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Heritage Reconstruction Project

Heritage Reconstruction Project

Heritage Reconstruction Project

In 2016 Old Dubbo Gaol undertook sensitive heritage works to the unique wood block entrance floor.
The original wood blocks suffered from white ant attack and, over time, degraded and rotted greatly. Many of the original wood-blocks that remained had rotted to the extent that their structural integrity has been compromised, creating dangerous trip hazards as they crumbled and failed.

This project involved assessing the condition of each of the original blocks, those found in a good condition were saved and re-laid. Blocks in a rotted state were saved and will be used for display and exhibition.
New blocks were be cut, to replace rotted blocks, using the same wood as the original blocks: mature Narrow-Leaved Ironbark. The type of wood was discovered after an original block was sent to Sydney for laboratory analysis.
Originally wood blocks were dipped in tar which is now recognised as a highly toxic substance, instead we used a tar coloured wood-preservative oil which will look and act in the same way.

All blocks were laid following the original 1887 Dubbo Gaol plan.
This project was made possible through the NSW Government’s Restart NSW Cobbora Transition Fund, which was established to create infrastructure that drives economic growth and productivity in the region.

History of wood block roads

The use of wood block roads in Australia dates from 1880 when King Street was the first street to be paved with wood in Sydney.
19th century streets were dusty in dry weather, muddy in the wet, unhygienic from horse excrement, and noisy as steel horse hooves and carriage wheels rattled down busy stone thoroughfares. Wood block roads made from Australian hardwood solved these issues as wood absorbed noise, and when dipped in boiling tar and hammered in place the blocks were remarkably weather-proof. Wood blocks also provided a surface that was easily cleaned, and the blocks were often washed down with disinfectants.
In 1929 the first asphalt road was laid in Sydney, and would soon after replace wood block roads that had degraded badly from the introduction of cars and heavier vehicles.
Dubbo Gaol’s wood blocks are unique, as this type of paving was little used in regional areas. It is thought that wood was used in the Gaol entrance to reduce the noise of horse hooves announcing the Gaol’s entrance gates were opening. Generally wood blocks were laid length ways and hammered close together whereas ours stand on end, and also have a bevelled edge to improve traction.

Block Boys at St Peters 1935, Mitchell Library State Library NSWCollege street widening 1930s, City of Sydney ArchivesElizabeth Street  Block Boy 1909, City of Sydney Archives
Live white ants, 2016Blocking Macqaurie street with woodblocks and tar 1925, Mitchell Library State Library NSWOld Dubbo Gaol Western Entrance 1967, Old Dubbo Gaol Collection
Old Dubbo Gaol Western Entrance Wood Blocks 1967, Old Dubbo Gaol CollectionRot and white ant damage wood block, 2016Rot and white ant damage, 2016
Tarring woodblocks Pyrmont Bridge 1902, State Records NSWWestern Entrance damage from white ants, 2016Western Entrance deteriorating wood blocks, 2016


The entrance to the Old Dubbo Gaol is located just off Macquarie Street, near the old clock tower and across the road from Woolworths

Untitled Document Opening Hours

9:00am to 4:00pm everyday (except Christmas Day)

Contact details

90 Macquarie Street,  Dubbo NSW 2830
Phone:   (02) 6801 4460
Fax:       (02) 6801 4469

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