Built in 1907, this impressive Romanesque-style building was once the transition point between freedom or prison for people awaiting trial in the adjoining Magistrates’ Court.
The city watch-house has been acknowledged as architecturally and historically significant by the Heritage Council, the National Trust of Australia and the Melbourne Planning Scheme of Melbourne City Council. The Magistrates' Court is on the National Estate Register.
Transport and access
Located on Russell Street, near the La Trobe Street corner, catch a City Loop train to Melbourne Central train station or to Flinders Street. From Flinders Street, you can take a connecting City Loop train or Yarra Tram along nearby Swanston Street.
Trams running along Swanston Street include routes 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 64, 67 and 72. Tram routes 24, 30 and 35 run along La Trobe Street.
Visit the Public Transport Victoria website for more information and connecting services in your area.
No on-campus parking is available for visitors, but you’ll find many commercial car parks a short walk away. Metered street parking is also available nearby, but note the time limits and clearway restrictions.
The Watch House was built on the site of the first cell block of the Old Melbourne Gaol to hold alleged offenders until they were officially remanded or released on bail. It includes holding cells, separate men and women’s exercise yards and an identification room.
This facility was used until the closure of the old Magistrates' Court building in 1994. All fixtures and fittings, including the graffiti, are as they were left in 1994. The National Trust then took over responsibility for the building, and RMIT bought it in 1997.
Areas of interest include:
- cells where prisoners were held awaiting trial or bail
- separate exercise yards for men and women prisoners
- identification room, where prisoners in ID parades were separated from their accusers by no more than a set of strong floodlights
The city watch-house, used for holding alleged offenders until they were officially remanded or released on bail, operated on the site next to the Magistrates' Court from 1892. At first it was housed in a disused cell block of the Old Melbourne Gaol. This was demolished and the current brick building, designed by the same architect as the Magistrates' Court, was built in 1907-8.