HM Prison Shepton Mallet
|Location||Shepton Mallet, Somerset|
|Security class||Adult Male/Category C Lifer|
|Website||Shepton Mallet at justice.gov.uk|
HMP Shepton Mallet, sometimes known as Cornhill, is a former prison located in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England. Prior to closure, it was the United Kingdom's oldest operating prison. Before closure Shepton Mallet was a Category C Lifer Prison holding 189 prisoners. The prison building is grade II* listed. Its closure was announced in January 2013.
- 1 History prior to the Second World War
- 2 Use during the Second World War
- 3 Post-war use
- 4 Future
- 5 Former inmates
- 6 References
- 7 External links
History prior to the Second World War
17th and 18th centuries
The prison was established as a House of Correction in 1625, to comply with an Act of King James I in 1609 requiring that every county have such a House. In the 17th century, Shepton Mallet was not the only place of imprisonment in Somerset: the County Gaol was in Ilchester, and there was another House of Correction at Ilchester and also at Taunton. In these times all prisoners, men, women and children, were held together in reportedly dreadful conditions. The gaoler was not paid, instead making an income from fees from his prisoners (for example, for providing them with liquor).
In 1773, a commissioner appointed by Parliament to inspect prisons around the country reported that sanitation at Shepton Mallet House of Correction was extremely poor. He said:
Many who went in healthy are in a few months changed to emaciated, dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent smallpox. Victims, I will not say to cruelty, but I must say to the inattention of the Sheriffs, and Gentlemen in the commission of peace. The cause of this distress is, that many prisons are scantily supplied, and some almost totally unprovided with the necessaries of life.—John Howard's report to Parliament, 1773
In 1790 additional land was purchased to extend the prison, and around this time men and women began to be held in separate areas. Further extensions were carried out in 1817 to 1822, at around which time Shepton Mallet held about 200 prisoners.
In 1823, a large treadwheel was built within the prison on which men who had been sentenced to hard labour would serve their punishment. 40 men would tread the wheel for many hours at a time, a punishment which was recorded as causing hernias in some convicts. The wheel was used to power a grain mill situated outside the prison wall. The wheel remained in use until 1890.
Other prisoners were engaged in breaking stones which were used for roadbuilding, oakum picking (unpicking old ropes) and other tasks.
Ilchester Gaol closed in 1843, with the inmates transferred to Shepton Mallet and Taunton. A year earlier, Inspectors appointed by the Government had reported that Shepton Mallet prison was:
in greatest want of new cells for the purpose of dividing the prisoners from each other ... In number 11 of Ward 8, no less than eight men have slept in the same room in company from January to September, 1841, although in this very room there are only six bedsteads. Boards are brought in and placed on the floor when the bedsteads are not sufficiently numerous.—Report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate, 1842
In 1845, the prison was recorded as holding 270 prisoners.
By 1897, the population was only 61, overseen by the Governor, three Warders, six Assistant Warders and a Night Watchman. Other staff included the Chaplain and Assistant Chaplain, Surgeon, Matron and School Master.
At 10.15pm on Saturday 2 July 1904 a fire, believed to have been started by a prisoner about half an hour earlier, was discovered in C block.
The alarm was raised by the ringing of the prison bell and the prisoners were evacuated to the prison chapel. Within ten minutes the town fire brigade, which was provided by the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, was in attendance. They were joined at about midnight by the Wells brigade and at about 3:00am by the Frome and Glastonbury brigades.
The fire had spread quickly within C block and was fought by prisoners, warders and firemen working together; prisoners helped to man the hoses and worked the fire engine pumps in shifts. Despite the opportunity offered by the disruption, no prisoner attempted to escape.
There were no fatalities as a result of the fire, and no major injuries. Whilst contemporary photographs show that the roof of C block was substantially destroyed, the building itself, being constructed of stone and concrete, remained nearly intact. Consequently, it was not necessary to transfer any prisoners to other jails.
Closure in 1930
In 1930, the Prisoner Commissioners recommended to the Government that Shepton Mallet Prison should be closed because it was under-used, having an average population in recent years of only 51 inmates.
The prison closed in September of that year, with the prisoners and some of the staff transferring to other jails in neighbouring counties. The prison itself remained empty except for a caretaker until the outbreak of the Second World War.
The total number of executions at Shepton Mallet in its early years is unknown, however seven judicial executions took place within the prison walls between 1889 and 1926:
- Samuel Ryland (or Reylands), aged 23, was hanged on 13 March 1889. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Taunton, Somerset on 20 February 1889 for battering to death 10-year-old Emma Jane Davies at Yeabridge, Somerset on 2 January 1889.
- Henry (Harry) Dainton, aged 35, was hanged on 15 December 1891 by James Billington. He was convicted for drowning his wife in the River Avon.
- Charles Squires, aged 28, was hanged on 10 August 1893 by James Billington. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Wells, Somerset for smothering to death his wife's two-year-old illegitimate son.
- Henry Quarterly (or Quartly), aged 55, was hanged on 10 November 1914 by Thomas Pierrepoint and George Brown. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Taunton, Somerset on 20 October 1914 for fatally shooting 59-year-old Henry Pugsley at Parson Street, Porlock, Somerset on 3 June 1914.
- Verney Asser, a 30-year-old Australian soldier of the 2nd Training Battalion, was hanged on 5 March 1918 by John Ellis and William Willis. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Devizes, Wiltshire on 16 January 1918 for fatally shooting his room-mate 24-year-old Corporal Joseph Harold Durkin at Sutton Veny Camp on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire on 27 November 1917.
- William Grover Bignell, aged 32, was hanged on 24 February 1925 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Robert Baxter. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Devizes, Wiltshire on 20 January 1925 for fatally cutting the throat of his 37-year-old girlfriend Margaret Legg in a field near Tetbury, Gloucestershire on 25 October 1924.
- John Lincoln (aka Ignatius Emanuel Napthali Trebich Lincoln), aged 23, was hanged on 2 March 1926 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Lionel Mann. He was convicted at the Assize Courts in Devizes, Wiltshire on 21 January 1926 for fatally shooting 25-year old Edward Richards at Victoria Avenue, Trowbridge, Wiltshire on 24 December 1925.
Their remains were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prison, as was customary following British executions.
Use during the Second World War
The prison was reopened for British military use in October 1939. It soon housed 300 men from all three armed services, with some having to live in huts in the prison yard.
Public Records storage
At almost the same time as it took its first British military prisoners, the prison also took into protective storage many important historical documents from the Public Record Office in London, including Domesday Book, the logbooks of HMS Victory, the Olive Branch Petition (1775), and dispatches from the Battle of Waterloo. In all, about 300 tons of records were transported to Shepton Mallet. Some documents, but not Domesday Book, were moved out of Shepton Mallet on 5 July 1942 due to concern at the concentration of important items being held in one place, especially with German bombs falling on Bath and Bristol. During their time at Shepton Mallet, the archives were still able to be inspected.
The archives were returned to London after the end of the war, between 10 July 1945 and 1 February 1946. Prior to the return of the documents, German prisoners of war were, at one point, used to help with the loading of the lorries.
American military use
Between mid-1942 and September 1945, the prison was used by the American military as the "6833rd Guardhouse Overhead Detachment", later "The Headquarters 2912th Disciplinary Training Center — APO 508 United States Army". The prison was entirely staffed by American military personnel during this period. The first Commandant was Lt Colonel James P. Smith of the 707th Military Police Battalion.
At times during its use by the Americans, Shepton Mallet held many more men than it had ever held before. At the end of 1944, there were 768 soldiers imprisoned, guarded by 12 officers and 82 enlisted men.
American military executions
Under the provisions of the United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act 1942, a total of eighteen American servicemen were executed within the prison walls. Sixteen were hanged in the execution block and two were shot by firing squad in the prison yard. Three of the hangings were double executions i.e. both condemned prisoners stood together on the gallows and were executed simultaneously when the trap-door opened. Of the 18 men executed, nine were convicted of murder, six of rape (which was not a capital offence in the United Kingdom), and three of both crimes. A Channel 4 film claimed that a greater number of black soldiers were executed. Although the American army was 90% white, 10 of the 18 men hanged there were black and three were Hispanic.
The Americans constructed a small, two-storey building containing a gallows adjoining one of the prison wings. The flat-roofed execution block has a single window, approximately one metre above the trap-door. There is an external wooden door at the bottom, giving access to the area underneath the trapdoor. The barred steel mortuary door (located below C wing) directly faces the external wooden door to the execution block. The execution block is sandwiched tightly between two much larger buildings, close to the rear of the prison. Visually, it clashes with the other architecture because it is made of red brick, whereas the rest of the prison is constructed from stone. The precise location of the execution block within the prison is .
The executioner at most of the hangings was Thomas William Pierrepoint, assisted mainly by his more famous nephew Albert Pierrepoint, though some other assistant executioners were used i.e. Alex Riley or Herbert Morris. Executions by hanging took place after midnight, at around 1:00 am. Albert Pierrepoint is known to have disapproved of the Americans' practice of reading out to the condemned man, as he stood on the trap-door, the details of his offence and sentence. He said:
The part of the routine which I found it hardest to acclimatise myself to was the, to me, sickening interval between my introduction to the prisoner and his death. Under British custom I was working to the sort of timing where the drop fell between eight and twenty seconds after I had entered the condemned cell. Under the American system, after I had pinioned the prisoner, he had to stand on the drop for perhaps six minutes while his charge sheet was read out, sentence spelt out, and he was asked if he had anything to say, and after that I was instructed to get on with the job.—Albert Pierrepoint, Home Office Executioner
The names and dates of American military executions are as follows:
- Private David Cobb, a 21-year-old black soldier from Dothan, Alabama, was hanged on 12 March 1943 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. He was convicted by a General Court Martial at Cambridge for fatally shooting Second Lieutenant Robert J. Cobnor at the 827th Engineer Battalion ordnance depot, Desborough in Northamptonshire on 27 December 1942.
- Private Harold A. Smith, a native of Troup County, Georgia, was hanged on 25 June 1943 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. He was convicted by a court martial at Bristol for fatally shooting Private Henry Jenkins of the 116th Infantry at Chisledon Camp, near Swindon in Wiltshire on 9 January 1943.
- Private Lee A. Davis, an 18-year-old black soldier, was hanged on 14 December 1943 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Alex Riley. He was convicted by a court martial at Marlborough in Wiltshire for fatally shooting 19-year-old Cynthia June Lay and raping Muriel Fawden near Savernake Hospital, Marlborough on 28 September 1943.
- Private John H. Waters, a 38-year-old soldier from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was hanged on 10 February 1944 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Alex Riley. He was convicted by a court martial at Watford in Hertfordshire for fatally shooting his 35-year-old girlfriend Doris Staples at 11a Grey Road, Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire on 14 July 1943.
- Private John C. Leatherberry, a 21 year-old black soldier, serving with the 356th Engineer General Service Regiment, was hanged on 16 March 1944 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. He was convicted by a court martial at Ipswich in Suffolk for strangling and battering to death 28-year-old taxi-driver Henry Claude Hailstone in a country lane south west of Colchester in Essex on 8 December 1943. Leatherberry's accomplice, Private George Fowler, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
- Private Wiley Harris, Junior, a 26-year-old black soldier, serving with the 626th Ordnance Ammunition Corp, was hanged on 26 May 1944 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Alex Riley. He was convicted by a court martial for stabbing to death Harry Coogan, a pimp, at Earl Street in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 6 March 1944.
- Private Alex F. Miranda, a 20-year-old Hispanic soldier, was executed on 30 May 1944 by a 10-man firing squad. He was convicted by a court martial for fatally shooting First Sergeant Thomas Evison of the 42nd Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Division, at Broomhill Camp in Devon on 5 March 1944.
- Private Eliga Brinson and Private Willie Smith, both of the 4090th Quartermaster Service Company, were hanged on 11 August 1944 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. They were convicted by a court martial at Cheltenham in Gloucestershire for raping Dorothy Holmes in a field near Bishop's Cleeve in Gloucestershire on 4 March 1944.
- Private Madison Thomas, a 23-year-old black soldier, was hanged on 12 October 1944 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. He was convicted by a court martial at Plymouth in Devon for raping Beatrice Maud Reynolds in a field at Albaston, near Gunnislake in Cornwall on 26 July 1944.
- Private Benjamin Pyegate from Dillon, South Carolina, was executed on 28 November 1944 by a firing squad. He was convicted by a court martial at Tidworth in Wiltshire for stabbing to death Private First Class James E. Alexander, from Arkansas, at the Drill Hall Camp, Westbury in Wiltshire on 17 June 1944.
- Corporal Ernest Lee Clarke (aged 23) and Private Augustine M. Guerra (aged 20), both white airmen of the 306th Fighter Control Squadron, were hanged on 8 January 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. They were convicted by a court martial at Ashford in Kent for raping and strangling to death 15-year-old Elizabeth Green at Ashford on 22 August 1944.
- Corporal Robert L. Pearson and Private Parson Jones, both black soldiers of the 1698th Engineers, were hanged on 17 March 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris. They were convicted by a court martial at Chard in Somerset for raping heavily pregnant Joyce Brown at Bonfire Orchard in Chard on 3 December 1944.
- Private William Harrison, a black soldier of the U.S. Army Air Corps, was hanged on 7 April 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris. He was convicted by a court martial for sexually assaulting and strangling to death 7-year-old Patricia Wylie in a field at Killycolpy, near Stewartstown, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland on 25 September 1944.
- Private George Edward Smith, a 28-year-old airman of the 784th Bombardment Squadron, was hanged on 8 May 1945 (i.e. VE day) by Thomas Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris. He was convicted by a court martial at RAF Attlebridge in Norfolk for fatally shooting Sir Eric Teichman in woods near Honingham Hall, Honingham in Norfolk on 3 December 1944.
- Private Aniceto Martinez, a 24-year-old Hispanic soldier, was hanged on 15 June 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Pierrepoint. He was convicted by a court martial at Lichfield in Staffordshire for raping 75-year-old Agnes Cope in her home at 15 Sandy Lane, Rugeley in Staffordshire on 6 August 1944. He was the last person in the United Kingdom to be hanged for the crime of rape.
Initially, the remains of American prisoners executed at Shepton Mallet were interred in unmarked graves at "Plot X" in Brookwood Cemetery. Plot X was located in a distant corner of Brookwood Cemetery, away from the other plots and adjacent to tool sheds and a compost heap. Executed prisoners interred there were not even given coffins, but were put into cotton mattress covers and buried in individual graves under numbered markers. Plot X had room for 100 graves and was the first real effort to specifically segregate executed Army prisoners from those who had been killed in combat.
However, circa 1949 all eighteen bodies were exhumed. In what appears to have been an administrative error, the remains of David Cobb were repatriated to Dothan, Alabama. The remaining 17 were reburied in Plot E at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in France. Plot E is a private section intended for the "dishonoured dead" which is situated across the road from the main cemetery. Visits to Plot E are not encouraged. Public access is difficult because the area is concealed, surrounded by bushes, and is closed to visitors. In any case, all the grave markers in Plot E bear only numbers (not names), which made identification of individual soldiers impossible without the key. The U.S. government published a list identifying the occupants of each grave in 2009.
Three other American soldiers also died accidentally at Shepton Mallet: they asphyxiated and died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a locked cell in which the ventilation shaft was blocked with leaves and a naked gas-lamp had used up most of the oxygen.
British military use
In September 1945, the prison was once again taken over by the British Army and became a British Military prison for service personnel. It was used for soldiers who were going to be discharged after serving their sentence, provided that sentences was less than two years (if more than two years, the sentence was served in a civilian prison).
Shepton Mallet was notorious amongst British servicemen and known as 'the glass house'. Amongst the soldiers held there were the Kray twins who, while serving out their national service in the gaol after absconding, met Charlie Richardson.
Discipline was very strict and the punishments meted out to prisoners were reportedly extremely severe.
On 10 March 1959 a riot (officially termed a mutiny) began in the dining hall. Thirteen soldiers were subsequently tried by Court Martial, and five were sentenced to three years imprisonment; the remainder were acquitted.
The prison was finally returned to civilian use in 1966. It was initially used to house prisoners who, for their own protection, could not be housed with 'run-of-the-mill' prisoners, and also well-behaved first offenders.
The gallows in the execution block was removed in 1967 and the room became the prison library.
In 1973, the prison changed role and became a training prison for men serving sentences of less than four years. The aim was to provide the inmates with the education and skills necessary for them to become productive members of society after their release. There were now about 260 prisoners who worked in a range of workshops, including plastic moulding, tailoring and scrap metal recovery. Some also worked outside the prison (some unsupervised), for example in the local Park or Churchyard, on local farms or at the Babycham brewery.
In the 1980s, the prison held prisoners who had been in prison several times before and had not reformed. Around this time the population continued to be 260 living in accommodation designed for 169.
In 1991, Shepton Mallet took its first category 'C' life prisoners – those nearing the end of their sentences. The maximum number of prisoners to be held in the prison was fixed at 211.
We doubt that Shepton Mallet Prison has a future in its present role and are aware that the total population could be absorbed into vacancies at other category 'C' establishments in the area. If the prison is to continue it requires a clear function or set of functions which match the physical resources.—HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 1992
Shepton Mallet became the first category 'C' second-stage solely-lifer prison on 1 August 2001. It had an official capacity of 165, but in June 2010 was holding 188 prisoners, with arriving prisoners having to share cells for up to a year. It was divided into four wings:
- A wing – 37 spaces
- B wing – 94 spaces
- C wing – 43 spaces
- D wing – 15 spaces
An inspection report on the prison was issued following a full announced visit by inspectors from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons carried out in June 2010. The introduction to the report described the prison as:
This very positive report ... is testament to the benefits that can flow from having a small-scale niche prison with a settled population. Despite its ageing physical environment, the prison was a very safe place, with positive staff-prisoner relationships, a reasonable amount of activities, and a strong focus on addressing the serious risks posed by the population.—HM Chief Inspector of Prisons , June 2010
The report commented in particular on the very good relations between prisoners and prison officers, and the low levels of self-harm, bullying, violence or drug use. Whilst the Inspectors said that the accommodation was "old and tired", they felt that it was adequate for the current number of prisoners. However they were concerned by proposals in increase the population by 70 prisoners.
HMP Shepton Mallet closed on 28 March 2013. The closure ceremony was attended by officers and staff, past and present, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, veterans and serving personnel of MTC Colchester, representatives of the US Armed Forces and family and friends. The last act was the hand over of the Union Flag to the last Governor. This was also marked by a fly past of a Royal Naval Lynx helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton and an hour and a half peal from the local church bells. The staff, who marched to parade just inside the main gates, accompanied by the RNAS Yeovilton Volunteer Band, were then dismissed.
The site of the prison is to be sold by the Ministry of Justice. The original deadline to declare a preferred bidder for the site was the end of March 2014 but this was put back until mid-August. Proposals for the site have included converting it into prison heritage centre with hotel, bar and restaurants as well as housing, or converting the complex into a museum, gym, a hotel and ghost and horror tours. However these were rejected in October and the site remains unsold.
- Ben Gunn, blogger and prison reform campaigner
- The Kray Twins, Notorious London Gangsters, held in Shepton Malet in the early 1950s after deserting the British Army.
Escapes and attempted escapes
Escapes, successful and attempted, from Shepton Mallet Prison include:
- November 1765 – prisoner Jeffreys, imprisoned for sheep-stealing. Recaptured after 10 days at Lyme Regis.
- 5 July 1776 – Mary Harris, aged about 30, broke out. She was still free on 6 March 1777 by which time the reward for her capture had risen to 20 guineas.
- 2 October 1819 – James Thompson escaped. He was caught in Bath on 23 March 1820.
- December 1835 – four prisoners, John Fowler, William Sage, Henry Mitchell and Thomas Ryan attempted to escape from the prison chapel, but were prevented from doing so.
- c 1860 – prisoner Judge escaped through the 2-foot-wide (0.61 m) tunnel which carried the prison treadwheel shaft to the mill on the outside of the prison wall. He was later captured at Shaftesbury.
- 23 February 1866 – Daniel James escaped through the roof and over the wall. He was recaptured by midday near Upton Noble.
- 12 January 1878 – Samuel Glover Fudge, age 27, escaped. He was recaptured and, at the assize held in Taunton on 28 March 1878, was sentenced to an additional three weeks of hard labour.
- during the prison's Second World War use as a British military prison:
- Brian Houghton escaped and remained free until voluntarily surrendering himself; he was court-martialled for his escape.
- prisoner Maddison escaped.
- prisoner Gutheridge escaped but was recaptured in Shepton Mallet.
- prisoner George M, a professional safe-cracker, was found to be missing at morning roll call.
- July 1945 - during the prison's use as an American military prison, seven American soldiers stacked railway sleepers against a wall to escape, possibly also with assistance from outside. Three remained at large for almost two months.
- 17 August 1966 – a convict, in prison for larceny and burglary, escaped whilst engaged in repairing prison staff accommodation. He was found later the same day having a drink in The King William Inn in the town.
- 30 July 1968 – two prisoners in an outside working party, again repairing staff accommodation, made off.
- May 1970 – once again a prisoner in an outside working party escaped his escorts. He was apprehended in the town centre a little over two hours later.
- 1976 – three inmates escaped through the barred toilet window of their dormitory, made it to the roof and then escaped over a lower roof.
- Summer 1977 – three men made their escape through the window of the plastics moulding workshop. A fourth attempted to escape but was prevented. One of the successful escapees was caught fairly quickly. The second was finally apprehended in Bridgwater after hijacking a police car and forcing the officer, at knife-point, to drive him away. The third remained at large until his arrest three months later for burglary.
- 1981 – the lock on a cell door was found to have been sawn off. The occupants of the cell were found elsewhere in the prison.
- 24 July 1981 – two prisoners escaped from an outside working party. They were found in Bristol six hours later that same day.
- February 1985 – a prisoner who set fire to his bedding in the hospital wing and pretended to be unconscious was taken to the Royal United Hospital, Bath. However, when there he changed his mind and decided not to escape. In court he pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage.
- 7 May 1985 – a prisoner left an outside working party but was recaptured five hours later a couple of miles north of the town.
- July 1985 – another prisoner absconded from work at the Town Council offices and stole some items from the parish church. He was found later in the day and, following trial, sentenced to an additional two months.
- 29 January 1987 – an inmate clearing snow in Collett Park made off, but was later arrested.
- 28 February 1987 – a prisoner stole and made off in a prison officer's car.
- 7 May 1987 – three men sawed through their cell window's bars, climbed on to the roof and escaped over the wall using a rope of knotted sheets.
- November 1990 – three prisoners broke through the ceiling of their cell, accessed the roof and descended the wall using knotted sheets.
- later in November 1990 – another prisoner escaped.
- 25 February 1991 – two prisoners managed to squeeze through a narrow hole in the ventilation shaft of the prison's plastics workshop. They were apprehended within a few hours, having been seen by a member of the public hiding from police.
- March 1991 – not technically an escape from the prison, but a Shepton Mallet prisoner who had tricked officers into taking him to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, by telling them that he had swallowed razor blades and glass escaped from his escorts through a toilet window. He was arrested in Cardiff four days later.
- June 1991 – a prisoner on an organised trip into Shepton Mallet to buy food for the prison kitchen made off.
- June 1991 - another inmate, part of a party making repairs to the prison wall, escaped.
- July 1991 – a prisoner in an outside working party escaped after asking to use the toilet.
- 5 November 1993 – after making a hole through a wall two feet thick, three prisoners escaped on to the roof and then descended the prison wall by means of knotted sheets. They were soon recaptured.
- Early January 1996 – prison officers found parts of the grill from a cell window in the cell yard, and subsequently found a rope and six-inch masonry nail in a cell. A prisoner was initially charged with attempting to escape, which was later reduced to damaging prison property for which he received a 21-day extension to his sentence.
It may be thought from the above list that prisoners on outside working parties spent all their time trying to escape. However, on one occasion two prisoners undertaking gardening work near the parish church went to the aid of an elderly lady who had collapsed, by breaking into her house with the help of a neighbour. They were rewarded for their efforts by an official commendation and a reduction in their sentences of seven days.
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- Full surname not given in Disney
- Disney, Francis (1992). Shepton Mallet Prison (2nd Ed). Published by the author. ISBN 0-9511470-2-1. in updated form as a CD-ROM in 2001, see: "Shepton Mallet Prison: 390 years of prison regime". Francis Disney.