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Cell Blocks at Hmp Wormwood Scrubs

A Grade II Listed Building in College Park and Old Oak, London

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Latitude: 51.5172 / 51°31'1"N

Longitude: -0.241 / 0°14'27"W

OS Eastings: 522147

OS Northings: 181276

OS Grid: TQ221812

Mapcode National: GBR 9L.3X2

Mapcode Global: VHGQX.R4Z7

Entry Name: Cell Blocks at Hmp Wormwood Scrubs

Listing Date: 6 March 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393204

English Heritage Legacy ID: 496128

Location: Hammersmith and Fulham, London, W12

County: London

District: Hammersmith and Fulham

Electoral Ward/Division: College Park and Old Oak

Built-Up Area: Hammersmith and Fulham

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Katherine Westway

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text

333/0/10095 DU CANE ROAD
06-MAR-09 Cell blocks at HMP Wormwood Scrubs

Four parallel cell blocks. D Wing completed 1878, C Wing 1880, B Wing 1882, A Wing 1891. Cell blocks to Wormwood Scrubs convict prison built 1874-1891 to the design of Edmund Du Cane, Chairman of the Prison Commission, Director of Convict Prisons.

MATERIALS: Stock brick in English bond, stone dressings, originally with cast iron windows and slate roofs. Roofs and windows have been replaced.

PLAN: Laid out on the 'telegraph-pole' plan, of parallel blocks, arranged N-S to ensure every cell receives sunlight. Each block has 4 storeys of cells arranged each side of a central longitudinal gallery rising the full height of the building. Each has octagonal corner turrets (reflecting those to the gatehouse qv) which housed secure, contained, stair units. Each block has a pair of sanitary bays to each long elevation which formerly housed a WC and sink to each floor. Each block is lit by a tall gallery window on the north and south elevations, and formerly also by top lighting. Entrances are at ground floor level, at the north and south end of each block. D block is shorter and on a smaller scale, with smaller windows, and was built for women prisoners.

EXTERIOR: Each block is symmetrical with identical N and S entrance elevations. Octagonal angle towers of 6 stages flank a gabled gallery lit by a tall round-arched 2-light window beneath a rondel. Each has moulded stone mullions and tracery, small cast-iron panes and leaded lights above. Each elevation has an entrance set back under a gabled porch, some of which are restored. The porch has a round arched stone entrance and stone kneelers. Turret windows have cambered brick arches. The upper stage of each turret, which is square with facetted angles, has a blind or infilled arch set back under a round arch, and moulded brick bands. Beneath the deep moulded cap is a stone frieze echoing that of the gatehouse. Each block is articulated with brick and stone bands, some flush some moulded.

Side elevations: Each elevation has a pair of external four storey sanitary bays. Cell windows, under cambered brick arches, have been enlarged, with dropped cills. At the upper storey the embattled frieze alternates with window arches. All cell and turret windows are replaced. Roofs have been replaced but retain tall ventilation shafts and altered dormer vents.

Internally all blocks have been remodelled but the essential plan survives. The cell blocks' special architectural interest therefore lies principally in their external elevations. The buildings are butted by late C20 wings which are not of special interest.

The blocks were formerly linked transversely by covered walkways in Romanesque manner. Examples of similar but later walkways survive at Nottingham Prison.

HISTORY: Wormwood Scrubs prison was designed by Edmund du Cane, Surveyor-General of Prisons, Director of Convict Prisons, and Inspector-General of Military Prisons, for the newly established national Prison Commission of which he was Chairman. He was an experienced military engineer, appointed to rationalise the prison system.

The 20-acre plot was purchased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1873. The prison was built between 1874 and 1891, originally to house convicts but by 1891 it had become a local prison. It was laid out in parallel blocks, on the 'telegraph-pole' plan, a new plan form in Victorian prisons, and unlike its predecessors such as Pentonville, which were generally laid out radially. Some convict prisons already had simple parallel blocks but local prisons built under Joshua Jebb had favoured the radial plan. The 'telegraph-pole' plan provided a model for subsequent English prisons such as Bristol and Norwich following the 1877 Prison Act and was closely copied in Fresnes, France and in the USA. Its origins may be found in the 'pavilion' hospital plan advanced by Florence Nightingale after the Crimean War, based on European hospitals. These were designed to minimise the spread of infection allowing maximum circulation of fresh air. Wormwood Scrubs is very similar in general layout to the Herbert Military Hospital at Woolwich. At the prison the blocks are aligned N-S to allow sunlight into each cell.

D Wing was initially built to house women. From the early C20 young offenders were housed in part of the prison which provided a modified borstal system of education and training. The prison closed briefly from 1940-42 when it became a military site. On re-opening it again housed young offenders. In the 1990s the prison was refurbished. Many of the C19 service blocks were demolished and the cell blocks were linked by new buildings at the north end of the site.

This was a forward-thinking prison. It was the first to use this layout, seen as progressive in terms of prisoner welfare and prison management, providing workshops, hospital, recreational and spiritual support. It was economical to build, answering the acute problem at that time of how and where to house convicts before deportation. It was thus highly influential.

REASON FOR DESIGNATION: Cells blocks A, B, C and D at Wormwood Scrubs Prison are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* This was the first 'telegraph pole' plan prison in England, probably influenced by hospital plans developed after the Crimean War, and influencing later English as well as French and American prison design. The plan of the prison is thus of national importance, expressed above all by the cell blocks.
* The prison was built very economically using on-site convict labour, and was progressive both in design and the technology it used in the cell blocks.
* The quality of construction is high, and the cell blocks, though altered, have special architectural interest for their imposing elevations whose angle towers echo the design of the gatehouse. The essential interior plan also survives, but the buildings' principal architectural interest lies in the external elevations
* The cell blocks have strong group value with the gatehouse and chapel (qv)

Brodie, Croom & Davies, English Prisons, English Heritage (2002)
P J Leonard, History of Wormwood Scrubs (1975)
R Byrne, Prisons & Punishments of London (1992)
Sir E F Du Cane, A Description of the Prison at Wormwood Scrubs (1895)
R G Alford, Notes on the Buildings of English Prisons (1909-10) Vol I, ch II, p10-18
HMP Wormwood Scrubs, RCHME (1995)
R Bowdler, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, English Heritage Historian's report (1994)

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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