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Entrance Lodge, Octagonal Perimeter Wall, Octagon and A, B and C Wings, former Her Majesty's Prison Canterbury

A Grade II Listed Building in Canterbury, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2779 / 51°16'40"N

Longitude: 1.092 / 1°5'31"E

OS Eastings: 615747

OS Northings: 157734

OS Grid: TR157577

Mapcode National: GBR TY3.T2T

Mapcode Global: VHLGM.W45Q

Entry Name: Entrance Lodge, Octagonal Perimeter Wall, Octagon and A, B and C Wings, former Her Majesty's Prison Canterbury

Listing Date: 7 September 1973

Last Amended: 21 February 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1096982

English Heritage Legacy ID: 439697

Location: Canterbury, Kent, CT1

County: Kent

District: Canterbury

Electoral Ward/Division: Barton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Canterbury

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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The former Canterbury Prison, comprising the entrance lodge, perimeter wall, Octagon and A, B and C wings. The prison was designed by the architect George Byfield and completed in 1808. The entrance lodge, perimeter walls and Octagon are of this date, A-wing was constructed between 1846 and 1849, B-wing was constructed in circa 1880 and C-wing in circa 1880-1.



DATE AND ARCHITECT: 1808 by George Byfield. The later C20 additions to the rear are not of special interest.

MATERIALS: Portland stone and slate roof.

PLAN: central archway flanked by angled corner buttresses, built integral with the brick prison perimeter wall.

EXTERIOR: rusticated stone wall with raised band at impost level, plinth and projecting, parapet and modillion cornice. The parapet is inscribed 'COUNTY GAOL AND HOUSE OF CORRECTION'. Below is a central recessed round-headed entrance set in a rusticated and vermiculated stone surround. The fanlight has a faux portcullis comprising studded iron grille and the impost band bears the date of construction inscribed in Roman numerals. The double doors, previously reported to have 16 panels, have been replaced by later C20 double doors with diagonal panels. The sides have two angled rusticated and vermiculated corner buttresses. At the top of the eastern buttress the architect's name is recorded, 'G BYFIELD ARCHT'.

INTERIOR: no original features are apparent.


DATE: the eastern part is of circa 1808. The western part is circa 1858-9.

MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond.

PLAN: octagonal plan of long north, south, east and west sides and much shorter angled corners. The walls are attached to the entrance lodge.

DESCRIPTION: brick perimeter wall about 19 feet high. On the south side it flanks the entrance lodge. There are some brick buttresses at the west end of the south side and along the eastern half of the south side.


DATE and ARCHITECT: dates to 1808 and was designed by George Byfield; the contractor was Charles Hedge. It was originally, the prison governor's house with a first floor chapel. It was heightened by one storey in 1849 by John Whichcord, the County Surveyor, to provide a larger chapel.

MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond with a stone door surround and window cills.
Slate roof.

PLAN: octagonal, with longer sides to north, south, east and west and narrower projecting angled corners. The east and north sides are now concealed by later cell blocks A and C. The ground and first floor rooms are divided into four rooms accessed from a central hall with staircase. Originally there was a kitchen, parlour, committee room and keeper's hall on the ground floor with three bedrooms and a chapel above but after 1849 the chapel was moved up to the new second floor. By the late C20 the building was used for administration.

EXTERIOR: three storeys and basement. The principal front faces south on an axis with the entrance lodge. Brick modillion cornice and two cambered headed sash windows to the second floor. Giant central blank round-headed arch between ground and first floor with first-floor cambered headed sash window and stone Gibbs surround to a central doorcase approached up 3 steps and with a C20 fielded panelled door. The angled corners have tripartite sash windows with cambered heads to the ground and first floors. The west side has three cambered headed sash windows to the second floor and there is a giant blank round-headed arch incorporating one sash window on the first floor.

INTERIOR: original central spiral staircase. The basement retains a cambered brick fireplace arch and a brick floor.


DATE AND ARCHITECT: constructed between 1846 and 1849 on the site of George Byfield's original east wing, to the designs of John Whichcord, County Surveyor. Its original six bays were extended by seventeen bays in 1858-59.

MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond with stone window architraves and slate roof incorporating six brick roof lights.

PLAN: three storeys and basement with three storeys of cells on the north and south sides with a central well. It is attached to the Octagon at the west end and was originally of six bays only but was later extended by a further seventeen bays and an east plenum tower. In 1877 on the ground floor there were four punishment cells, a surgery and 40 cells, one of which was used for shoemaking. On the first floor there were 45 cells, including a tailor's shop and a store, and two officer's rooms occupying four cell spaces. At second floor level there were 48 cells. In 1995 the wing was divided into A (east) and A (west) wings and housed remand and vulnerable prisoners.

EXTERIOR: The south side has a series of mainly square sash windows but some longer rectangular windows, all barred. The north side has a series of narrow barred sashes but two bays of longer sash windows. Towards the eastern end the elevation has been interrupted by the insertion of the circa 1880 B wing. The east end has a further bay with lower roof housing the plenum tower which has a chamfered brick base and moulded band beneath the octagonal tower.

INTERIOR: painted brick jack-arched ceiling with central roof-lights. Each floor has metal balconies supported on iron brackets. The individual cells measure 13 feet x 7 feet x 9 and retain iron doors. The basement retains original arched brick recesses and brick floors and some plank doors.


DATE: constructed after 1877 and possibly in circa 1880.

MATERIALS: red brick in English bond and slate roof, hipped at the south end. with three roof-lights and octagonal plenum tower at the north end.

PLAN: four storeys nine bays, with a plenum tower towards the north end. B wing is attached to A-wing towards the eastern end of its north side.

EXTERIOR: both east and west sides have deep stepped cornices of 8 courses of brick. The east and west sides have a series of cambered headed barred windows but there are only six windows on the east side because of a full-height projection towards the northern end. The north side has a gable end with a round-headed arch and narrow windows.

INTERIOR: sixteen-bay clerestory with blank round-headed arches and king-post roof. The cells retain original doors.


DATE: constructed after 1877 and probably in circa 1880-1 on the site of George Byfield's original north wing.

MATERIALS: red brick in English bond with slate roof with three rooflights.

PLAN: a single sided wing of three storeys and nine bays with a corridor on the east side. In 1903 it was in use as the female wing with the reception at the north end and female officers' rooms at the south end. The building was later used as the hospital and subsequently housed juveniles. In 1995 it was in use for category D prisoners.

EXTERIOR: both east and west sides have deep stepped cornices of 8 courses of bricks. The west side has nine cambered headed barred casement windows. The east side only has windows in the southern two bays, the north side has a gable end and a tall square tower with windows in the west side.

INTERIOR: king-post roof. Iron balconies on west side supported on iron brackets.


Pursuant to s. 1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the following structures are excluded from the listing, or declared not of special architectural or historic interest: the Visits/Library building to the west of C-wing, the Temporary Chapel to the east of C-wing, the Hospital and Care and Containment unit adjoining the east side of the perimeter wall and the reception and chapel building attached to the eastern side of the entrance lodge.


The former Canterbury Prison is built on land adjoining the Roman road called Longport and was formerly part of the land of the adjoining medieval friary. In 1805 George Byfield was appointed as architect to design a gaol and house of correction together with a new sessions house at Canterbury, to replace the existing gaol in St. Dunstan's parish. The final plans consisted of a gaol and house of correction for 41 prisoners (11 in the gaol and 30 in the house of correction) divided into 8 different classes of prisoners (21 male and 14 female). The contractor was Charles Hedge of Compton Street, Westminster and it was completed by 6 April 1808 at a final cost of £14,856.

The prison was built to a detached radial plan with a central two-storeyed octagonal building containing the keeper's house and a chapel occupying part of the first floor. Attached at first-floor level by iron walkways were three detached wings to the north, east and west; the east and west wings of two storeys, the north of three. Each wing was divided in half by a central longitudinal wall so that two separate classes of prisoner could occupy each wing and each wing contained day rooms and workrooms on each floor with sleeping cells on upper floors. Each wing had its own exercise yard.

The Entrance Lodge was also part of George Byfield's design. It was originally used for the reception of new prisoners. To the west of the gateway was a wash house with a store for prisoners' clothes above. To the east was a turnkey's room and a day room and two cells above. The building was extended to the east between 1858-5 to provide a new kitchen and scullery. In 1877 the porter and chief warder occupied rooms here. In the later C20 the eastern part of the entrance lodge was in use for administration.

Attached to the entrance lodge were octagonal brick perimeter walls about 19 feet high. The eastern part was extended by 1858-9 to accommodate a 17 bay extension to A-wing. The perimeter walls are shown to their current extent on the First Edition 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1874 and Col. A B McHardy's Plan of Canterbury Prison of 1877.

Between 1846 and 1849 John Whichcord, the County Surveyor, was responsible for the construction of a new east wing of six bays, A-wing, which replaced Byfield's original east wing, accommodating 40 prisoners with cells on each side of a central corridor. Also in 1849 the central octagonal building was heightened by a further storey to provide a larger chapel. In 1858-9 the new east wing (A-wing) was extended by a further 17 bays and the perimeter wall was extended on the east side to accommodate this. The plan of Canterbury Prison, with the addition of a large treadwheel shed attached to the east side of the north wing, which no longer survives, is shown on uncensored 1:500 town plans of Canterbury surveyed in 1873. Soon after 1877 two further wings were completed; C-wing, on the site of Byfield's north wing, and B-wing, a new wing attached near the northern side of the east end of A-wing.

By the 1897 25-inch Ordnance Survey Map a governor's house had been constructed along the north side of Longport and a terrace of ten warder's houses and a detached chief warder's house had been built along North Holmes Road. Canterbury Prison was visited and reported on by RG Alford in 1903. Byfield's original west wing still survived at that date but was subsequently demolished.

During the First World War the prison was used as an archive store for the Home Office. In 1922 it was closed as a prison and by 1930 became a repository for the Public Record Office. During the Second World War the prison was used as a naval detention centre. It reopened as a local prison in 1946. The compound was then much extended to the north and many new buildings constructed.

In 1973 the Entrance to Canterbury Prison was listed at Grade II as part of the listing resurvey of the City of Canterbury. At the same date the wall and railings to the adjoining Sessions House was listed at Grade II and, although the continuation of this wall in front of Canterbury Prison is not included in the postal address, the list description clearly refers to that part of the wall and railings in front of the prison.

The prison closed in 2013.

Reasons for Listing

* Early date: the entrance lodge, the western part of the perimeter wall and the Octagon are of 1806-8: pre-Victorian prison structures which survive substantially intact;
* Architectural merit: the entrance lodge is a fine rusticated and vermiculated Portland stone structure. The Octagon is a handsome octagonal brick building with giant blank arches, sash windows and stone Gibbs surround doorcase. The cell blocks have an impressive scale and survive largely intact;
* Rarity: elements of only two of Besfield's detached radial plan prisons survive nationally, both central governor's houses with chapels above. The Bury St. Edmund's (Suffolk) example, which is very similar, is already listed at Grade II;
* Degree of survival: all of these structures survive substantially intact;
* Historic interest: The buildings represent changing prison philosophy and design over the C19. The prison was altered between 1806 and circa 1880 from the early detached radial plan, to the 1840s cell blocks following the Pentonville model, to the later C19 cell single or double cell blocks with plenum towers for heating and ventilation.

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