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Perimeter Wall on the east side of the former Her Majesty's Prison Gloucester

A Grade II Listed Building in Gloucester, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8649 / 51°51'53"N

Longitude: -2.2505 / 2°15'1"W

OS Eastings: 382845

OS Northings: 218508

OS Grid: SO828185

Mapcode National: GBR 1L5.1TG

Mapcode Global: VH94B.YD37

Plus Code: 9C3VVP7X+XQ

Entry Name: Perimeter Wall on the east side of the former Her Majesty's Prison Gloucester

Listing Date: 12 March 1973

Last Amended: 10 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1245476

English Heritage Legacy ID: 472581

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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A perimeter wall to the former HM Prison Gloucester, constructed in 1826 to the design of the County Surveyor John Collingwood, for the County Magistrates.


MATERIALS: red brick with ashlar details.

DESCRIPTION: the wall bounds the north-east and south-east sides of the former prison yard, on the east side facing onto Barbican Road, between the Outer Gate (qv) and the Prison Governor's House, Commercial Road (qv). It is a plain brick wall with two horizontal stone offsets and evenly-spaced brick pilasters plinths to the Barbican Road face. In the late C20, blue brick coping was fitted to the top of the wall, and the pilasters were repaired or rebuilt. The north end has an additional section of wall built behind the main wall as it turns east/west, in order to remove a corner of the prison yard that afforded an opportunity for nefarious activities. There is a void between this additional wall, which also attaches to the Outer Gatehouse and the actual perimeter wall.


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 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 prior 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. Little of his work survives, and at Gloucester prison it is only his original gatehouse, and probably the tower by the Governor's House, that are extant. 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 changed, 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 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 gatehouse. The 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’.

A new prison was built on the site in 1844-50 and the Prison Governor’s House was built outside the perimeter wall to the south in c.1850. The house incorporates a tower to the perimeter wall that probably dates from the Blackburn phase. Between 1910 and 1930 Blackburn’s prison, with the exception of the gatehouse and tower, was demolished, with other C18 and C19 ancillary buildings cleared in the 1970s. New prison buildings were erected on the site in the following decades. Parts of the perimeter wall were altered in the late C20. The prison was closed in 2013.

Reasons for Listing

The Perimeter Wall, 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 perimeter wall 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;
* Group value: an important part of the prison complex having particular group value with the listed Outer Gatehouse and the Former Prison Governor's House (both Grade II).

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