HM Prison Reading
|Security class||Young offenders Institution|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Reading at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Reading was built in 1844 as the Berkshire County Gaol in the heart of Reading, Berkshire on the site of the former county prison, alongside the site of Reading Abbey and beside the River Kennet.
Designed by George Gilbert Scott it was based on London's New Model Prison at Pentonville with a cruciform shape, and is a good example of early Victorian prison architecture. The Pentonville Prison design of 1842 was based on the design of Eastern State Penitentiary of 1829 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It was designed to carry out what was the very latest penal technique of the time, known as the separate system. As a county gaol it also served as the site for executions, the first one in 1845 before a crowd of 10,000, the last one being carried out in 1913.
From 1916, it was used to hold Irish prisoners involved in the Easter Rising. It closed as gaol in 1920 and has also been used as internment site in both world wars, a Borstal and for a variety of other purposes.
In 1973, Reading was re-designated as a local prison and around that time its old castle wall was removed. In 1992 it became a Remand Centre and Young Offenders Institution, holding prisoners between the ages of 18 and 21 years.
The prison today
HMP Reading was, most recently, a young offender Institution and remand centre, holding males aged 18 to 21. Accommodation at the prison consisted of a mixture of single and double occupancy cells contained on three wings. There was also a further residential unit (Kennet wing) of single occupancy cells for low security 'open' prisoners.
On 4 September 2013, it was announced that HM Prison Reading will close by the end of that year. There have been calls for the prison building to be preserved as a tourist attraction, and Reading Council have confirmed that they intend to retain the complex.
Notable former inmates
- David Millward. "Ministry of Justice announces closure of Reading Prison - Reading Post". Getreading.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
- "BBC News - Call to save 'Oscar Wilde jail' in Reading". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
- Peter Southerton: Reading Gaol by Reading Town (Berkshire Books, Gloucs., 1993).
- Anthony Stokes: " Pit of Shame, The Real Ballad of Reading Gaol " (Waterside Press, 2007).
- Ministry of Justice pages on Reading
- Ballad of Reading Gaol Etext
- Essay on Wilde and the history of Reading Prison