The history of Wellington’s gaols is grim but vivid,
nowhere more so than at the Terrace Gaol, which for
nearly a century housed the region’s thieves and murderers,
drunks and lunatics, vagrants and prostitutes.
Many inmates went on to become folk heroes, writers,
social reformers or politicians, like Joe Pawelka, the
only successful escapee; Louis Chemis, who cheated
the gallows but blew himself up on Mount Victoria;
Peter Fraser, who did time for opposing conscription
but went on to become prime minister; and fearless
conscientious objector Archie Baxter.
Te Aro school now stands where convicts once toiled
and murderers swung, and few traces of the old gaol
remain — except for its stories.
About the Author
Peter Methven has been a teacher,
IT programmer, outdoor learning
instructor, adult education organiser and
manager, policy analyst and international
consultant, He lives in Wellington,
within view of the Terrace Gaol site.