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Outer Gatehouse, former Her Majesty's Prison Gloucester

A Grade II Listed Building in Gloucester, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8657 / 51°51'56"N

Longitude: -2.2509 / 2°15'3"W

OS Eastings: 382818

OS Northings: 218593

OS Grid: SO828185

Mapcode National: GBR 1KZ.V17

Mapcode Global: VH94B.XCWM

Plus Code: 9C3VVP8X+7J

Entry Name: Outer Gatehouse, former Her Majesty's Prison Gloucester

Listing Date: 12 March 1973

Last Amended: 10 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1245475

English Heritage Legacy ID: 472580

Location: Westgate, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL1

County: Gloucestershire

Electoral Ward/Division: Westgate

Built-Up Area: Gloucester

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Hempsted with Gloucester, Saint Mary de Lode and Saint Mary de Crypt

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

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An outer prison gatehouse, built in 1826 to the designs of the County Surveyor John Collingwood for the County Magistrates, with some C20 alterations. Not included in the listing are the C20 interior fittings.


Outer Gatehouse of former HMP Gloucester, built in 1826 to the designs of the County Surveyor John Collingwood for the County Magistrates, with some C20 alterations. It is located to the north flank of the prison’s perimeter wall and attached to the Grade II listed Perimeter Wall (qv) at the east end.

MATERIALS: built of brick with stone dressings.

PLAN: a rectangular block with the central bay which formed an entranceway for vehicles.

EXTERIOR: a two-storey gatehouse with a symmetrical façade of three bays to both the front and rear elevations. The central bay comprises a tall gateway with a semi-circular arched head, comprising double doors with portcullis above. The principal elevation (north) comprises a vermiculated, rusticated stone façade with a plain ashlar plat band above the ground floor and a stone cornice above the first floor, surmounted by a parapet wall. The central bay is slightly recessed with voussoirs and jambs to the entranceway. To each of the outer bays is a single C19 door with iron grille above, set within an ashlar frame, and a single window set behind an iron grille. To the first floor are two, six-light windows to the left-hand bay and two, two-light windows to the right-hand bay. The rear elevation (south) is constructed of brick with ashlar dressings to the window and door openings, and arched entranceway. The central bay projects forward and the entranceway is flanked by a blocked window opening to the left and a blocked doorway to the right at ground floor, and a window opening to either side at first floor. To the left-hand bay is a blocked window opening to the ground floor and a window opening to the first floor. To the right-hand bay there is a window opening to the first floor.
INTERIOR: the east entrance door has strap hinges and provides access to the central entranceway which has been enclosed with a first floor inserted to this bay. To the archway are the remains of the drop hatch and suspension beam used for public executions. To the east side is an office, with an inserted glass partition wall. To the west side of the gatehouse are two small rooms. To the first floor of the outer bays are offices and former cells. The interior includes skirting boards, bolection moulded door architraves and an early C19 staircase with stick balusters, moulded handrail and square newel post.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the C20 interior fittings are not of special architectural or historic interest.


The former Her Majesty's Prison Gloucester occupies the site of the 'new' C12 castle (the 'old castle' was located to the east) built in the reign of Henry I, which came to be used as a gaol by the reign of Richard III. Many of the castle buildings were demolished in the late C15 and C16, and the stone used for the construction of the new Boothall and for road repairs. By the mid-C17 only the keep (used as the gaol) and the main gatehouse survived. The gaol walls were rebuilt and a brick bridewell (a prison for petty offences) was built to the north of the keep. The conditions of the gaol were favourably reported in c.1650, 1683 and 1714, however, by 1777 John Howard, the penal reformer, was critical of the gaol on a number of counts: the state of repair of the buildings, the overcrowding, and the generally poor welfare conditions. In 1780, Sir George Onesiphorus Paul (1746-1820) was appointed High Sheriff of Gloucestershire and, despite repairs to the gaol in that year and 1782, he concluded that it was in a ruinous state in 1783. He proposed a wholesale reform of the penal system, in line with Howard's recommendations, and that five bridewells and a county gaol be erected in the county. As a result, a working party was formed that secured a private Act of Parliament in 1785 to get permission to build a County Gaol at Gloucester and five bridewells at Dursley, Bristol, Gloucester, Littledean and Northleach. The bridewell and County Gaol were to be co-located in Gloucester.

Built in 1786-1791 the new gaol was designed by the architect William Blackburn (1750–1790) and employed a courtyard plan which consisted of a square with four, three-storey wings extending to the north and south from each corner of the square. The previous gaol buildings, including the castle keep, were demolished to make way for the new prison. Blackburn was a prolific architect during his short career, and he designed seventeen prisons and produced schemes or was asked for advice at five other sites. John Howard described Blackburn as 'The ingenious Mr Blackburn… the only man capable of delineating my idea of what a prison ought to be.'
From the early C19 attitudes to penal methods evolved and prison populations increased, leading to a number of changes to prison regimes and requirements. In 1818 a triangular parcel of land to the east of the site was acquired by the prison authorities, and in 1826 a new section of perimeter wall was built along Barbican Road. A new outer gatehouse was erected at the north-east end of the wall, and a new debtor’s prison was built to the east of the Blackburn's gaol. These structures were designed by the County Surveyor John Collingwood (c.1760-1831), and the debtor's prison was described by G. W. Counsel in his book, History of Gloucester (1829): ‘[a] very handsome edifice has lately been erected for the confinement of debtors from the design of Mr Collingwood, an eminent architect of this city’. The Outer Gatehouse, like Blackburn’s earlier gatehouse, was the venue for public executions, which took place on its flat roof. The condemned person’s body fell through a trap door in the roof, leaving the corpse hanging for public inspection within the cart entrance. After 1868 the executions were relocated within the prison walls. The ground floor contained an office at the east side where the officer's keys were kept and visitors were processed. The west half of the gatehouse contained two small rooms and a corridor providing access to a cell: it is likely that this accommodation was for receiving and processing inmates before they were assigned a cell in the main prison. The upper floor contained offices and cells.

In 1844-50, a new prison was built to the east of the Blackburn gaol, probably by County Surveyor Thomas Fulljames, which comprises the Central Block of the former HMP Gloucester. Three-storey wings were added to either side of Blackburn’s original gatehouse and a block containing a chapel was built to the west, connecting with the Blackburn gaol. The Governor’s House was built outside the perimeter wall to the south in c.1850 and incorporated a tower to the perimeter wall that probably dates from the Blackburn phase. Between 1910 and 1930, the remaining parts of Blackburn's gaol were demolished, with other C18 and C19 ancillary buildings cleared in the 1970s. New prison buildings were erected on the site in the following decades. In 1993, the Outer Gatehouse was converted to a prison service museum, which involved the enclosure of the central passageway and the insertion of a first floor to this central bay. The building is now vacant. The prison closed in 2013.

Reasons for Listing

The Outer Gatehouse, designed by the County Surveyor John Collingwood and built in 1826, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: a good survival of a pre-1850 gatehouse which illustrates the development and expansion of Gloucester prison in the early C19. It stands on the site of the former C12 Gloucester Castle;
* Architectural interest: for its association with John Collingwood, and its solemn and austere architectural treatment primarily achieved through its massing and the competent use of rusticated stone to the principal façade;
* Group value: an important part of the prison complex having particular group value with the perimeter wall (Grade II) and a number of other listed Gloucester prison buildings and structures.

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