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History of Wakefield Prison - old

History of Wakefield Prison.

Wakefield Prison was the origin of the following nursery rhyme & song.

The Mulberry Bush

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.

This is the way we wash our clothes,
We wash our clothes, we wash our clothes.
This is the way we wash our clothes,
So early Monday morning.

This is the way we iron our clothes,
We iron our clothes, we iron our clothes.
This is the way we iron our clothes,
So early Tuesday morning.

This is the way we scrub the floor,
We scrub the floor, we scrub the floor.
This is the way we scrub the floor,
So early Wednesday morning.

This is the way we mend our clothes,
We mend our clothes, we mend our clothes.
This is the way we mend our clothes,
So early Thursday morning.

This is the way we sweep the house,
We sweep the house, we sweep the house.
This is the way we sweep the house,
So early Friday morning.

This is the way we bake our bread,
We bake our bread, we bake our bread.
This is the way we bake our bread,
So early Saturday morning.

This is the way we go to church,
We go to church, we go to church.
This is the way we go to church,
So early Sunday morning.

For a picture of the original mulberry bush (now a mulberry tree) see this link to picture. This will open in a new window.

Prison History

1843 - 1847 Prison built to designs by Bernard Hartley
1847 - 1866 Local & convict prison
1847 x 1875 A-and D-wings heightened
1866 -1945 Local prison
1904 F-wing re-opened
1915 - 1923 Prison housed conscientious objectors & Irish political prisoners
1945 - 1975 Training prison
1973 New gatehouse and administration building erected
1975 -> Dispersal prison
1982 Old gatehouse demolished
1993 G-wing demolished

Between 1837 and 1840 schemes for enlarging or rebuilding the House of Correction on Back Lane were considered by the West Riding justices. An alternative scheme for building a prison on a new site was then pursued, with Joshua Jebb advising on the suitability of sites. However, at the end of 1841, twelve acres of land adjacent to the existing house of correction was purchased for £5,780, and negotiations commenced for buying some more. Bernard Hartley, the West Riding surveyor, was approached to prepare plans for the new prison, and in April 1843 the new building was estimated to Cost £90,000. Tenders for work on the reception cells, B- and C-wings, and A- and D-wings were accepted in May, and work on the new building commenced. In June 1845 Hartley was required to complete two wings by October, so that 300 prisoners could be moved in, but the prison was not fully open until 1847. The new prison, which fronted onto Love Lane, lay north of the existing house of correction, which was retained for use as additional accommodation.

The Wakefield Journal of 7th September 1847 published an account of the prison. The prison housed both West Riding prisoners and government convicts sentenced to penal servitude, the West Riding justices having agreed at the Midsummer Sessions 1847 to let 412 cells for convicts at a cost of £6 per cell. The convicts were held in B- and C-wings, while A- and D-wings accommodated 320 long term prisoners. A boys' penitentiary. F-wing could hold 60 juveniles, and there were receiving cells for 32 new prisoners in G-wing. The remaining inmates lived in the old prison: 250 short-term prisoners. 106 women and 60 debtors. In total the prison had the capacity for 230 prisoners. Convicts were held at Wakefield until 1866.

In 1875, following an outbreak of typhoid. Dr Edward Ballard examined the prison and included in his report a plan showing where the cases of fever had occurred. Ballard's report was used by Colonel Alexander McHardy who, in 1877 on the eve of the nationalisation of the prison system, visited fifty prisons and reported on their accommodation. McHardy found a total of 1471 cells, of which 1202 were for men and 222 for women, 29 were reception cells and 18 were punishment cells. The record of the settlement which was made between the West Riding and the Prison Commissioners in 1878 following the implementation of the 1877 Prison Act, notes that 1375 cells out of 1425 were admitted by the Commissioners, but that only 1267 were required to meet the average maximum number of prisoners, leaving 108 cells surplus. R C Alford first visited the prison in 1904 and found accommodation for 1015 male inmates, with a daily average of 844.

HMP Wakefield remained a local prison until 1945, when it became a training prison. In 1975 it became a dispersal prison for high risk, long-term inmates. It remains one of six dispersal prisons today.

The prison is built of brick and has a radial plan with four wings, A-wing (south), B-wing (south-west), C-wing (north-west) and D-wing (north). The original gatehouse was situated on Love Lane opposite the central block of the prison. The modern gatehouse lies at the south end of Love Lane, near it's junction with Back Lane. F-wing, which runs east/west, is west of the gatehouse. The site of the old house of correction, south-west of the present prison building, is now occupied by workshops. Two parts of the house of correction survived into the twentieth century, H- and K-wings (now demolished) and the ladder store, which remains.

Gatehouse, chaplain's house and governor's house (demolished)
The original gatehouse lay east of the prison and fronted onto Love Lane. In 1964, there was a waiting room and a sleeping-in room on either side of the gateway, and a library and an officer's room on the floor above. The gatehouse was flanked by the chaplain's house to the south and by the governor's house to the north. They were replaced by the modern gatehouse in 1973, the 1840's gatehouse being demolished in 1982. Adjacent to the present gatehouse is the administration, visits and reception building.

Central Hall, A-, B-, C- and D-wings
The entrance to the prison, in the centre of the east elevation, leads into a small administration block, this block has three stories and a basement, and three bays. The basement is constructed of stone but the upper walls are brick with stone quoins and a giant order of pilasters winch have alternating plain and vermiculated stones. The doorway was flanked originally by a clerk's office and a visiting room, above which was a magistrates' committee room. In 1904, Alford found the basement occupied by a store and office, with the store-keeper's room and a clerks' room on the ground floor. On the first floor were located the governor's and deputy governors offices together with a room for the Visiting Committee, and on the second floor were clerks' offices. The administration block is surmounted by a clock tower and viewing platform.

The central hall, which is half an irregular dodecagon in plan, is top-lit by a cupola. A staircase to the upper galleries is situated in an alcove between B- and C-wings. The four wings are modelled on those at Pentonville with open galleries and separate cells. The wings are 27 bays long and are now all four stones high. However, when first built, A- and D-wings had only three stories. This is reflected in the amount of accommodation available in 1847; B-and C-wings could house 206 inmates each, while A- and D-wings orly had cells for 160 each. These two wings had been heightened a storey by 1875, and in 1877 the prison offered the following accommodation: B- and C-wings 208 cells each, A-wing 216 cells and D-wing 212 cells. Alford noted that each of the wings could hold 190 inmates. In 1995, the certified normal accommodation of the wings is; A-wing 156, B-wing 126, C-wing 158, and D-wing 163. The wings have barrel-vaulted ceilings with ribs carried on corbels, and roof lights. The numbered flags survive and blocked candle holes can be seen by the cell doors. Alford found that the basements of B- and C-wings had been opened up at the outer ends of the wings, but A- and D-wings still had closed basements. A-wing is now open to the basement, the galleries being supported by chamfered timber columns. Some of the cells in the basement have been amalgamated into dormitories. The outer gable ends of B-, C- and D-wings have been rebuilt. The ablution towers are later additions.

The chapel is a polygonal building at the south end of A-wing. It was designed by Bernard Hartley in 1845 and its plan and section were published in the Second Report of the Surveyor-General in 1847. It was said to be not yet completed in September 1847. The fan-shaped tiers of pews were divided into four segmented sections, and the chapel could seat 424 men, 56 women and 53 juveniles. Under the chapel was a schoolroom. The interior of the chapel was destroyed by fire in 1979. The modern chapel, which was rededicated in 1992, and a gym now occupy the ground floor and there is a sports hall on the floor above.

Stores, laundry & workshop/former convicts' hospital, workshop/former bakehouse
This collection of buildings is located at the outer end of B-wing. The stores building at the end of B-wing is marked as a workshop and stores on the 1875 plan. A later undated plan shows it as the cook house. At the time of Alford's visits it was the kitchen and it was re-roofed in 1905-6.

The former laundry and workshop, which is attached to the south-west side of the stores building, was originally the convicts hospital. It is marked as such on the 1875 plan, but in his report, Dr Ballard notes that pregnant women were moved there. The building was later used as a store. It is built of brick and has three stories and seven bays; the top storey, which is slightly narrower, may be a later addition. The laundry remained in use until 1993.

The former bakehouse is on the south-east side of the stores building. It is brick-built and has two stories and five bays. On its south-east side is the remains of a single storey bath house, which is shown on the 1875 plan extending to the chapel. The bakehouse and bath house were built between 1863 and 1865. The men's weekly baths were still there in the 1900's.

The kitchen is a modern building which lies between B- and C-wings on the site of the original kitchen. The original kitchen later became a store when the 'cook house' was moved into a former workshop and store at the end of B-wing.

F-wing was built as a Boys' Penitentiary. It was designed by Bernard Hartley in 1842. The wing has two stories and a basement and is 27 bays long. It is single-sided with cells on the north side The outer, south wall forms part of the perimeter wall. The wing is floored at ground floor level In the eastern half and is open to the basement in the western half The present flat roof is a later replacement, and corbeIs for the original roof survive on the outer wall of the eastern half. When Armley Gaol (HMP Leeds) opened In 1847, the boys moved there and F-wing became a female prison. The wing was disused at the end of the nineteenth century. and in 1904 75 cells, which had nor been used for about 20 years, were renovated and reopened.

Recreation/G-wing (demolished)
G-wing was situated east of A-wing and south of the chaplain's house. An album of design drawings by Bennard Hartley dated 1843 survives. The drawings show a single-sided prison of two stories with receiving cells for 32 new inmates in the centre of the building. At the left-hand end there were officers' rooms and waiting rooms on the ground floor and a clothes room on the first floor At the right-hand end there were baths, a cleansing room and a fumigating room on the lower floor, and another clothes store on the upper floor. The outer (east) wall, against which ran the corridor, formed part of the perimeter wall. Prior to being demolished in 1993, the wing was used as the officers' mess.

The hospital was built in 1838 on the north side of the house of correction, and was retained when the new prison was constructed to its north. It was T-shaped and had separate accommodation for male and female patients. In 1875, the men's hospital had four cells, two wards, a surgery and dispensary on the ground foor and six wards on the first floor. The women's hospital had four cells and three wards. Following the outbreak of typhoid in 1875, the hospital was enlarged and a third story was added. The hospital was renovated in the 1900s, the female part in 1900 and the male part in 1906-7. In the early 1990s, the building was refaced with new brick and reurbished internally, reopening in 1993.

The original treadwheel of the house of correction was removed by Edward Shepherd, governor from 1832 to 1864, who disapproved of unproductive hard labour and developed a successful matmaking industry in the prison. In 1866, after the passing of the 1865 Prison Act, the West Riding justices were obliged to reinstall a treadwheel. However, there are also a number of drawings for a treadmill in the West Yorkshire Archives. They are not dated but are said by the Archive to belong to the 1840s, implying that another treadwheel was installed before 1865. (Alford refers to an old treadwheel house, then used as a tin workers' shop, lying between the former kitchen (now stores) and the hospital.) The 1875 plan shows the treadmill lying south-west of the chapel in a rectangular bulding which aso contained a fibre store, platting room and sorting room. The later plan dates from after the removal of the treadwheel; its site and half the fibre store were converted into a weaving room.

Part of this building may survive as the CIT painters' workshop. The workshop is constructed of brick and has two stories and seven bays, with a nanrow bay projecting from the centre of the north gable end wall. There are two blocked archways and considerable patching with later brick at ground floor level in the east elevation. A series of vents are let into the brickwork at both ground and first floor level.

A weaving room is shown on the 1875 plan lying south of the treadmill building. This may be the weaving shed for which drawings and the Home Secretary's certificate of approval dated 15th February 1873 survive. A large weaving shed and dyeing sheds were erected in 1890.

Workshop no.6
Workshop no.6 lies south of the hospital. It is single-storied and is built of brick on a pier-and-panel principal. It is nine bays long. It is not shown on the 1875 plan, so must have been buit after that date.

Ladder Store
The ladder store (formerly a gym) is situated immediately north-west of F-wing, and lies east/west. It is a small stone-built structure and may survive from the 1820s prison. It has two stories, the principal floor being raised over a low basement. There are three round-headed openings at the upper floor level in the east elevation. The outer two are blocked windows and the central one is an elongated doorway, the head of which is at the same height as that of the windows. The doorway is reached up a flight of steps. There is a single round-headed window In the west elevation. A passageway runs along the south side of the building at ground level. Doorways in the front and rear elevations give access into the remainder of the basement The building is shown on the 1875 plan: it is situated between two gasometers, but its name is not legible. However, it is labelled 'stabling' on the later plan.

H- and K-wings (demolished)
H- and K-wings (formerly DD- and AA-wings) were part of the house of correction and were located in the south-western corner of the site. By 1875, both wings were a female prison. They remained in use as such until 1905, when they became a male convict prison. The wings have since been demolished.

For security reasons, modern details about the prison are not published here.

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This page (prison.html) was last modified on Tuesday 24/04/2012