CaP Featured Collections

Ruthin Gaol

Ruthin Gaol is a Pentonville style Gaol run by Denbighshire Heritage Service, situated in the market town of Ruthin, North Wales. There has been a Gaol on the site since 1654, with the current building dating from 1766. Additions were added in 1865, after changes to the Prison Act meant that solitary confinement and silence became the modern way of rehabilitation, along with deportation.

By 1916, the building ceased use as a prison and was bought by the County Council for use as offices and storage. During World War II, the gaol building was adapted and used as a munitions factory and one of the original munitions storage sheds can still be seen on site today. In 2004, a HLF grant enabled extensive renovation of the building for use as a museum and archive. 

Oakum bench

Collections directly relating to the gaol, include an oakum picking bench, silver plate, original keys and a straitjacket, as well as integral parts of the building, such as the stone baths. Although most of the official paperwork relating to prisoners has been lost through time, there are a number of well-reported inmates. For example, the ‘Welsh Houdini’ affectionately nicknamed Coch Bach who escaped from numerous prisons, including Ruthin Gaol.

Due to a devastating flood in March 2021, the inside of the Gaol is currently closed to visitors but the entrance, along with audio guides and guided tours, around the impressive exterior, are available and we hope to reopen in some capacity inside by Summer 2022.

Pentonville Wing
The ‘Welsh Houdini’ Coch Bach
Ruthin Gaol in use as a munitions factory during WWII
Original keys for Ruthin Gaol

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