Cockatoo Island Convict Site

The prison on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour was established in 1839 as an easily accessible place of banishment that would be – in the words of Governor George Gipps - ‘under the very eye of authority’. It became an infamous place of exile where reoffending criminals and convicts lived and worked under brutal conditions. For 30 years, convicts worked to construct prison quarters, a massive dry dock, underground silos and a notorious underground punishment hold.  

Australian Convict Sites Video Series. Video & Content Producer - Sarah Abad

Cockatoo Island aerial Credit Mark Merton.jpg

Cockatoo Island Convict Site

The site comprises 13 convict-built structures on a raised sandstone plateau surrounded by quarried cliffs. Sandstone blocks, quarried by convicts, were used to construct the remaining buildings. The layout of the precinct reflects the segregation of areas where convicts lived and worked, with those where the military and administrative functions were performed.

Convict Courtyard Stephen Fabling 2013.jpg

The Convict Precinct

The barracks, initially built to accommodate no more than 328 men, actually housed up to 500 men. The convict Mess Hall and the Kitchen run along the fourth side of the courtyard. The Mess Hall was also used as a school and chapel. The Prisoner Barracks area is surrounded by the Military Guard House, two Free Overseers’ Quarters, Military Officers’ Quarters and the Guard House Kitchen.

Convict Silos Andrew Jacobs 2007.jpg

Sandstone Silos

A series of underground bottle shaped sandstone silos were excavated by hand from the solid rock by the convicts. Averaging 5.7 metres deep and 6 metres wide, they were used to store food.


Cockatoo Island Convict Site

Address: Cockatoo Island, Sydney, New South Wales 2039

Telephone: (02) 8969 2100