Historic jail built by convicts listed for saleThe NSW government is selling the historic Berrima gaol.

Berrima Gaol built by convicts is listed for sale by NSW government

After almost 200 years of locked gates and cells, a heritage-listed jail built by convicts is throwing its doors open to developers and investors.

The NSW government has announced the former Berrima Gaol – a significant piece of convict history –  will be sold via an expressions-of-interest campaign after the final prisoners were moved last year.

Located about 80 minutes south of Sydney, the heritage-listed jail could be reimagined as a hotel, tourism facility, retail centre or residential development.

The listing is expected to generate significant interest, not only for its novelty, location and scale, but also due to the ongoing migration of Sydney residents to the Southern Highlands, and the expected rebound in tourism activity.

Made of local sandstone, the Berrima Gaol was built mostly by convicts in irons between 1835 and 1839 at a cost of £5400. 

One of Australia’s first serial killers, John Lynch, also known as the Berrima axe murderer, was hanged in the prison in 1842.

In 1887, a royal commission was conducted into the management of the prison. It found prisoners had been subjected to punishments such as being detained in dark solitary confinement cells for prolonged periods.

It went on to be used as an internment camp during World War I, where people of German heritage were detained by the Australian Army.

Prison labour was again used when the building was reconstructed using the original sandstone between 1944 and 1949, this time for £18,000.

In 2001, it was renamed Berrima Correctional Centre, a women’s prison housing 59 inmates.

Berrima Correction Centre
Berrima Correction Centre

The jail was operational until 2011 and then reopened in 2016 for five years.

Local MP Wendy Tuckerman said the gaol was retired last year as it was no longer fit-for-purpose and surplus to Corrective Services’ requirements.

“This unused state heritage-listed site has great potential to deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes for the community,” Mrs Tuckerman said. “This is a rare opportunity to express an interest in a 1.9-hectare site that’s rich in history, stories and heritage charm in the heart of the bustling township of Berrima.”

The jail comprises 60 cells, a watchtower and guard offices. Two historic cottages, an industrial shed and a commercial kitchen, are also on the Argyle Street site.

Colliers’ Nick Estephen, Thomas Mosca and Frank Oliveri have been appointed to sell the property on behalf of the NSW government.

Mr Estephan said it was “one of the rarest opportunities in the history of the commercial property market”.

In just a few days, the well-maintained facility has attracted enquiries from all sectors of the market. But Mr Estephan would not be drawn on a price guide for the unique property.

“You can’t reference this against other sales,” he said. “It’s going to sell to the highest bidder.”

Berrima Correction Centre
Berrima Correction Centre

Given the property is zoned for special use as a correctional centre, the buyer would need to seek planning approval or rezoning to repurpose the site. 

Decommissioned historic jails have proven popular over time. Most notably, the Pentridge Prison in Melbourne’s inner north was decommissioned and sold, and has since been redeveloped into a sprawling precinct of cafes, restaurants and multistorey apartment buildings. Some of the jail cells have even been turned into private wine cellars.

In 2019, the Geelong council sold the former Geelong Gaol to a private buyer who preserved the site as a museum.

The expressions of interest campaign for the Berrima Gaol closes on November 26. 

Short-listed respondents may be required to respond to a request for tender.

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