Monday, 31 July 2017

Prisons And I Go Back A Long Way. . . . .

I have, what some people might think to be a slightly strange interest, and I blame my parents!! 

Although it may be my slightly skewed childhood memory of things, but I remember going to, what seemed like a lot of historical prisons as a child, when we went on holiday. 

I'm sure we didn't go to that many, and maybe some of the memories are attached to museums, but I really feel like we did! I love British History and the rich texture of stories woven in to our culture. 

I remember when I was about 7 years old we went on a canal boat holiday. I loved it! One of the rules of hiring the boat was that you must be moored up safely for the evening before nightfall. I remember one evening there were very few mooring sites and we were chugging along as dusk was falling looking for somewhere to moor up. We went along for a bit and came across this nice quiet area where no other boats were, perfect! My parents noticed, in the fading light, that we were moored up by, what they thought to be a boarding school. We settled down for the night, then the next morning got up and inspected our new surroundings. My parents then realised that the 'boarding school' we had been moored up outside all night was actually a prison, and probably the reason why we had the riverbank to ourselves for the night! 

I discussed my recollections of childhood prisons with my sisters via a Facebook (when I was still on Facebook) chat and they could also remember going to historical prisons on holiday but didn't seem to remember them as clearly as me, and certainly don't seem to have the same interest in adulthood. Then, about 3 weeks later, I got a postcard from my parents, who were away on holiday and this was in the content.....!

"Went To Dartmoor Prison Museum, very interesting"
They're still going now!! And they have passed on the bug to me. A few years ago Shepton Mallet, Somerset, Prison closed after about 400 years of service, on and off. You are now able to visit and have a guided tour, until it is turned into houses and luxury flats next year, and all the history will be gone forever. I took the opportunity to book DH and I into the tour and we went today. The tour lasted about 2 hours and was very interesting. It focused more on the more recent history of the prison rather than the older side, but we got to see all over the prison and the tour was with a former guide so it was a really detailed talk which was nice. There was about 35 of us on our tour. I found out lots of things I never knew, for example, while not in use as a prison, one of the wings served as a secure hold for many Treasures Of The Realm, that were evacuated from London during WW2. It is unknown whether or not this included the Crown Jewels or not, but certainly many priceless articles were housed there including the Doomesday Book and the HMS Victory Log Book.

We had an interesting time, and I don't care that some people think it's odd, I will carry on visiting historical prisons, maybe Dartmoor next! We went to Fremantle Prison whilst visiting Australia this year. It is the second time I've been there and it is really interesting, you can certainly learn a lot, particularly about history. If anyone has any recommendations ot has also visited a historical prison please let me know :)

At it's time of closing Shepton Prison held people given 'life' sentences. 

Shepton was known as a 'working' prison. This meant most of the inmates when not doing educational courses worked in part of the prison doing things like packing for retail outlets. 


  1. I lived near San Francisco and the famous prison Alcatraz. We were also near Folsom prison (think Johnny Cash) but I've never been.

    1. Wow! Can you visit Alcatraz? That's got to be one of the most fascinating prisons. It always makes me think of Harry Potter!

  2. I do love things like this and would happily mooch around all day taking in all the history
    Sammie xx