hm prison northallerton

HM Prison Northallerton

Tucked away in the small North Yorkshire town of Northallerton stood a prison with an eventful 225-year history. HMP Northallerton saw many changes during its time, housing an array of inmates and transforming in purpose. After facing closure multiple times, the prison finally shut its doors for good in 2014. But what events led to its founding, expansions, and eventual end? Let’s explore the long and winding story of this characterful Yorkshire institution.

The Early Years: A New Start in the 1780s

The origins of Northallerton Prison can be traced back to 1783, when local officials decided to build a larger facility to replace the existing House of Correction in Thirsk. After acquiring some marshy land, they hired acclaimed architect John Carr to design the new jail.

The First Buildings Emerge

When the initial prison building opened its doors in 1788, it contained just 12 cells for men and 5 for women. Though cramped, it began receiving prisoners straight away. Early records show it housed 15 inmates when inspected in 1802.

Expanding in the 1800s: New Wings and Treadmills

As the 19th century progressed, Northallerton saw great expansions to cope with increasing prisoner numbers.

See also  HM Prison Wymott

Female Wing and Further Additions

In 1818 a dedicated female wing was constructed, with the Governor’s House and two extra wings added in the 1820s.

Installing Infamous Devices

The 1820s also saw the installation of multiple treadmills – Northallerton became home to the world’s largest at one time! Two more sizeable cell blocks followed in the 1850s.

Twentieth Century Tumult: Closures, Riots and Rebranding

After closing temporarily in 1922, Northallerton Prison was plunged into major upheaval during the Second World War and beyond.

Wartime Upheaval

The prison site was commandeered by the British Army as a military storage depot and training centre in WWII. From 1943 it operated as a military detention facility.

Riotous Scenes

In 1946, with tensions high, prisoners angered by unmet expectations rioted, damaging property and igniting chaos.

A New Purpose

Order was restored when the prison became a Borstal institution for young offenders in 1964.

Final Decades: Improvements and Ongoing Issues

In later years Northallerton implemented reforms but continued to face problems before its eventual closure.

Turning a Corner?

An inspection in 2003 commended progress made, though some concerns remained. But in 2006 inspectors found issues like unhygienic, cramped cells.

Criticisms Continue

Magistrates described the shared, unscreened cells as “a disgrace”. Education and work opportunities were still deemed insufficient.

Transition to Community Jail

In 2010 Northallerton was reclassified as a low-risk community jail for adult males.

Closure and A New Future

With operating costs rising and its small size proving impractical, Northallerton Prison finally closed its doors for good in 2014, ending over 225 years of history.

See also  HM Prison Gloucester

Farewell to the Old Jail

Citing the aging site’s high maintenance costs and insufficient capacity, the Ministry of Justice announced Northallerton’s closure in September 2013. It shut in January 2014.

Historic Redevelopment

Hambleton District Council purchased the prison for £1.4 million in 2015, retaining the historic buildings.

Treadmills Transformed

Under the Treadmills masterplan, the old prison will enjoy new life through a mix of homes, shops and community facilities.


From its idealistic beginnings to chaotic wartime repurposing, HMP Northallerton endured many twists and turns before its closure. But with sensitive redevelopment, the historic Yorkshire prison will provide new purpose. Its small size proved unviable, but its great history will live on.


When did HMP Northallerton first open?

The prison opened its doors in 1788.

How many listed buildings are being retained at the site?

Five of the buildings are listed and will be kept.

What is the redevelopment of the old prison called?

It has been dubbed the Treadmills masterplan.

Who was the architect behind the initial HMP Northallerton buildings?

They were designed by acclaimed 18th century architect John Carr.

What year did HMP Northallerton permanently close down?

The prison closed for good in January 2014.

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