The Heat of Deeds: A true crime history of penal Newcastle | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2045-5852
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5860



The penal outstation of Newcastle, New South Wales was an early nineteenth-century British experiment in secondary punishment. Its twenty years of operation from 1804 to 1821 encompassed the Rum Rebellion of 1807, the expansive governorship of Lachlan Macquarie and a population boom of convicts and free settlers following the Napoleonic wars. Defined by contemporary methods of corporal punishment, penology and martial law, it would establish itself as a productive hard labour settlement that at various times provided the new colony – especially Sydney Town – with coal, timber, salt and building lime. It was also a uniquely intimate and human world that housed, fed, broke and occasionally redeemed its motley crew of gaolers and reoffending convicts, whose original population of 100 peaked at a 1000 by 1820. It is also the setting for ‘The Heat of Deeds’, a creative nonfiction, true crime narrative experiment by Dr Murray, which reconstructs the incomplete, archival traces of some of its residents into stories grounded in the squalor, violence, resilience, desperation and grace of the lived, convict experience. The following extract refers to the outstation’s final years as a penal facility.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Commandants; convict; crime; Newcastle, Australia; outstation; punishment
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