Hopefully this is the only time I see the inside of a jail cell
This summer (I know I’m behind with my posts) I had the pleasure of being shown around the now decommissioned HMP Shrewsbury, a former category B/C prison that has housed the worst that Shropshire had to offer since the first prison was built on this site in 1793.
Sadly the original structure was replaced in 1877 by the much grander buildings that you can explore to this day, as well as some large extensions that took place in the 60’s and 70’s, this however doesn’t take away from the historical feeling to the place and still provides you with a lot of places to explore
Excellently guided around by an ex-prison guard, my friends and I were taken along the route followed by prisoners on their first day incarcerated inside the prison, from the booking in hall to the execution chamber.
Once inside the imposing metal gates, we found ourselves inside the entrance courtyard, with the Governors office/administration building ahead, the morgue/execution room to the right and the screening block to the left, this is the first building that we were shown around.
This is the first room that a prisoner experiences when starting his prison life, waiting in a holding cell along with the new inductees until the guards are ready to screen them and take them through to the block,
After the screening hall we made our way onto the larger A wing, a 4 story high block of small white rooms dating back to the Victorian era, now including a couple of mod-cons such as electricity and light switches that were installed in the 90’s.
After making our way up to the top of A wing and back down again, we were shown to the exercise yard, a large open space enclosed by buildings on three sides and the high prison walls on the other.
When the prison was still operational, a large chain fence stood along the side of the exercise yard, stopping prisoners from making their way along the wall, but when the prison closed, this was removed and now provides us with a route past the workshop building and around to the visitors block, where prisoners would come to spend a little time with their loved ones, the police or their lawyers
After Leaving the more modern block which also housed classrooms and the chapel, we were guided through to the smaller B Wing, formerly the Women’s block up until 1922, more recently is housed prisoners in need of separation from the mail prison population, such as former police officers, paedophiles or prisoners that are in danger for whatever reason.
B Wing has only two floors, but due to it originally being constructed to house female prisoners, each containing larger rooms than on A wing, this was mainly down to children being allowed to stay with their mothers for a while before being taken into care.
Connected to B Wing up a small staircase lay the largest cells in the prison, they belonged to the prisoners that were weeks away from being executed, the only other way out of prison life, these rooms were larger and included a couple more luxuries than the standard rooms in an attempt to make the final weeks of a prisoner’s life as stress free as possible.
Finally ending up in the room that many men and women dreaded coming to since their judgement was handed down, the execution room, a small unassuming room overlooking the entrance courtyard, containing a hangman’s rope in the middle and a now boarded up trap door in the floor below it.
After spending a little time reading the stories on the walls and trying to understand what it felt like to not only live but also die here, we were taken back down past the governor’s office and out the front doors back into the yard to end our guided tour of the prison.
If you so wished you could then decide to explore on your own for a bit, visiting the places that the guide didn’t have time to show you or you could make your way out the gates to freedom.
The tour was well worth the cost and extremely entertaining for people who not only enjoy local history but also fancied exploring somewhere that 99% of the population don’t get to see inside, but if going on a tour isn’t your thing then maybe one of the many events that the prison hosts is, with gigs, zombie nights, prison breaks and film screenings regularly taking place I suggest that everyone takes the chance to visit the building before it is eventually turned into student accommodation in the next couple of years.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit Jailhouse Tours.