The House of Correction would hold men women and children together. Debtors, thieves, ‘misfits’, vagrants and people with mental health disorders were sentenced to long periods. Primitive sanitation led to regular outbreaks of diseases.
The prison has a long history of death sentences carried out under methods including HDQ, hanging and by firing squad. The last death sentence at Shepton Prison occurred in 1945 under military use. The prison closed in 1930 due to under use; it held an average of just 51 prisoners. It re-opened in 1939 as a British military prison. The last reported escape was in 1993.
Shepton Mallet prison is believed to have housed the Domesday Book and Magna Carta, the HMS Victory logbooks and the Olive Branch Petition during the War. Over 300 documents were housed there at one point, some were moved (not including the Domesday Book) when Bristol and Bath began being hit by German bombs – the documents were spread to different locations to reduce the risk of the entire collection being destroyed.
A former prison officer will take our guided tour and members will be given the chance to have a ‘Closed Cell’ experience, which involves entering cells and having the doors closed behind you.
Please note the tour covers one mile and includes 200 stairs.