Former Her Majesty's Prison Shrewsbury


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
HM Prison, The Dana, Shrewsbury, SY1 2HR


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Statutory Address:
HM Prison, The Dana, Shrewsbury, SY1 2HR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A prison complex of three conjoined wings, set within a walled enclosure, of 1788-93 by John Hiram Haycock, with assistance from Thomas Telford and John Howard, and of 1883-88 by the Prison Commissioners’ architects.

Reasons for Designation

Specified buildings at the former Her Majesty's Prison, Shrewsbury, are listed at Grade II for the following reasons:

* Architectural quality: despite later additions and alterations, the C18 building now called 'B' wing retains a handsome front and clear indications of the former county gaol, as it was designed by Haycock and Telford with advice from John Howard. The later-C19 wings, built by the architects of the Prison Commissioners, have an impressive, monumental appearance, due to their size and detailing;

* Level of intact survival: the C18 'B' wing retains sufficient of its original fabric to give a reasonable impression of the functioning of this rare type of prison building. The cell blocks from the later-C19 retain all the elements of their plan and much of the detailing, including landings, cell doors, ventilation ducts and plenum chimneys.


In 1786 a local Act of Parliament was passed to rebuild the County Gaol and House of Correction for Shropshire. The prison commissioners invited William Blackburn (1750-1790), the leading prison architect of the time, to choose a site and prepare a plan for it. However, Blackburn’s role appears to have been advisory. Although he chose a site on Castle Hill and produced outlines of how the prison should be laid out, he declined to prepare a detailed plan. Consequently, the commissioners organised an architectural competition. John Hiram Haycock (1759-1830) was announced as the winner in October, and by January 1787 he was preparing working drawings. Despite this, it was not until September when Jonathan Scoltock was appointed as builder, with Thomas Telford (1757-1834) being chosen as the surveyor a further three months later. In early 1788, John Howard (1726-1788), the first English prison reformer, visited Shrewsbury to meet Telford and inspect the plans for the new prison. Although Haycock’s original design was based on Howard’s courtyard principles, he recommended a number of alterations and improvements. In March, a revised plan was produced by Telford and subsequently approved by the commissioners. The gaol and house of correction were completed in September 1793.

The prison was built with a courtyard plan, comprising four principal ranges enclosing a spacious quadrangular area divided into four airing courts. There were also several smaller courts placed round the building externally. The gatehouse was to the south-west of the site and the governor’s house stood opposite it in the centre of the south-west range. The whole site was enclosed by a perimeter wall of which a small projecting central section at the north-east side contained a detached, single-storey infirmary. As promoted by Howard, the cell block ranges consisted of open arcades to the ground floor, where prisoners would work during the day or shelter in wet weather, with sleeping cells above. In the centre of the courtyard was a two-storied octagonal building which contained a bake house on the ground floor and a chapel on the first floor. Two-storey blocks linked this building to the north-west and south-east ranges.

In 1833 the Quarter Sessions considered the division of the gaol and house of correction in respect of the Gaols Act of 1823. Separate cells were subsequently created between 1837 and 1844. Additional separate cells were added between 1865 and 1866.

In 1880, following the nationalisation of English prisons in 1878, the site was handed over to the newly appointed Prison Commissioners. In their judgement, the existing prison was dilapidated and unsuitable for modern occupation and an outbreak of typhoid in 1882-3 provided the impetus for rebuilding large parts of the gaol between 1883 and about 1888. All of the old prison, with the exception of the gatehouse, part of the south-west range and perimeter wall, were swept away. The retained south-west range is now called ‘B’ wing and faces towards the gatehouse. Its central three bays were initially the governor’s house, flanked by accommodation for turnkeys, with visiting rooms and cells on the upper floors and open arcades to either side at ground floor level. After 1883 the wing was converted and the upper two floors of the former Governor’s house were made into a chapel, with the male reception and infirmary elsewhere in the wing. The ground-floor arcades were walled and converted to cells.

Based on Wormwood Scrubs’ ‘telegraph-pole’ plan, though much smaller in scale, the new prison comprised two parallel ranges, one being a large male wing and the other a smaller female wing, aligned north-east to south-west and now called ‘A’ and ‘C’ wing, respectively. Each wing was connected to the rear of the original south-west range. In addition to the cell blocks, the new facilities also included male and female infirmaries, an isolation ward, male and female reception blocks, workshops, a kitchen, a laundry and a van house/execution house. A new governor’s house was added to the southern end of the retained south-western range, but placed diagonally, to face south towards the angled perimeter wall. This soon ceased to be a house and by 1904 it had become the female reception area on the ground floor, with a female infirmary and isolation ward on the upper two floors. In 2013 it is known as ‘D’ wing. Single-storey additions were also added to the gatehouse on the prison side and the perimeter wall was raised in height in 1907. The prison continued to accommodate male and female prisoners until it became a male only prison in 1922.

In the 1970s a substantial programme of development took place at the prison, including the building of two workshops and a gymnasium at the north-east end of the site. To facilitate this, the flanking sections of perimeter wall were extended and the rear wall was rebuilt to create a new, straight, northern section of wall, incorporating the projecting, central section of the original wall. Further, late-C20 developments include the addition of education blocks and visitor facilities. A chapel, in a former ground-floor workshop, opened in 1995. In the early C21, the 1970s gymnasium was demolished to create a new exercise yard, with a new gymnasium being built in the north-east corner of the site. The prison was closed in March 2013.


MATERIALS: ‘B’ wing has red facing bricks laid in Flemish bond, with stone dressings to the Governor’s House, and large bricks of plum colour to the rest of the wing at either side. ‘A’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ wings have walls of plum-coloured brick laid in English bond. Roofs are covered by slates and ‘A’ and ‘C’ wings have roof lights along the ridge.

PLAN: ‘B’ wing has two and three storeys. ‘A’ wing is of four storeys with cells set to either side of a central hall. ‘C’ wing is two storeys high, with cells to the south-east side. ‘D’ wing has three storeys. ‘A’ and ‘C’ wings are joined to the north-east side of ‘B’ wing in a ‘telegraph pole’ plan.

EXTERIOR: the south-west face of ‘B’ wing is formed of a recessed spinal range which has a projecting centre and a projecting pavilion to each end. The original symmetrical arrangement was of 2:4:3:4:2 bays, which has been disrupted and obscured by later additions and alterations, but is still apparent in outline. The central projection, which originally formed the governor’s house, is of three bays, topped by a pedimental gable. At ground floor centre is a stone door surround. A stone band at the height of the springing of the arched fanlight extends sideways across the walling of the whole of the C18 façade. To either side of the door head are shaped brackets which support a flat, moulded, stone canopy. To either side of the door are canted bay windows of full height, which appear to be C19 additions and which have steeply-hipped roofs. The first floor has three round-arched windows with metal glazing bars and margin glazing which were probably added when the centre became a chapel at first and second-floor levels. The pediment has a circular panel to its centre. At either side of this centre, the wing has round-arched windows at all three levels. All of the ground-floor arcade openings, where visible, have been blocked and turned into windows. Later-C19 or early-C20 additions have been built against the lower walling of both sides, obscuring the ground floor bays at both ends of the front. At left this adjunct was the reception block, of mid-C20 date. The furthest bay to the right of the recessed portion and the pavilion at this end were entirely rebuilt to form the new governor’s house in the 1880s. The new house has a higher roof line than the original building, cambered arches to the openings and stepped eaves.

The north-east face of ‘B’ wing is partially masked by ‘A’ and ‘C’ wings, which are attached at right and left. At the centre is a blocked doorway with a plain stone surround and to the left of it are three, closely-spaced windows which also have plain stone surrounds. At right of centre is a further, wide door with stone surround, now converted to a window and to far left is a wide, arched opening which is partially blocked and now surrounds a narrower doorway. To left again a boiler house set in the re-entrant angle between ‘B’ and ‘C’ wings masks more of the ground-floor walling. First-floor windows have arched heads and a stone band runs at the level of the springing of the arches. That to left, above the ground floor arch, is wider. Above these is a further stone band, below the level of the plain brick parapet, which appears to have been rebuilt in the C19. Cross-ridge chimneystacks also appear to be rebuilt in the C19. A large, metal extractor pipe of C20 date runs up and across the front. The north-western end pavilion has had C20 additions built against its ground floor walling on the north-eastern and north-western sides.

‘A’ wing faces north-west and south-east and has 22 bays to each side. Each front is arranged with flat walling to the ground floor and pilaster buttresses dividing the bays of the three upper floors. To the top of the walls are stepped courses and a cogged band. Windows have segmental heads and stone sills and their original grilles. The windows themselves were replaced in the late C20 and the external bars are supplemented by horizontal bars. At the centre of the south-east front is a projecting, two-bay ablutions wing. The hipped roof has four, large, plenum chimneys, for extraction of foul air, and there is a further, smaller chimney over the ablutions tower. The north-east front has pilaster buttresses as before. The lateral bays are blind, but the centre has three bays of windows to illuminate the hall and landings.

‘C’ wing also faces north-west and south-east, although cells are only arranged along the south-eastern side with a hall and landings opposite. It has twelve bays of two storeys, divided by pilaster buttresses at first floor level, as before on the south-east side. The north-west side is blind. Windows have stone sills and segmental heads and their original grilles. The windows themselves were replaced in the late C20 and the bars are supplemented by horizontal bars. The north-east end was originally connected to the contemporary laundry block, which has now been demolished. The wall is blind and whitewashed.

INTERIOR: ‘B’ wing has undergone extensive alteration. One ground-floor room in the governor’s house retains its stack, with a late-C20 neo-Georgian fire surround. There is also a wall safe in the same room. The map of 1831 shows an apsidal staircase hall at the centre of the building, which has now gone. At first-floor level the chapel, which was created by joining the first and second floors, has been subdivided by the insertion of another floor. Ground-floor rooms at either side of the centre have groin vaults, which appear to have been part of the original, open-air arcades designed by Haycock. Two staircases with metal balustrades survive and appear to be later C19.

‘A’ wing has a central, top-lit light well with iron staircases and landings to either side. New staircases and balustrade panels have been fitted to the gallery landings c 2007. These are heavier than the original iron panels and have required the fitting of new brackets to supplement the originals, which still support the landing floors. The original pattern of both balustrade and staircase can be seen at the top of the block, where a walkway connects the attic spaces above the cells. Scars in the brickwork show where lamp windows allowed illumination of the cells at night by warders. Cells are entered through chamfered door surrounds with cambered heads. Doors are a mixture of wooden doors with bolt-heads, some of which may be original, and steel doors from the later C20. Cells have cambered window heads and cambered vaulted ceilings and original grilles in their upper and lower walls for pumping in hot air and the extraction of stale air. The ablutions annexe at the centre of the south-eastern side was converted to showers when lavatories and basins were fitted to each cell. Some cells have had the dividing walls removed to make them double and one triple cell is used as a servery.

‘C’ wing has its original landings and balustrades and cast iron staircases with ramped handrails, balustrade and timber roof trusses. Wooden cell doors appear to be largely original. The ablutions annexe is located between cells 6 and 7 on each floor and was converted to showers in the later C20, as on ‘A’ wing. Scars in the brickwork show that there was a lantern recess to the right of the exterior of the cell doors.

‘D’ wing has had its interior plan altered. The entrance hallway, with stone flags and original, dogleg staircase survives, but no chimney pieces and there are few other fittings.

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

The C20 L-shaped block to the north-east of the site, housing the workshops, chapel, multi-faith space, gymnasium and education block. The freestanding rectangular workshop block to the south-west of the gymnasium. The additions to the north-east, north-west and south-west of the kitchen block. The freestanding rectangular block to the south-east of the kitchen block. The boiler house block in the re-entrant angle between 'B' wing and 'C' wing. The single-storey workshop range in the angle between 'B' wing and 'D' wing. The L-shaped addition, including the reception area, attached to the south-west face of 'B' wing. The L-shaped addition which is attached to the north-west and north-east faces of 'B' wing and which connects to the north-west flank of 'A' wing. The boiler house attached to the north-east face of 'A' wing. The lavatory block attached to the north-east face of the link corridor that runs between 'A' wing and 'C' wing. The three freestanding blocks, housing the staff canteen, a cleaning store and a generator, which form a line to the south east of 'C' block and the kitchen. The C20 interior fittings to cell blocks A, B, C and D and to the kitchen block.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire: Volume III, (1979)
Brodie, Croom, Davies, , English Prisons, (2002), 31, 33, 46-7. 62, 84, 90, 112, 154, 257
Pevsner, N, Newman, J, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (2006), 545
Assest Heritage, Heritage Statement in respect of HMP Shrewsbury on behalf of The Ministry of Justice, August 2013,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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