Duke Street Prison

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Coordinates: 55°51′29″N 4°13′08″W / 55.858°N 4.219°W / 55.858; -4.219 Duke Street Prison is one of 8 prisons which used to stand in and around Glasgow. By 1840 most of these were closed except Duke Street Prison (also known as Bridewell or the Northern Prison) and Glasgow Green Prison (known as 'Burgh' or the Southern Prison) which closed in 1863. Between its first prisoners arriving in 1798 and 1872, various improvements were made to the structure but not to the terrible living conditions which were mentioned in the Glasgow street song sung to the tune of 'There Is a Happy Land'.

There is a happy land,
doon Duke Street Jail,
Where a' the prisoners stand,
tied tae a nail.
Ham an' eggs they never see,
dirty watter fur yer tea;
there they live in misery
God Save the Queen!

After the transfer of responsibility to the state from local authorities, HM Prison Barlinnie was built in the Eastern suburbs of the city in 1882 in order to take over from 'Bridewell' which eventually remained open as a women's prison until 1955.

As Duke Street prison held women prisoners from around Scotland, many Suffragettes and political activists were imprisoned here whose protests at the living conditions would eventually lead to the closure in 1955. It was demolished in 1958 to eventually make way for the Ladywell housing scheme which was built on the site from 1961–1964 and stands till this day.[1] The only remaining structure of Duke Street Prison is some of the boundary wall[2]

A total of 12 judicial executions by hanging were carried out at the prison between 1902 and 1928. All those executed had been convicted of the crime of murder. The list of executed criminals includes the last woman to be executed in Scotland and at the time the first in over 50 years[3] who was hanged after being convicted of strangling a paper boy. The others were:-

Execution date Condemned prisoner Murder victim
12/11/1902 Patrick Leggett Sarah Jane Leggett
26/07/1904 Thomas Gunning Agnes Allen
14/11/1905 Pasha Liffey Mary Jane Welsh
16/05/1917 Thomas McGuiness Alexander Imlach
11/11/1919 James Adams Mary Doyle (Kane)
26/05/1920 Albert James Fraser Henry Senior
26/05/1920 James Rollins Henry Senior
21/02/1922 William Harkness Elizabeth Benjamin
10/10/1923 Susan Newell John Johnstone[3]
24/09/1925 John Keen Noorh Mohammed
24/01/1928 James McKay Agnes Arbuckle
03/08/1928 George Reynolds Thomas Lee

Photographs from 1955 onward taken by the camera clubs of the time have been on display throughout Glasgow and are now part of the Glasgow Museums collection.


  1. ^ Memories: Duke Street Ladywell Housing and it rained in 1957, Evening Times]], 12 January 2016
  2. ^ Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches & Malcolm Higgs, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow. London: Penguin Books 1990. ISBN 0-14-071069-8
  3. ^ a b Forensic Medicine Archives Project : Glasgow University Archive Services