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Usk Prison

A Grade II* Listed Building in Usk, Monmouthshire

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Latitude: 51.6994 / 51°41'57"N

Longitude: -2.9003 / 2°54'1"W

OS Eastings: 337873

OS Northings: 200460

OS Grid: SO378004

Mapcode National: GBR J9.4555

Mapcode Global: VH79V.PK22

Plus Code: 9C3VM3XX+QV

Entry Name: Usk Prison

Listing Date: 1 April 1974

Last Amended: 30 April 2004

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2155

Building Class: Civil

Also known as: Usk Prison

ID on this website: 300002155

Location: On a large site N in a dominant position in the landscape of the low-lying S area of the town.

County: Monmouthshire

Town: Usk

Community: Usk (Brynbuga)

Community: Usk

Built-Up Area: Usk

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

Tagged with: Prison

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The prison occupies the site of a Roman road, crossroads and cemetery associated with the Roman town. Built 1841/2 by TH Wyatt. Enlarged 1868 by WP James, County Surveyor. The internal layout is based on the panopticon plan devised by Bentham and embodied in Pentonville Prison in London, which became the model for prison lay-out for a generation. The new House of Correction' replaced the earlier prison in Bridge Street, subsequently referred to as the Old Bridewell. Cost of construction variously recorded as £16,000 or £22,000. Appears on 1846 tithe map with long frontage, centre cross wing and two radiating rear cell wings and called New Bridewell. Detailed original plan displayed inside prison shows early features replaced in the later remodelling - eg a circular exercise yard in place of the 1860s central cell block, and a treadwheel to left. When opened it housed 100 males and 20 females. The layout and main fabric remains largely as it was in 1860s. Recent necessary modifications have included new window guards, new cell doors, the conversion of former chapel to gym (this formerly had separate stairs and was fitted with slats to separate prisoners); also some minor additions to and conversions of accommodation. Recent repairs have been carried out on like-for-like basis fully retaining the character of the complex. Now holds 250 inmates. A printed detailed account of a visit to the prison in 1904 is held by the museum; (the dates for construction given here differ from those above). It refers to 'stone-breaking' being the 'normal industry' of the prison, and describes all the accommodation and facilities including: males' exercise ring, the temporary scaffold, isolation hospital, infirmary, medical officer's room, iron baths and a 'good sheltered disinfector', engine house, kitchen, laundry, offices, heating pipes, with full account of the cell arrangements.


Prison. Red sandstone with prominent slate roofs. The complex comprises a high stone wall with central gateway flanked by polygonal towers and inside the enclosure, seen from the front, a roughly symmetrical composition of 3 storey blocks with projecting wings flanking the entrance and surmounted by an octagonal low tower, tall rendered chimney to right. Wall is of coursed red sandstone with pale ashlar dressings. High stone outer wall has moulded glazed brick coping, plinth and equally spaced buttress-pilasters. At its centre is a dignified entrance gateway comprising a projecting entrance bay with high round-arched doorway with Gibbs surround, voussoirs and keystone; cast iron portcullis style grille over the boarded door which has now been permanently closed. Ashlar bands at plinth, impost and cornice with parapet stepped up over doorway. Lower slit windows resembling arrow loops. On either side are deeply projecting five sided towers. Mid-C20 door inserted at far left with some different style red brick detailing.

Behind the walls is a complex of blocks within the semi-polygonal enclosure formed by the prison wall. The two periods of construction are identified by the masonry - coursed rubble for the early work, tooled and snecked stonework for the 1860s extensions. Slate roofs. Facing the entrance is a group of 3-storey blocks: at centre the former 'office wing', to N the former governor's house and to S the former female wing, now an administration and education block. Wing extends E to the control centre lit by a second roof lantern from which radiate the three long 2-storey cell blocks (now termed A,B,C). Separate single storey kitchen block. Single storey workshops. Tall rendered chimney. Windows have ashlar block surrounds and mostly small-pane cast-iron windows with guards. Windows to cells are small, windows to former sanatorium ward are larger; some sashes, and a bay window to the former governor's house. The original doorway opposite the original entrance has a deep painted channelled surround; the inner face of the original entrance gateway has similar details to exterior.


The creation of a new entrance at NW in mid C20 shifted the focus away from the original central entry plan. Adjacent to the former main entrance hall (N) is a small museum of early plans and artefacts from the prison including the history of former houses of correction in Usk which preceded the current building. Here is the now unused exit from the tunnel linking the adjacent court house and prison. In the adjacent block (S), an early door with serving hatch and spy-hole is retained as an example of past arrangements. The control centre lit by a roof lantern is an open space off which radiate the 3 cell blocks. These are two storeys with metal landings, rails and stairs; round-arched vaulted ceilings with wide ribs. At far end (E) of central block is a small room converted to a chapel, the original large chapel, now a gym, was at first floor level adjacent to the control centre

Reasons for Listing

Listed II* as a mid C19 gaol, illustrating design and social principles of the day, and mainly unaltered.

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