HM Prison Canterbury

HM Prison Canterbury
HMP Canterbury, 46 Longport, Canterbury
01227 862800
Region or country
England (South East & Isle of Wight)

HMP Canterbury

HMP Canterbury is a former prison in Canterbury, Kent, England, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. The prison was opened in 1806-08. It was bought by Canterbury Christ Church University in April 2014.

The university are currently working to reinterpret the history of the prison building and the stories of its inhabitants, and to create a heritage centre for the community.

What can be found at the venue?
Historic building or site
Significant collections relating to regional crime and punishment organisation or to a particular individual
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.
Does the venue have an online collections catalogue?
Details of opening for public access and / or research services
The prison is not yet open; it is occasionally used for University events and exhibitions.
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