HM Prison Birmingham

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HM Prison Birmingham
Location Winson Green, Birmingham, West Midlands
Status Operational
Security class Adult Male/Category B&C
Capacity 1450 (January 2006)
Opened 1849
Managed by G4S
Director Peter Small[1]

HM Prison Birmingham (known locally as Winson Green Prison) is a Category B/C men's prison, located in the Winson Green area of Birmingham, England. The prison was formerly operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. It is now managed by G4S .[2]


Birmingham is a Victorian prison, built in 1849.

Numerous judicial executions by hanging took place at the prison until the abolition of capital punishment in the UK. A total of 35 executions took place at Birmingham prison during the 20th century.[3] The last person ever to be hanged at the prison was a 20-year-old Jamaican named Oswald Augustus Grey. He was executed on 20 November 1962 after being convicted of the shooting death of newsagent Thomas Bates during the course of a robbery in Lee Bank Road on 3 June 1962.[4][5][6] Christopher Simcox, a double-murderer, was scheduled for execution at Birmingham prison on Tuesday, 17 March 1964, but was reprieved.

In 1995, Birmingham was criticised by its own Board of Visitors for being soft on prisoners. This arose after allegations that one inmate had gone on two weeks' holiday to Minorca, while being released for weekend leave.[7]

In January 1999 an inspection report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons attacked conditions at Birmingham, describing the health centre in the jail as the "untidiest and dirtiest" inspectors had ever come across. The report also criticised the prison for its lack of a sex offender treatment programme, the lack of employment and education opportunities, and the inadequate bathing arrangements where some inmates were only being allowed a full wash three times a week.[7]

In March 2001 the Chief Inspector declared that conditions had worsened in Birmingham Prison where around 11% of inmates had claimed to have been assaulted by prison officers. One particular incident involved a mentally-disturbed prisoner who had been denied a wash or change of clothes for weeks because staff thought he was faking his illness.[8]

In 2002 the prison was expanded as a result of a multimillion-pound investment programme by the Prison Service. 450 additional prisoner places were added together with new workshops, educational facilities, a new healthcare centre and gym as well as extensions and improvements to existing facilities. Two years later, a report from the Chief Inspector found that conditions at Birmingham had substantially improved, stating that the prison was a place where "positive attitudes are firmly embedded".[9]

In November 2007 the Independent Monitoring Board warned in a report that overcrowding at Birmingham was putting prisoners and staff at risk. The report stated that if overcrowding was not tackled, then there was a potential for unrest.[10] Two years later, the Board issued another report that criticised levels of overcrowding at Birmingham Prison. The report also noted that inmates from the jail were being transferred to prisons further north, to accommodate increased prisoner levels from the South-East of England.[11]

Birmingham became the first publicly built, owned and operated prison in the UK to be transferred to the private sector. G4S formally took over the day-to-day running of the prison in October 2011.[12]


The following people were executed in Birmingham Prison between 1885 and 1962:

Henry Kimberley for the murder of Emma Palmer, 17 March 1885

George Daniels and Harry Jones for the murders of Emma Hastings and Florence Harris, a child, 28 August 1888

Frederick Davies for the murder of his wife, 26 August 1890

Frederick Fenton for the murder of Florence Elborough, 4 April 1894

Frank Taylor for the murder of Mary Lewis 18 August 1896 (aged 10)

John Joyce for the murder of John Nugent 20 August 1901

Charles Samuel Dyer for the murder of Martha Eliza Simpson (his girlfriend) 5 April 1904

Samuel Holden for the murder of Susan Humphries (his girlfriend) 16 August 1904

Frank Greening for the murder of Elizabeth Ellen Hearne (his girlfriend) 13 August 1913

William Butler for the murder of Florence Beatrice Butler 16 August 1916

Henry Gaskin for the murder of Elizabeth Gaskin (his wife) 8 August 1919

Samuel Westwood for the murder of Lydia Westwood (his wife) 30 December 1920

Edward O'Connor for the murder of Thomas O'Connor (his son) 22 December 1921

William Rider for the murder of Rosilla Patience Barton (his bigamous wife) 19 December 1922

John Fisher for the murder of Ada Taylor (his girlfriend) 5 January 1926

George Sharples for the murder of Milly Crabtree, 13 April 1926

James Power for the murder of Olive Gordon Turner, 31 January 1928

Victor Betts for the murder of William Thomas Andrews, 3 January 1931

Jeremiah Hanbury for the murder of Jessie Payne (his girlfriend) 2 February 1933

Stanley Hobday for the murder of Charles William Fox, 29 December 1933

Dorothea Waddingham (f) for the murders of Louisa Baguley and Ada Baguley, 16 April 1936

Peter Barnes and James Richards for the murders of Elsie Ansell, Gwilym Rowland, John Arnott, James Clay and Rex Gentle, 7 February 1940

Eli Richards for the murder of Jane Turner 19 September 1941

Arthur Peach for the murder of Kitty Lyon 30 January 1942

Harold Merry for the murder of Joyce Dixon (his girlfriend) 10 September 1942

William Quayle for the murder of Vera Clarke 3 August 1943

James Farrell for the murder of Joan Marney 29 March 1949

Piotr Maksimowski for the murder of Dilys Campbell (his girlfriend) 29 March 1950

William Watkins for the murder of an unnamed son 3 April 1951

Horace Carter for the murder of Sheila Attwood 1 January 1952

Frederick Cross for the murder of Donald Lainton 26 July 1955

Corbett Roberts for the murder of Doris Roberts (his wife) 2 August 1955

Ernest Harding for the murder of Evelyn Higgins 9 August 1955

Dennis Howard for the murder of David Keasey 4 December 1957

Matthew Kavanagh for the murder of Isaiah Dixon 12 August 1958

Oswald Grey for the murder of Thomas Bates 20 November 1962

The prison today[edit]

Birmingham holds adult male prisoners, serving the Crown and Magistrates' Courts of Birmingham, Stafford and Wolverhampton and the Magistrates' Courts of Burton upon Trent, Cannock.

Education and training at Birmingham Prison is provided by Derby College. Learning programmes for inmates include basic and key skills, bricklaying, plumbing, painting and decorating, carpentry, joinery, forklift truck training, industrial cleaning, catering, textiles, barbering, information technology, business, creative arts and performing arts. All courses lead to qualifications such as NVQs, and there is the option for further study with the Open University.

The Prison Library Service is provided by Birmingham City Council's Library Services, and all prisoners have access to the service. As well as facilities for independent learners, the library has special collections on law, employment, health, community information, English as a second or other language (ESOL), and basic skills materials. There is also a Learning Centre within the library to provide additional learning support to those with dyslexia and ESOL needs.

Physical Education at Birmingham is provided on a daily basis over a 7-day period, and evenings over 5 days. There are a number of sports delivered and also sports related subjects from basic skills to NVQ Level 2 in Sports and Recreation.

Birmingham has a prison chaplaincy with full-time chaplains from the Roman Catholic, Church of England, Free Church and Muslim faiths. There are also sessional staff from the Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu faiths.

Popular culture[edit]

Notable former inmates[edit]

  • Charlie Wilson, imprisoned for his part in the Great Train Robbery, he escaped the prison on 12 August 1964. He was recaptured on 24 January 1968 in Canada.
  • Ozzy Osbourne, later frontman of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, served six weeks after he was arrested for breaking and entering and theft in 1966.
  • Fred West, serial killer who arrived on remand in May 1994. He committed suicide in his cell on 1 January 1995, before he could be brought to trial.
  • Lee Hughes, former West Bromwich Albion striker, spent the early part of his six-year jail term for dangerous driving at the prison in 2004.


  1. ^ "HMP Birmingham Contacts". Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "G4S will take over 1,400-inmate jail in October'". BBC. 1 July 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ "newsagent murdered fifty years ago this month". The Brew 'Us Bugle (Ladywood History Group) (36). Summer 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Jail conditions attacked". BBC. 13 January 1999. 
  8. ^ "Jail 'among worst in UK'". BBC. 15 March 2001. 
  9. ^ "Report praises Birmingham Prison". BBC. 24 September 2004. 
  10. ^ "Overcrowding fears at city prison". BBC. 20 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "Prison inmates 'forced to move'". BBC. 29 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Birmingham Prison: 123 jobs could go". BBC News. 1 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°29′35.54″N 1°56′14.05″W / 52.4932056°N 1.9372361°W / 52.4932056; -1.9372361