This compass is thought to have belonged to Joseph Bolitho Johns who became infamous throughout Western Australia in the mid to late 1800s as bushranger Moondyne Joe. Johns arrived in Australia in 1849 as a ticket-of-leave convict but, in 1861, was arrested in today’s Toodyay for illegally branding a brumby. Imprisoned at the Toodyay Convict Hiring Depot, Johns was quick to escape, taking the brumby and the magistrate’s saddle and bridle. Johns was on the run for just three days before being recaptured and this time sentenced to Fremantle Prison. He was released in 1864, only to be arrested a year later for “killing an ox with felonious intent”. He found himself back in Fremantle Prison for a 10-year prison sentence. He went on to escape three times in four months, sparking the legend of Moondyne Joe. By now he had seriously raised the ire of his captors and was assigned to an ‘escape-proof’ cell in 1866. So confident of the cell’s security was Governor Hampton that he apparently promised Johns he’d be forgiven if he managed to escape again. Just a year later, while assigned ‘exercise’ breaking stones in the main parade ground of the prison, Johns chipped his way through the wall and escaped once more. On the run for two years, Moondyne Joe had by now captured the imagination of the public. While he was imprisoned again, he was later released on the argument that Hampton had promised to forgive his escape.

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Old Newcastle Gaol

Harsh realities of early prison life on show at Newcastle Gaol Museum

Enter Newcastle Gaol Museum and find yourself hurtling back in time to imagine life as a prisoner here from 1865 to the early 1900s. The tiny cells are most disturbing, particularly the Aboriginal...


13 Clinton St
Toodyay WA 6566

Open Hours

7 days 10am - 3pm; Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day, Good Friday

More from the Old Newcastle Gaol

Beasts of burden aid exploration

While the story of this particular camel has been lost, it is used here to tell the tale of the early European explorers who relied on camels to push the frontiers of exploration. In 1871 Ernest Giles...

Bound by Iron

These leg irons once bound prisoners at Newcastle Gaol. Aboriginal prisoners in particular were bound by the legs and chained, even inside the tiny stone cell into which they were crammed behind...

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