History of 1877 The Old Portsmouth Gaol

History of 1877 The Old Portsmouth Gaol



When the transportation of convicts to Australia and the colonies ended in the 1850s the need for domestic prison accommodation greatly increased. Progressive prison reform during the 19th Century saw an improvement in the conditions and facilities of prisons across England. The construction of Kingston prison was part of this widespread development in moving from houses of correction to the newly improved style of prisons.


The new prison was designed by local architect George Rake and was constructed between 1874 and 1877. It was the last of nineteen ‘Pentonville’ radial prisons to be constructed. The radial prison design consisted of an octagonal central hall with five wings leading from this central point.

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During the Second World War the prison was used as a Naval Detention Quarters and police station but was bombed in 1941, suffering damage to the western wall. Shortly after the war, the prison was closed for a few years before reopening in 1949 and operating until 1969 when it was converted from a borstal facility to a Category B training prison. During this time several additions were made to the building including the present kitchens, chapel, library and refectory.


Between 1968 and the closure of the prison in 2013 major alterations were made to the building including the addition of a new boiler house and chapel.

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