Building 3 Prison Conversion

A New Chapter

Canterbury’s 19th century prison and its surrounding grounds are important features in our campus transformation plans.

The former prison was sold to the University in 2014 and provides a great opportunity, over time, to bring our estate together on two sites (North Holmes Road and Augustine House) and extend our city campus by five acres.

Our Vision

The history of the prison building and the stories of its inhabitants are being captured by our researchers and academics, and the prison is occasionally being used for University events and exhibitions.

Demolition work outside the main prison building starts in spring 2018 ahead of the opening of a new building for Science, Engineering, Technology and Health in 2020.

This will be followed by the sensitive conversion of the prison building in future years to create new facilities including a heritage centre for the community.


Key Dates - Canterbury Prison

Research by Dr Maryse Tennant, Professor Shane Blackman, Emily Knight and Ellie Colegate.

1806 – 1808

Construction of St Augustine’s Gaol and House of Correction along with adjoining Sessions House.

HM Prison Canterbury was built by George Byfield.

At this time gaols were holding places to confine people awaiting trial – or before other forms of punishment were inflicted.

Houses of Correction were used to inflict short periods of hard labour on petty offenders and vagrants.

1808 – 1877

By the 19th century the separation between gaols and Houses of Correction had diminished and was formally abolished in 1865. The prison was then required to combine both of these functions.

By at least 1835 the prison was equipped with a treadwheel and this was the main form of labour for prisoners.

The treadwheel was used to pump water for nearby Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

Prisoners worked nine hour days on the treadwheel and exhaustion combined with a lack of safety often led to accidents. In 1886 William Scamp had his left hand amputated after catching it in the machinery.

1877 – 1922

For much of its history Canterbury was a local prison holding remand prisoners prior to trial, convicted prisoners awaiting transfer and those serving short-term sentences.

1942 – 1946

Rising prison populations meant that local prisons were almost permanently overcrowded from the 1940s through to the 21st century. This had multiple impacts and played a role in high levels of self-harm, violence and suicide.

1970s

The prison was slow to establish educational provision for prisoners and no school was provided for the first 60 years. It obtained a new education block in the 1970s and classes were provided for an average of 60 men per evening.

1991

A damning inspection report found the prison was too small to serve the needs of a local prison and recommended its abandonment.

2006 – 2013

In 2006 Canterbury was converted become the first non-military prison in the UK to hold only foreign national prisoners.

2013

The prison closed in 2013. In 2014 it was bought by Canterbury Christ Church University.

The Former Prison Site

Canterbury Prison was built in 1808 as a gaol and house of correction. It replaced the county gaol in St Dunstan’s on December 14th. The inmates were shackled together and marched from the old prison to the new, though the headcount was one short when they arrived as a 17 year old petty thief slipped his chains and disappeared into the Canterbury streets. Various high profile inmates have been housed within the twenty foot prison walls including the Kray Twins. Jane Austen was also said to have visited, but only to accompany her brother Edward who was a visiting magistrate at the time. By 1835 the prison had a treadmill installed that was used to pump water to the nearby Kent and Canterbury Hospital and was the main labour for prisoners. Accidents were commonplace due to exhaustion through nine hour stints on the treadwheel and the lack of safety.

In the early 1940s, rising prison populations meant that local prisons were almost always overcrowded, which had multiple impacts and played a role in high levels of self-harm, violence and suicide. In 1991, a damning inspection report found the prison was too small to serve the needs of a local prison and recommended its abandonment, though between 2006 and 2013 it was converted to become the first non-military prison in the UK to hold only foreign national prisoners. It was visited in 2008 by Princess Anne to mark its 200th anniversary but was eventually closed down in March 2013 and was purchased by Canterbury Christ Church University in April 2014.


Gallery