Shrewsbury Prison has a fascinating history, from its early days as a Victorian prison to its modern reinvention as a tourist attraction and popular filming location. Located in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the current prison buildings date back to the late 1800s, having first opened on the site in 1793. Read on for the intriguing story of this storied site.
From Prison to Tourist Hot Spot: The Timeline
The grounds of Shrewsbury Prison have hosted inmates for over 200 years:
The first buildings appeared on the site in 1793, designed by famed architect Thomas Telford. For decades, Shrewsbury operated as a typical rural English prison.
Major 19th Century Upgrade
In 1877, extensive construction expanded and modernized the prison, establishing the Victorian facade that visitors still admire today. Shrewsbury Prison also housed female convicts until 1922.
20th Century Changes: Executions and Growing Pains
The early 20th century saw major changes for the prison:
- Seven prisoners were executed by hanging between 1902 and 1961 for murder convictions.
- The prison struggled with overcrowding, exceeding double or even triple capacity at points in its history.
- By the 2000s, high suicide rates among inmates raised concerns about conditions.
Closure and Repurposing
After pressure mounted to address Shrewsbury Prison’s problems, the site ceased operations as a correctional facility in 2013. However, its story was far from over.
Closed Prison Reopens as Unexpected Attraction
Following its closure, the fate of the prison took some surprising turns:
A Renewed Purpose
- The prison was purchased in 2014 for conversion into residences and offices.
- However, these plans were rejected on traffic concerns, leaving the structure vacant.
Lights, Camera, Action
- The gothic, imposing prison architecture soon drew the attention of television and film producers.
- It has served as an atmospheric shooting site for shows like Lucky Man, Prey, and Most Haunted.
- In 2020, new owners The Campbell Group reopened the prison as a destination for guided tours, events and ghost walks catering to tourists.
- Shrewsbury Prison now embraces its rich history as a visitor attraction.
From Debtors to Prison Guards: Notable Inmates
Some memorable figures have done time within the formidable walls of Shrewsbury Prison over the years:
Mad Jack Mytton
- “Mad” Jack Mytton was a rowdy 1800s nobleman who often wound up in prison due to his drunken antics and lavish spending.
- He was briefly jailed in Shrewsbury for unpaid debts.
- Former prison guard Lee Davies found himself behind bars after he was caught smuggling contraband cell phones and drugs to inmates at another facility.
- He served time in Shrewsbury Prison as an inmate in 2012.
- The last execution at Shrewsbury Prison took the life of convicted murderer George Riley in 1961.
- This marked the end of an era for the prison as a site of capital punishment.
In closing, Shrewsbury Prison has a rich history from its early days as an overcrowded correctional institute to its new chapter as an unexpected tourist magnet.
The imposing Victorian buildings offer visitors and ghost hunters a look at the administration of English justice through the centuries. After years of hardship and decline within its walls, the prison has found new vibrancy in the modern world.
What time period was Shrewsbury Prison opened?
Shrewsbury Prison was first opened on its current site in 1793, with main buildings dating to an expansion in 1877.
What notable events happened at Shrewsbury Prison?
Shrewsbury Prison hosted 7 executions between 1902-1961 and struggled with issues like overcrowding and high suicide rates before its 2013 closure.
How is Shrewsbury Prison used today?
Shrewsbury Prison is now a tourist attraction operated by The Campbell Group, offering historical tours along with ghost walks and other events.
What TV shows have filmed at Shrewsbury Prison?
Its gothic architecture has drawn productions like Lucky Man, Prey, Most Haunted and Coronation Street to film on location at the former prison.
Who was the last prisoner executed at Shrewsbury?
The last hanging conducted at Shrewsbury in 1961 took the life of convicted murderer George Riley.