HM Prison Peterhead

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HMP Peterhead
Peterhead Prison 04.JPG
Location Peterhead, Scotland
Status Historical museum
Capacity 152 (February 2012)
Opened 1888
Closed 2013
Managed by Scottish Prison Service
Governor Michael Hebden

HMP Peterhead was a prison in the town of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, operating from 1888 to 2013. Since June 2016 the former grounds operate as the Peterhead Prison Museum.


Peterhead Convict Prison was built around 1888. It was designed to hold 208 prisoners and to be Scotland's only convict prison.[1] Occupancy averaged at around 350 however, until peaking at 455 in 1911.[1] Additional buildings were completed in 1909, 1960 and 1962, bringing capacity up to 362.[1] According to the Scottish Prison Service, the prison can, at this time, accommodate up to 142 prisoners.[2]

It closed in 2013, to be replaced by the new HMP Grampian, the first prison in Scotland to jointly house youths, men and women.[3] The first inmates transferred on to site on 2 March 2014 having been temporarily housed at other sites and connected to family with virtual visits by videolink.[3]

Until the opening of Peterhead Convict Prison, Scots convicts were transported to England to serve their sentences. The first convicts were received in August 1888.

Peterhead supplied the labour force to work in Stirlinghill Quarry and in the Admiralty Yard attached to the prison. These convicts supported the work of a civilian labour force employed by the Admiralty to construct the Harbour of Refuge breakwater.

The Admiralty project was unique in Scotland as it was served by the only state-owned passenger-carrying railway in its day.

On 28 September 1987 a riot in the prison's D wing resulted in prisoners taking over the building and taking a prison officer, 56-year-old Jackie Stuart, hostage. The rioters were serving life in prison for violent crimes. It was thought that they had nothing to lose and would not hesitate to make good on their threats to kill their hostage, whom they had taken up to the rafters. When negotiations broke down, the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, dispatched the SAS to bring the riot to an end on 3 October.[4][5]

Peterhead Prison has a history of poor conditions for prisoners, being referred to as "Scotland's gulag, a prison of no hope."[6] A 2005 inspection reported that electricity had only just been made available in all the cells and slopping out continues at the prison.[7]

HMP Peterhead was a specialist centre for sex offenders,[8] however since the approval of HMP Grampian they have since changed population. Sex offenders are now located in other Scottish prisons.[citation needed]

Talks on replacing the current prison with a new one began in 2006.[9] They were revived in November 2006.[10][11]

Demolition of part of the prison began 13 February 2012, with the opening of the new HMP Grampian planned for winter 2013/14.[12] The prison closed on 6 December 2013.[13]

The new facility is expected to hold about 500 male and female prisoners – both adults and young offenders – from the Northern Community Justice Authority catchment area.[14]

In 2016 Peterhead Prison saw gunmen on the roof tops again - not this time an SAS raid but the filming of a Zombie action Movie called REDCON-1 which was released in early 2017.


  1. ^ a b c Scraton, P., Sim, J. & Skidmore, P. (1991) Prisons Under Protest, Buckingham: Open University Press
  2. ^ Peterhead Prison
  3. ^ a b "BBC News – First inmates at new Grampian prison in Peterhead". BBC News. 
  4. ^ "SAS Operations – Peterhead Prison". Elite UK forces. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  5. ^ McKain, Bruce (23 January 2003). "Government admits the SAS ended Peterhead jail siege". The Herald. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Scraton, P., Sim, J. & Skidmore, P. (1991) Prisons Under Protest, Buckingham: Open University Press pg.14
  8. ^ Peterhead Prison: Granite fortress – Retrieved 31/08/07
  9. ^ "New Peterhead prison is favoured" – BBC News
  10. ^ "New jail could be built on existing site, says Salmond" – This is North
  11. ^ "Superjail Cannot Come Soon Enough" – ThisisNorth, Feb 2008
  12. ^ Peterhead Prison – History
  13. ^ Urquhart, Frank (6 December 2013). "Notorious Peterhead prison closes its doors". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  14. ^ HMP Grampian: Intention to award a contract

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°29′24″N 1°47′14″W / 57.49000°N 1.78722°W / 57.49000; -1.78722