HM Prison Manchester

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HMP Manchester
Location Strangeways, Manchester
Security class Adult Male/Category A
Population 1269 (as of August 2008)
Opened 1868
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor Terry Williams
Website Manchester at

HM Prison Manchester (commonly known as Strangeways) is a high-security male prison in Manchester, England, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. It is a local prison, holding prisoners remanded into custody from courts in the Manchester area and Category A prisoners (those whose escape would be highly dangerous).

Strangeways was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and opened in 1868 alongside the now destroyed Manchester Assize Courts. The prison is known for its prominent ventilation tower and imposing design, structured by the principles of the separate system.

HM Prison Manchester was known as Strangeways, after the area in which it is located, until it was rebuilt following a major riot in 1990 and is still commonly referred to as such.


Strangeways ventilation tower

Construction of the Grade II listed prison was completed in 1869, and it was opened on 25 June 1868, to replace the New Bailey Prison in Salford, which closed in 1868. The prison, designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1862 with input from Joshua Jebb,[1] cost £170,000, and had a capacity of 1,000 inmates. Its 234 feet (71 m) ventilation tower (often mistaken for a watchtower) has become a local landmark.[2] The prison's walls, which are rumoured to be 16 feet thick, are said to be impenetrable from either inside or out.

The prison has an element of the separate system with its plan in the form of a star or a snowflake, with two blocks housing ten wings that emanate from a central core where the watchtower is situated.[3] The prison consists of two radial blocks branching from the central core with a total of ten wings (A, B, C, D, E, F in one block, and G, H, I, K in the second).[4]

The jail was built on the grounds of Strangeways Park and Gardens, from which it was named. Strangeways was recorded in 1322 as Strangwas from the Anglo-Saxon Strang and gewæsc meaning "[a place by] a stream with a strong current".

The prison was open to male and female prisoners until 1963 when the facility became male-only, and in 1980 it began to accept remand prisoners. As of 2005 the prison held more than 1,200 inmates.

As a place of execution[edit]

Overlooking Manchester Arena and the old Boddingtons tower to Strangeways.

Originally, the prison contained an execution shed in B wing and after World War I a special execution room and cell for the condemned criminal was built. Strangeways was one of the few prisons to have permanent gallows.[2] The first execution at Strangeways was that of twenty-year-old murderer Michael Johnson who was hanged by William Calcraft on 29 March 1869.[5]

Twenty-nine hangings took place over the next twenty years and 71 took place in the 20th century, bringing the total number to 100. During the second half of the century, the number of executions decreased, with no hangings between 1954 and 28 November 1962, when James Smith was executed. John Robson Walby (alias Gwynne Owen Evans), one of the last two people to be hanged in England, was executed here on 13 August 1964. Out of the 100 hangings, four were double hangings, while the rest were done individually. The "quickest hanging" of James Inglis in seven seconds, carried out by Albert Pierrepoint, took place here.[6]

Other executions[edit]

  • John Jackson was executed on 7 August 1879.
  • Mary Ann Britland (38) was executed on 9 August 1886 for the murder of two family members and her neighbour. She was the first woman to be executed at the prison.
  • Thom Davies was hanged on 9 January 1889 for sexual deviancy charges.
  • Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt was hanged on 13 April 1920 for the murder of twenty-six-year-old Kathleen Breaks.
  • Louie Calvert was hanged on 24 June 1926.[2]
  • Doctor Buck Ruxton was executed on 12 May 1936 for the murder of his wife. A petition for clemency was signed by 10,000 people, both sympathetic locals with high regard for this "people's doctor" and abolitionists who mounted a large demonstration on the day of his execution.
  • Margaret Allen was hanged on 12 January 1949 by Albert Pierrepoint for the murder of an elderly widower. Her execution was the first of a woman in Britain for twelve years.[2] and the third execution of a woman at Strangeways.
  • After the seven second hanging, Albert Pierrepoint executed Louisa May Merrifield on 18 September 1953. She was the fourth and last woman to be executed at the prison.[7][8]

The bodies of executed criminals were buried in unmarked graves within the prison walls, as was the custom. During prison rebuilding work in 1991, the remains of 63 executed prisoners (of which 45 were identifiable) were exhumed from unmarked graves in the prison cemetery[9] and cremated at Blackley Crematorium in Manchester. The cremated remains were re-interred in two graves (plot C2710 and C2711) at the adjacent cemetery.[10][11]

The following people were hanged at Manchester Prison between 1869 and 1964.

  1. Michael Johnson for the murder of Patrick Nurney March 29, 1869
  2. Patrick Durr for the murder of his wife, Catherine December 26, 1870.
  3. Michael Kennedy for the murder of his wife, Ann December 30, 1872
  4. William Flanagan alias Robinson for the murder of Margaret Dockerty December 21, 1876
  5. John M'Kenna for the murder of his wife, Annie March 27, 1877
  6. George Pigott for the murder of Florence Galloway February 4, 1878
  7. James McGowan for the murder of his wife November 19, 1878
  8. William Cooper for the murder of Ellen Mather May 20, 1879
  9. William Cassidy for the murder of his wife, Rosemary Ann February 17, 1880
  10. John Aspinall Simpson for the murder of Ann Ratcliffe November 28, 1881
  11. Robert Templeton for the murder of Betty Scott February 13, 1882
  12. Abraham Thomas for the murder of Christiana Leigh*** February 12, 1883
  13. Thomas Riley for the murder of Elizabeth Alston** November 26, 1883
  14. Kay Howarth (a male) for the murder of Richard Dugdale November 24, 1884
  15. Harry Hammond Swindells for the murder of James Wild November 24, 1884
  16. Mary Ann Britland for the murders of daughter Elizabeth, husband Thomas and Mary Dixon August 9, 1886
  17. Thomas Leatherbarrow for the murder of Katherine Quinn February 15, 1887
  18. Walter Wood for the murder of his wife, Emma* May 30, 1887
  19. John Alfred Gell for the murder of Mary Miller May 15, 1888
  20. John Jackson (Charles Firth) for the murder of Ralph D Webb August 7, 1888
  21. William Dukes for the murder of George Gordon December 24, 1889
  22. Alfred William Turner for the murder of Mary Ellen Moran May 19, 1891
  23. Joseph Mellor for the murder of his wife, Mary Jane December 20, 1892
  24. Emanuel Hamar for the murder of Catherine Tyrer November 28, 1893
  25. William Crossley for the murder of Mary Ann Allen July 31, 1894
  26. James Wilshaw Whitehead for the murder of his wife November 27, 1894
  27. Joseph Hurst for the murder of his daughter, Maud Goddard August 4, 1896
  28. George William Howe for the murder of Joseph Keirby Pickup February 22, 1898
  29. Michael Dowdle for the murder of his wife ,Ellen December 6, 1899
  30. Joseph Holden for the murder of his grandson, John Dawes December 4, 1900
  31. Patrick M'Kenna for the murder of his wife, Anna December 3, 1901
  32. Henry Mack* for the murder of Esther Elizabeth Bedford or Thompson December 2, 1902
  33. William George Hudson for the murder of Harry Short May 12, 1903
  34. Charles Whittaker for the murder of Eliza Range December 2, 1903
  35. John Griffiths for the murder of Catherine Garrity February 27, 1906
  36. John Ramsbottom for the murder of James McCraw May 12, 1908
  37. Fred Ballington for the murder of his wife, Ellen July 28, 1908
  38. Mark Shawcross for the murder of Emily Ramsbottom August 3, 1909
  39. Joseph Wren for the murder of John Collins February 22, 1910
  40. Walter Martyn for the murder of Edith Griffiths December 12, 1911
  41. John Edward Tarkenter for the murder of his wife, Rosetta December 12, 1911
  42. Arthur Birkett for the murder of Alice Beetham July 23, 1912
  43. James Ryder for the murder of his wife, Ann August 13, 1913
  44. Ernest Edwin Kelly for the murder of Daniel Wright Bardsley December 17, 1913
  45. Fred Holmes for the murder of Sarah Woodall March 8, 1916
  46. Reginald Haslam for the murder of Isabella Holmes Conway March 29, 1916
  47. James Howarth Hargreaves for the murder of Caroline McGhee December 19, 1916
  48. Thomas Clinton for the murder of Henry Lynch. March 21, 1917
  49. William Rooney for the murder of his sister in law, Mary Rooney December 17, 1918
  50. Hyman Perdovitch for the murder of Solomon Franks January 6, 1920
  51. David Caplan for the murder of his wife, Freda January 6, 1920
  52. Frederick Rothwell Holt for the murder of Katherine Elsie Breaks April 13, 1920
  53. William Thomas Aldred for the murder of Ida Prescott June 22, 1920
  54. Charles Colclough for the murder of George Henry Shenton December 31, 1920
  55. Frederick Quarmby for the murder of Christina A Smith April 5, 1921
  56. Thomas Wilson for the murder of Olive Duff May 24, 1921
  57. Hiram Thompson for the murder of his wife, Ellen May 30, 1922
  58. George Frederick Edisbury for the murder of Winifred Drinkwater January 3, 1923
  59. George Perry for the murder of Emma Perry March 28, 1923
  60. Francis Wilson Booker* for the murder of Percy Sharpe April 8, 1924
  61. John Charles Horner for the murder of Norman Widderson Pinchin August 13, 1924
  62. Patrick Power for the murder of Sarah Ann Sykes May 26, 1925
  63. James Makin** for the murder of Sarah Elizabeth Clutton August 11, 1925
  64. Sam Johnson for the murder of Beatrice Philomina Martin December 15, 1925
  65. William Thorpe for the murder of Frances Clarke March 16, 1926
  66. Louie Calvert for the murder of Lilly Waterhouse June 24, 1926
  67. Fred Fielding for the murder of Eleanor Pilkington January 3, 1928
  68. Walter Brooks for the murder of Beatrice Brooks and Alfred Moore June 28, 1928
  69. Chung Yi Miao for the murder of Wai Sheung Yi Miao December 6, 1928
  70. George Cartledge for the murder of his wife, Ellen April 4, 1929
  71. Francis Land for the murder of Sarah Ellen Johnson April 16, 1931
  72. Solomon Stein for the murder of Annie Riley December 15, 1931
  73. George Alfred Rice for the murder of Constance Inman February 3, 1932
  74. Charles James Cowle for the murder of Naomi Annie Farnworth May 18, 1932
  75. William Burtoft for the murder of Frances Levin December 19, 1933
  76. John Harris Bridge for the murder of Amelia Nuttall May 30, 1935
  77. Buck Ruxton for the murder of his wife, Isabelle and Mary Jane Rogerson May 12, 1936
  78. Max Mayer Haslam for the murder of Ruth Clarke February 4, 1937
  79. Horace William Brunt for the murder of Kate Elizabeth Collier August 12, 1937
  80. Charles James Caldwell for the murder of his wife, Elisa Augustine April 20, 1938
  81. Clifford Holmes for the murder of his wife, Irene February 11, 1941
  82. John Smith for the murder of Margaret Helen Knight September 4, 1941
  83. James Galbraith for the murder of James William Percey July 26, 1944
  84. Harold Berry for the murder of Bernard Phillips April 9, 1946
  85. Martin Patrick Coffey for the murder of Harold Dutton April 24, 1946
  86. Walter Graham Rowland for the murder of Olive Balchin February 27, 1947
  87. Margaret*Allen for the murder of Nancy Ellen Chadwick January 12, 1949
  88. James Henry Corbitt for the murder of Eliza Wood November 28, 1950
  89. Nicholas Persoulious Crosby for the murder of Ruth Massey December 19, 1950
  90. Nenad Kovacevic for the murder of Radomir Djorovic January 26, 1951
  91. James Inglis for the murder of Aice Morgan May 8, 1951
  92. John Dand for the murder of Walter Wyld June 12, 1951
  93. Jack Wright for the murder of Mona Mather July 3, 1951
  94. Alfred Bradley for the murder of George Camp January 15, 1952
  95. Herbert Roy Harris for the murder of his wife, Eileen* February 26, 1952
  96. Louisa May Merrifield for the murder of Sarah Ann Rickets September 18, 1953
  97. Stanislaw Juras for the murder of Erena Wagner December 17, 1953
  98. Czeslaw Kowalewski for the murder of Doris Douglas January 8, 1954
  99. James Smith for the murder of Sarah Isabella Cross November 28, 1962
  100. Gwynne Owen Evans for the murder of John Allen West August 13, 1964

Strangeways riots[edit]

Between 1 April and 25 April 1990, 147 staff and 47 prisoners were injured in a series of riots by prison inmates. There was one fatality among the prisoners, and one prison officer died from heart failure.[12] Much of the old prison was damaged or destroyed in the rioting. Several inmates were charged with various offences, and Paul Taylor and Alan Lord faced a five-month trial as ringleaders.

The riots resulted in the Woolf Inquiry, and the prison was rebuilt and renamed Her Majesty's Prison, Manchester. Repair and modernisation cost more than £80 million after the riot, and rebuilding was completed in 1994.[13]

The prison post-1994[edit]

The prison is a high-security category A prison for adult males and has a maximum capacity of 1269 as of 4 August 2008. Operation of the prison was put out to tender in 1994 and 2001.[4] Accommodation is divided into nine wings in two radial blocks. Cells are a mixture of single and double occupancy, all having in-cell power points and integral sanitation.

The prison has been noted for a high suicide rate following its reopening in 1994. From 1993 to 2003, Strangeways prison had the second highest number of suicides among inmates than any other prison in the United Kingdom[14] and 2004, Strangeways had the highest number of suicides in the country.[15]

Education and vocational training is provided by the Manchester College. Courses offered include information technology, ESOL, numeracy, industrial cleaning, bricklaying, painting and decorating, plastering, textiles and laundry. The prison's gym runs courses in physical education and offers recreational sport and fitness programmes.

In 2015 the Daily Telegraph reported that a drone aircraft was being used in an attempt to deliver drugs and smartphones to precise locations within the prison.[16]

Notable inmates[edit]

  • Joey Barton, footballer jailed for assault.[17]
  • Brendan Behan, Irish republican, playwright and poet, imprisoned in Strangeways in 1947 for attempting to free an IRA prisoner.[18]
  • Ian Brady, held for theft prior to the Moors murders.
  • Mark Bridger, held there on remand and now serving a life sentence for the murder and abduction of April Jones. Moved to Wakefield Prison.
  • Ian Brown, musician and singer-songwriter jailed for "air rage". Wrote three songs inside: "Free My Way", "So Many Soldiers", and "Set My Baby Free". Released in December 1999.[19]
  • Dale Cregan, held there on remand whilst awaiting trial for the murders of Mark Short, David Short, Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone. He is also accused of the attempted murders of Michael Belcher, Ryan Pridding John Short and Sharon Hark.[20] He is now serving a life sentence in the prison after being convicted.
  • Emily Davison, Suffragette, sentenced to a month's hard labour in 1909 after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. Hunger strike led to force feeding. Blockaded herself in her cell and sued Strangeways for using a water cannon.
  • David Dickinson, TV presenter specialising in antiques, imprisoned for fraud in pre-celebrity days.[21]
  • James Inglis, the world's fastest hanging.[6]
  • Christabel Pankhurst, suffragette, was held for a week.[1]
  • Gordon Park was convicted in 2005 of murdering his first wife, Carol Park, in 1976.[22]
  • Harold Shipman, held there on remand whilst awaiting trial.[23]

Cultural references[edit]

  • "Strangeways", a track on the 1987 rock album The House of Blue Light by Deep Purple
  • Strangeways, Here We Come, 1987 album by The Smiths.
  • 'Mad' Frankie Fraser (1982) was held on 'A' Wing and excused boots for supposed fallen arches.
  • Eric Allison (1970) went on to be The Guardian Prison Reporter and author of A Serious Disturbance, an account of the Strangeways Riot. A chapter of Eric's book was written by former Strangeways Hospital Officer John G. Sutton.
  • In the song "There Goes a Tenner" from the album The Dreaming, Kate Bush sings of being "a star in Strangeways". The song is about a botched bank robbery.
  • The song "Fallowfield Hillbilly", from the album St. Jude by Manchester band The Courteeners, refers to Strangeways and the type of people that "indie snobs" perceive to be its inmates.
  • "Strangeways Screw" is a track on the album Seriously Disturbed by 2hatjohn with The Clap.
  • In the comic Hellblazer, issue 34 (October 1990), the main character John Constantine refers to Strangeways prison "exploding with [excrement] and blood," and describes its holding cells as "Victorian pressure cookers" into which government officials who turn a blind eye should be squeezed to "see what pops out of [their] pimple."
  • In his poem "Are You the Business?", John Cooper Clarke asks "Is Strangeways full of prisoners?".[24]
  • In the TV series Shameless, Frank Gallagher often refers to his time in Strangeways.
  • In the TV series Beautiful People, Debbie Doonan, who dislikes the police, shouts to an officer "them blokes from Strangeways had the right idea," a reference to the Strangeways Prison riot.
  • Graham Fellows, in his comedic persona of John Shuttleworth, wrote a song that began, "You're like Manchester, you've got strange ways".
  • "Strangeways Hotel", a song by Mike Harding.
  • In the book Pollen by Mancunian author Jeff Noon two of the central characters visit Strangeways in order to speak to a prisoner. The prison has become a "Virtual" (sic) prison, where the inmates are kept locked in drawers on large amounts of a psychoactive drug that puts them into a permanent, pleasant dreamlike state.
  • Strangeways was the name of the "prison cat" in the 1960 movie Two-Way Stretch, a comedy set inside a fictitious Manchester Prison which starred Peter Sellers, Lionel Jefferies and Wilfrid Hyde-White.
  • In an episode of Hancock's Half Hour, Bill Kerr defends Sid James's character with the words - "He's not a criminal - he's just got strange ways."
  • The song "Free My Way" by Ian Brown is about his time serving his two-month sentence at Strangeways. This song was written whilst inside Strangeways, along with "So Many Soldiers", and "Set My Baby Free".


  1. ^ a b "Strangeways Prison, Manchester". Manchester 2002 UK. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Strangeways Prison". Capital Punishment U.K. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Miller, Keith (14 June 2003). "Making the grade: Strangeways". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Manchester". Her Majesty's Prison Service. Archived from the original on May 5, 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Fielding 1994, p. 7
  6. ^ a b Fielding 2008, pp. 239–240
  7. ^ Eddleston 2004, p. 839
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Mass Exhumation". Cherished Land. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  10. ^ "Consistory Court Cases 2007" (PDF). Ecclesiastical Law Society. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "On This Day: 1 April". BBC News. 1 April 1990. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  13. ^ de Leng, Stephanie (12 May 2011). "Life in Strangeways". Liverpool Confidential. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "Shock suicide toll at Strangeways". Manchester Evening News. 29 January 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Prison suicide record condemned". BBC News. 8 February 2005. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  16. ^ Danny Boyle (9 November 2015). "Strangeways prison smugglers crash drone delivering drugs and mobile phones". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  17. ^ "Joey Barton released from prison". BBC News. 28 July 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Letters of Brendan Behan, McGill-Queen's University Press 1992, p. 48
  19. ^ "Articles". Dave Haslam. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  20. ^ Martin Robinson (21 September 2012). "Cregan remanded in custody". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "The Official David Dickinson Website". Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  22. ^ "Vigil for Lady in the Lake killer". BBC News. 28 January 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ For its text visit:
  • Eddleston, John J. (2004). The Encyclopaedia of Executions. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84454-058-8. 
  • Fielding, Steve (1994). The Hangman's Record. Volume One: 1868–1899. Beckenham: Chancery House Press. ISBN 0-900246-65-0. 
  • Fielding, Steve (2008). Pierrepoint: A Family of Executioners. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84454-611-4. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°29′33″N 2°14′47″W / 53.49250°N 2.24639°W / 53.49250; -2.24639