Talk:HM Prison Shepton Mallet

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Date of founding: 1610 or 1625?[edit]

There is some debate whether the prison was founded in 1610 or 1625. Various modern sources (eg the HM Chief Inspector report from 2008 referred to in the main article) quote 1610. In his comprehensive history, Francis Disney says that it was in 1610 that the prison was "envisaged", but he then goes on to quote the following Deed of Sale between Rev Edward Barnard and various Justices of the Peace and local notables (emphasis added):

This indenture made May 5th., in the 1st. year of Charles 1., 1625, between Edward Barnard of Stowey, clerk, and Annie his wife and Thomas Stowell of Batcombe, gentleman: and Sir Hugh Smith of Longe Ayshton, knight, Thomas Smith his son and heyre apparent, Sir Edward Rodney of Rodney Stoke, knight, William Rodney his son and heir apparent, Sir John Homer of Mells, knight, Thomas Horner, his son and heyre apparent, Charles Barkley of Brewton, knight, Robert Hopton of Witham Frayry, esquire, Ralphe Hopton his son and heir apparent, Thomas Southworth of Wells, esquire, Francis Baber of Chewe Magna, esquire, Edward Baber his son and heir apparent, William Capell of Claverton, esquire, John Maye of Charterhouse Heydon, esquire, Christopher Maye his son and heir apparent, Anthony Stocker of Chilcompton, esquire, John Stocker his son and heir apparent, James Bysse of Batcombe, esquire, James Bysse his son and heir apparent, Richard Cole of Nailesey, esquire, Samuell Cole his son and heir apparent, Edward Teynte of Chelvey, esquire, and Teynte his son and heir apparent, Rice Davies of Tickenham, esquire, and Nathaniel Still of Hulton, esquire, witnesseth that Edward and Anne Barnard and Thomas Stowell for £160 have sold to Sir Hugh Smith, etc., the dwelling-house called Cornehill House in Shepton Mallet and the tenements belonging ... To hold to Sir Hugh Smith, etc., upon special trust that the premises shall be employed for a House of Correction and Bridwell for the benefit of the eastern part of the county ...

— Somerset Enrolled Deeds, page 238, numbered 351

So if Rev Barnard did not sell his land for use as the House of Correction until 1625, I don't think the prison can have been established in 1610. Dmvward (talk) 17:30, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Sorry but I disagree with you. All the other sources state 1610. From what I can gather reading each source the prison was established in 1610. It looks like 1625 is the date a specific building was acquired. Those are two separate things. --TimTay (talk) 05:41, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
I would appreciate others commenting here. As I see it, several primary sources quote 1610 whereas there is speculation that the date may be 1625. If no further evidence is presented to support 1625 then I'm going to change the date back to 1610. --TimTay (talk) 16:50, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
I've looked on the web, but not found anything helpful apart from those already referenced, & in various local history books I have to hand but can't find any definitive answer, but I would place most store by IoE Record which says "Originally built 1610" and repeated on the Somerset Historic Environment Record entry, but I did find the Sheptom Mallet Character Appraisal which says "HM Prison established in 1625". I wonder whether the original building is 1610 but then expanded & made "official HM Prison" in 1625. I'll have a look in the local library tomorrow but on balance the current sources we have point to 1610.— Rod talk 17:29, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
The Oct 08 edition of Shepton Mallet & Wells Warbler (p5) says "In 1610 Cornhill House along with some other buildings was bought from a Reverend Edward Barnard who lived at the nearby village of Stowey. By 1625 the prison was in full use containing men, women and children. Conditions were very harsh with the bare minimum of the poorest quality food.".— Rod talk 17:36, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Rod. I'm in Colorado at the moment so can't pop into my library (which is normally just 100yds from home). HM Prison Service itself has its establishment date as 1610 e.g. here and here.--TimTay (talk) 17:45, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
I've looked at various books on the local history shelves of Shepton Mallet Library and the position appears somewhat confused:
  • Farbrother, John E (1872 (reprinted 1976)). Shepton Mallet: Notes on its History, Ancient, Descriptive and Natural. Somerset County Council. ISBN 0-9503615-3-4.  Check date values in: |date= (help) - page 111 (chapter "The Gaol or County Bridewell"): "It was originally built soon after the passing of the Act in 1610 ..."
  • Barnes, Thomas Garden (1961). Somerset 1625-1640: A County's Government During the Personal Rule. Oxford University Press.  (British Library system number 000205219) - page 182: "Despite the fact that the Shepton Mallet house had been constructed as late as 1625, by the 1630s it was in the endemically ruined state of the Taunton and Ilchester bridewells."
  • Bush, Robin (1994). Somerset: The Complete Guide. The Dovecote Press Ltd. ISBN 1-874336-26-1.  - page 180: "East from the Parish Church behind high grey stone walls stands HM Shepton Mallet Prison, claimed to be the oldest working prison in England still on its original site, first built here as a house of correction in 1625-6."
  • Davis, Fred (2001). Images of England: Around Shepton Mallet. Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-75242197-2.  - page 7: "...oldest working prison in the country, built in 1620 as a House of Correction."
  • Gathercole, Clare (2003). English Heritage Extensive Urban Survey: An archaeological assessment of Shepton Mallet. Culture and Heritage Directorate, Somerset County Council.  - page 16: "Shepton Jail was one of the first prisons built after the passing of the Bridewell Act in 1610."
  • Stone, Alan (2005). Shepton Mallet: a Visible History. Shepton Mallet Local History Group. ISBN 0-9548125-1-4.  - page 14 (quoting the Deed of Sale and Francis Disney's book): "It was in 1625 that an acre of ground was purchased for a House of Correction and Bridewell..."
Insofar as its possible to derive any consensus from that mixture, I would suggest that whilst the prison was built in response to the Act of 1610, it was not built in 1610 itself, as for it to be built within the year shows unlikely alacrity. There were probably long discussions and negotiations amongst the local great and good for some years before anything was decided, and then land/buildings were finally purchased in the early years of the 1620s and the prison established.
But I'm open to other interpretations of the evidence! Dmvward (talk) 12:13, 22 November 2008 (UTC)
A further book I found:
  • Ford, Eric H (1958). Shepton Mallet, Somerset: An Historical and Postal Survey. Limited edition published by the author, Oakhill Press.  (British Library number 001267703) - page 35: "Her Majesy's Prison was built in, or about, 1624 ..."
Dmvward (talk) 11:41, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

"scrap of paper"[edit]

I'm removing, from the list of Public Records evacuated to the prison during WW2, the reference to "the "scrap of paper" signed by Hitler and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at the Munich Conference of September 1938", which seems particularly implausible. (a) This would still have been an "active" document during the war, held by the Foreign Office or similar, and not by the Public Record Office. (b) The term "scrap of paper", although it has occasionally been used in modern times to refer to the Munich Treaty, much more commonly refers to the Treaty of London (1839), which guaranteed the independence of Belgium, and so provided the diplomatic basis for Britain going to war in 1914. That seems more likely to have been the document that went to Shepton Mallet. I've tried to check this out from the PRO end: the official history (Cantwell) confirms the total of 300 tons (I'm adding the reference), but – apart from Domesday Book – doesn't mention specific items. Until anyone can come up with something authoritative, I think it's best to take the reference out. GrindtXX (talk) 00:59, 8 June 2014 (UTC)

Oldest prison[edit]

An IP added a rambling paragraph challenging the claim that (prior to closure) Shepton Mallet was the oldest operational prison, on the grounds that Lancaster Castle was first recorded as being used as a prison in 1196. Britmax rightly reverted, but the IP may have had a point. The key point seems to be that although (like most medieval castles) Lancaster did, among its many functions, hold prisoners, and contained the county gaol from an early date, it did not formally open as a convict prison until 1955. I suspect we need an extra qualifying adjective here, like "the oldest purpose-built operational prison" or "the oldest self-contained operational prison". Any ideas? GrindtXX (talk) 19:59, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

I think the point in the lead is that when it closed it was the oldest operating prison. The IP addition said that "HMP Lancaster Castle which closed in 2011" therefore when Shepton closed it had been "the oldest" for a couple of years.— Rod talk 20:53, 24 December 2014 (UTC)