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Heritage

Designed by William Blackburn, The Old Prison, formerly the Northleach House of Correction, was built in 1792 on the form of a polygonal radial. Costing £5,111 6s. 4d. It was constructed from T coursed, squared and dressed limestone, under a slate roof with ashlar stacks and built on land gifted by Lord Chedworth.

The Keeper’s House which also accommodated the prison chapel, the only building to survive from 1791, formed the hub of the Prison with exercise yards radiating out from it to the cells, set around five sides. This was flanked either side by cell blocks which in turn were enclosed by a smaller rectangular block; the left originally housing a hand corn mill, subsequently a treadmill, and later converted into a police station. The right-hand block functioned as a female cell block. Following a government enquiry into the poor welfare standards at the prison in 1844, a new female cell block was constructed and was then followed by further adaptations in response to changing penal methods.

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The building, was granted Grade II listed status in January 1952 based on six factors: 

  • Rarity: it is a rare surviving example of the work of prolific gaol architect William Blackburn

  • Architectural: a confident, and suitably austere, classical design

  • Historical: the building dates from the pioneering period of prison reform under Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire

  • Interior: distinctive judicial and penal rooms, including cells with barred windows, and a C19 court room with fitted dock and bench

  • Fixtures: remaining buildings contain high quality fittings including cell doors and external doors with complex lock mechanisms

  • Location and setting: the former prison grounds retain a legible layout with a rear exercise ground, in an isolated valley bottom location chosen for its suitability for a house of correction

Today, the impressive façade along with the 1844 female Cell Block and Court Room remain, providing a glimpse into Prison life in Georgian and Victorian Britain. 

Sources
English Prisons (2002) : Brodie, Croom, Davies
Prison at the Crossroads (1981) : Marian Woodman