HM Prison Parkhurst

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HMP Parkhurst
LocationParkhurst, Isle of Wight
Security classAdult Male/Category B
Population497 (as of August 2008)
Managed byHM Prison Services
GovernorDoug Graham
WebsiteParkhurst at

HMP Isle of Wight – Parkhurst Barracks is a prison situated in Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.[1]

Isle of Wight prisons[edit]

Parkhurst prison is one of the two prisons that make up HMP Isle of Wight, the other being Albany. Parkhurst and Albany were once amongst the few top-security prisons (called "Dispersals" because they dispersed the more troublesome prisoners rather than concentrating them all in one place) in the United Kingdom, but were downgraded in the 1990s.[1]


The downgrading of Parkhurst was preceded by a major escape: three prisoners (two murderers and a blackmailer) made their way out of the prison on 3 January 1995 to enjoy four days of freedom before being recaptured. One of them, Keith Rose, was an amateur pilot. During those four days, they were living rough in a shed in a garden in Ryde, having failed to steal a plane from the local airclub.[1] A programme entitled Britain's Island Fortress was made about this prison escape for National Geographic Channel's Breakout documentary series.[2]


Parkhurst enjoyed notoriety as one of the toughest jails in the British Isles. Many notable criminals, including the Richardson brothers,[1] the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe,[3] Moors Murderer Ian Brady, Terrance John Clark (Mr Asia Drug Syndicate), and the Kray twins,[4] were incarcerated there. Teacup Poisoner Graham Young died there of a heart attack in 1990.

Early history[edit]

Parkhurst began in 1778 as a military hospital and children's asylum. By 1838, it was a prison for children.[5] 123 Parkhurst apprentices were sent to the Colony of New Zealand in 1842 and 1843,[6] and a total of almost 1500 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 years were sent to various colonies in Australia and New Zealand. Swan River Colony (Western Australia) received 234 between 1842 and 1849, then chose to accept adult convicts as well.[7] Victoria and Tasmania also received Parkhurst Boys, who were always referred to as "apprentices", not "convicts". Prison Governor Captain George Hall employed boys to make bricks to build the C and M block wings onto the building.[6]

Parkhurst became a prison in 1863, holding young male prisoners.[8] Almost from its beginnings as a prison for young offenders, Parkhurst was subject to fierce criticism by the public, politicians and in the press for its harsh regime (including the use of leg irons initially).[9] It became a particular focus of critique for reformers campaigning against the use of imprisonment for children, most notably Mary Carpenter.[10]

Queen Victoria's visit[edit]

On 2 August 1845, Queen Victoria visited Parkhurst and recorded the visit in her journal. "After luncheon we set off in closed carriages for Parkhurst Prison which is beyond Newport, on the Cowes side. Ly Charlemont, Sir James Graham (who stays over Sunday) & the Equerries went us. Parkhurst is a prison for Juvenile offenders, all boys, to the number of 600, & it is divided into 2 completely separate Wards. The buildings are of red brick, cased with stone & are very capacious. We 1rst went into the ward, in which are the boys from the ages of 12 to 18, & visited the Dining Hall, in which all the poor boys were ranged in rows, who sang "God save the Queen". From here we went to the Chapel & School & saw the cells where the boys are kept in solitary confinement, — very lonely, without any look out. Here they are placed for the 1rst month or 2 after their arrival, & these cells are recurred to whenever the boys behave ill. They go to school & sit in their seats, without even seeing each other, & when they meet, they dare not speak. At the present moment there are 5 boys imprisoned in this part. We afterwards saw them at school, & heard them being examined, & sing. We next went to see the younger boys, & hear them also examined & sing. They receive a most admirable education, even scientific, & we saw them at work, tailoring. They make all their own clothes. The younger boys were much more pleasing to look upon, the older one, giving one the painful impression, of real criminals. We were all struck by their being the plainest set of boys we had ever seen, — really frightful & we were told that this is the case with all children of a criminal class. The unbecoming grey prison dress, & cropped hair, naturally adds to this appearance. The knowledge that the children are forever lost to their Parents is supposed to have a salutary effect upon the criminal population & to act a deterrent from leading their children into crime. The Governor, Capt: Hall, a very intelligent young man says that the poor children generally have a very strongly developed filial feeling even where their parents have been the cause of their guilt. I asked that the most deserving boy, in each ward, should be pardoned. It was a most interesting experience, & I earnestly hope that the Institution may continue to do very beneficial work".

Name change[edit]

In October 2008, it was announced that the name Parkhurst could be lost, along with the two other prison names, Albany and Camp Hill. The three would become part of one large prison run by a single governor. New names for the larger single prison that were suggested included HMP Solent, HMP Mountbatten and HMP Vectis.[11] HMP Isle of Wight was later selected as the new name for the super prison incorporating all three island prisons.[12] In 2013 Camp Hill prison was closed.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d "Parkhurst Prison – Eric Mason homepage". Archived from the original on 22 October 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  2. ^ "Britain's Island Fortess". Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Peter Sutcliffe: The Yorkshire Ripper – The aftermath". Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  4. ^ "The Kray twins at Parkhurst Prison". Retrieved 8 December 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ "PARKHURST PRISON". Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b Anthony G. Flude (2003). "CONVICTS SENT TO NEW ZEALAND! The Boys from Parkhurst Prison". Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Convict Records". State Records office of Western Australia. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Isle of Wight Prison information". Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom). Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  9. ^ Hagell A and Hazel N (2001) 'Macro and micro patterns in the development of secure custodial institutions for serious and persistent young offenders in England and Wales.' Youth Justice 1, 1, 3–16
  10. ^ Carpenter, Mary (1851). Reformatory Schools: For the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes and for Juvenile Offenders. London: C. Gilpin. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  11. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press – "Parkhurst name set to disappear"". Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press – "Prisons to become HMP Isle of Wight"". Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press - "Service marks the end of Camp Hill prison"". Retrieved 19 April 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°42′55″N 1°18′30″W / 50.71528°N 1.30833°W / 50.71528; -1.30833