Sandstone Walls of the Oatlands Gaol
- SEMF Pty Ltd 2007: Oatlands Gaol Structural Assessment and Remedial Works Plan
- Williams, B. 2009: Oatlands Gaol Master Plan
- Williams, B. 2010: Oatlands Gaol Use and Development Plan
- Williams, B. 2011: Oatlands Gaol Interpretation Plan