Below the chapels floors were 36 solitary confinement cells - the cries of the detained convicts within could be heard coming up from below, disrupting services.
For Free People and Prisoners Alike
Included under the space for worship were thirty six solitary confinement cells, known as the “dust bowls”. These cells had no light or ventilation and varied greatly in size as it supported the inclined floors of the chapel above. The cries of discomfort of the chained convicts in these cells could be heard in the chapel above disrupting services. On the 25th February 1845 public access to the chapel was stopped and it's use limited to the convicts and various gaol staff.
The executions at Penitentiary Chapel were not always carried out in singles or in pairs as on the 16th February 1859 saw five men all make 'the drop' at the same time. William Davis was found guilty of killing Andre' Cassavant as he drunkenly slept on the sofa in Davis' house. Daniel Stewart, William Ferns and Peter Haley were all trialled and found guilty of firing at a person with intent to kill during a string of robberies and hold-ups. John King was found guilty of shooting and killing Rebecca Hall, who he lived with, on Christmas Day 1858. When King was arrested he asked "Do you think I shall see Solomon Blay?" and indeed he and the other four who hanged with King did.
Just South of Oatlands is silhouette of Solomon Blay, swag on shoulder and stick in hand in mid step on the path towards Hobart.
Solomon was sent from Oxford to Tasmania in 1837. Ten years later in 1847 he was appointed the public executioner and ten years after that (1857) was given a free pardon.
Executions continued up until 1946 when Frederick Henry Thompson was hanged for the murder of eight year old Evelyn Maughan. Frederick was the last person to be executed in Tasmania and the final of thirty two, including one woman, to be hanged in the yard at Penitentiary Chapel.
Ghosts and Hauntings
People have experienced many and varied paranormal happenings here including been pushed, poked, groped and prodded by unseen hands. The tower and it's clock are said to be haunted by a watchmaker, Richard Waters, who installed the clock. On occasion some of the volunteers have seen the clocks heavy pendulum stop dead mid swing.
Finally as you venture underground into the tunnel ,the feeling of dread overtakes you. This might just be psychological, brought on by the cramped and still conditions but when you venture into the punishment cells, and are lucky (or unfortunate) enough to smell the taint of stale blood, is it still your mind playing tricks on you?
Big thanks to Tony of Penitentiary Chapel Ghost Tour for providing some of the information above! Book onto one of his tours at www.facebook.com/PenitentiaryChapelGhostTour and http://www.hobartghosts.com/