VIDEO: Behind Northallerton Prison walls
It was once home to hundreds of North Yorkshire’s criminals and now for the first time the public will have the opportunity to see behind the imposing walls of Northallerton Prison.
We have had a look around the deserted prison which was once home to up to 250 offenders.
Beyond the towering walls lies a rabbit warren of interconnected buildings, lined with miles of razor wire.
Five of the buildings, including the governors house, are now listed, however large parts of the site, including the perimeter walls is likely to be demolished as the council redevelops the site.
Hambleton District Council were handed the keys to the 3.4 acre site last month after buying the building for £1.4million.
Esteemed architect, John Carr, best known for his work at Harewood House designed the grand and imposing original buildings in the prison.
Coun Robson hopes the council can make the most of the history of the site.
He said: “Once something is gone, it is gone for ever and there is a lot of history here worth protecting. “We have a lot of the artefacts from when it was a prison and I think it would be good to put these things on display.”
During its 225 year history thousands of prisoners passed through the gates, though there is no an eerie silence in the three wings, lined with empty cells.
The public can visit the empty jail from July 27 to 31 and from August 3-7 on pre-booked tours.
Coun Robson said: “We know a lot of people are keen to get to see what is behind that wall – and we hope they all get a chance to have a look over these two weeks. We have worked hard to gather information on the prison – which we hope will give a short insight into its history.”
The original jail opened in 1788, ruled under the iron fist of George Parkin and in 1800 an and joining courthouse was built, and those sentenced to jail time were tunnelled under the walls straight from the dock.
In the early 1800s the prison was home to children as young as seven and the ghost of an 11-year-old girl who was sentenced for stealing a loaf of bread is said to have been spotted in the corridors.
The prison was also home to the world’s largest treadmill, which prisoners used to grind corn after being sentenced to hard labour.
The prison started out as just 12 cells and over its lifetime was used as a military prison, a remand centre and a Young Offenders Institute before it closed in 2013, costing the town 135 jobs.
In 1946 the army had to be called in to quell rioters who burnt store rooms and threw bricks from the roof.
The future of the site is still uncertain however it could become a new town square, with workspaces, houses or leisure facilities as part of the new town centre masterplan. Coun Robson said development will “complement existing businesses and boost the area’s economic growth”.
See hambleton.gov.uk or call 01609 779977 to book a tour.