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Historic Berrima Gaol hits the market

An iconic Australian gaol where the nation’s first serial killer was hanged has hit the market, with international interest expected in the historic site.

Set on 1.9ha, the Berrima Correctional Centre was used as a gaol for almost 200 years and is made up of 60 prison cells and a watch tower.

Constructed between 1835 and 1839, Berrima Gaol, as it is also known, was built from local sandstone at a cost of 5400 pounds by convicted London joiner and carpenter James Gough.

Gough, who received a conditional pardon in 1821, was awarded the construction of the gaol along with John Richards.

Much of the work to complete the gaol, which includes a soaring perimeter wall and grand gatehouse, was done by convicts in irons.

Colliers has been appointed to sell the unique and historic property with agents Nick Estephen, Thomas Mosca and Frank Oliveri running an international expression of interest campaign.

Berrima Correctional Centre has 60 prison cells.

“Being the first time ever offered and presenting one of the rarest opportunities in the history of the commercial property market, we expect interest from parties across commercial, retail, hotel, lifestyle and recreation sectors seeking to repurpose this spectacular property to deliver social, economic and cultural outcomes and benefits for the local community,” Mr Estephen said.

Other features of the property include guard offices and commercial space, plus two historic cottages, a tennis court, industrial shed and commercial kitchen on the site.

Listed as a NSW State Heritage Item, the gaol is historically significant as it contains elements of the original structure from the 1830s.

One of two historic cottages included in the sale of Berrima Correctional Centre.

“Its original configuration was distinctive, employing a partial panopticon layout,” the heritage register states,

“Subsequent changes and uses reflect the changing philosophies, expectations and requirements for the incarceration of criminals in NSW, and penal architecture generally from the 1830s until the present day.”

During WWI the gaol was used as a prisoner internment camp by the Australian Army, and between 1944 and 1949 prisoners reconstructed the building using the original sandstone at a cost of 18,000 pounds, with only the entrance and outer walls of the old gaol left standing.

It was operational between 1839 and 2011 with several breaks, before reopening in 2016 to support the NSW prison population. 

At that time it housed 75 minimum security prisoners before being decommissioned in 2020, which is why the NSW Government is now selling the gaol.

One of the gaol’s most notorious prisoners was Irish-born Australian serial killer John Lynch, who confessed to killing 10 people between 1836 and 1842. 

He was executed by hanging in April 1842.

A year later, Lucretia Dunkley and her lover Martin Beech were hanged for the murder of Dunkley’s husband.

She was the only woman hanged at the gaol.

One of two historic cottages included in the sale of Berrima Correctional Centre.

The property is zoned SP1 Special Activities (Correctional Centre) and any alternative use or repurposing of the site will need to be approved via planning proposal or rezoning development application.

Mr Mosca said interest in the gaol is likely to be significant given the migration of Sydney residents to the Southern Highlands. 

In addition to the strong residential market, tourism activity is tipped to increase now that Sydney and regional NSW is emerging from lockdown.

“Berrima is widely recognised today as the best-preserved example of a Georgian Village on the Australian mainland,” Mr Mosca said.

“The town was established in the 1830s during a time of great exploration and expansion in NSW.”

Berrima Correctional Centre is offered for sale via expression of interest closing Friday, 26 November, at 3pm. 

Berrima Correctional Centre.

For more information you can view the listing here.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.