HM Prison Shrewsbury “The Dana” – Our Visit
As a child growing up I lived within only a couple of miles of prison, never really ventured near it or past it as it was off the beaten track. But frequent trips to Preston would mean we passed by HMP Preston, I’d see people coming or going, visiting. It never failed to catch my eye. I’d always want to know what happens in a prison and what they look like (and not from a TV box when watching a soap).
Now I live in Shropshire, only about 20 miles away from Shrewsbury. Of which back in 2012 the towns HM Prison Shrewsbury (nicknamed The Dana Prison) closed down, its since opened it’s doors to visitors. It offers self-guided tours, tours hosted by a previous prison guard who worked there and even prison breaks.
Before the recent half-term I came across an entry deal for self-guided tours so early on a Sunday morning we set out to Shrewsbury to see what “Dana Prison” was all about.
Our Visit To “The Dana”
Upon our entry, there was a small reception area with a gift shop. We gained our tickets, a map to help us navigate our way around and headed off.
Following the self-guided map we headed off to the Reception of the prison, this area was used for entry/exit for prisoners. Here their details would be processed. They would then be searched and assessed for health, social and psychological issues and placed in a holding cell. From there they would be transferred to their cell.
Next up on our tour was the A-Wing, where prisoners would be held for the duration of their stay. There are 4 floors to this area and so many cells, initially when built-in 1868 it was designed to hold 1 prisoner per cell, but as the demand grew prisoners were doubled per cell. It was surprising how little space there actually was in a cell, it must have felt ever so cramped when the cells were doubled up.
Within the A-Wing there is a segregation area, where prisoners would be moved to if they broke rules. There is an additional strip cell for the most violent prisoners, where they would be stripped down and put in a zoot suit for up to an hour for them to calm down enough to be moved to a general segregation cell.
Further around our walk of the A-Wing, there were examples of what prisoners would get up to during time out of their cells with games tables etc.
We even came across the cell in relation to the name on the file in Reception! I knew I recognised the name somewhere and it was bugging me. This cell was used during filming for Holby City, where Ric Griffin was imprisoned back in Jan 2018 for medical manslaughter.
Other popular inmates for filming purposes have been Jack P Shepherd (David Platt of Coronation Street) in 2019. Again in 2020, on the final episode of ITV’s Bancroft when DCI Elizabeth Bancroft is sent down at the end of the episode.
Another area of the A-Wing includes Healthcare, of which prisoners would collect their required medication. This area would be supervised by two officers to allow for medication to be taken under supervision, a frequent medication was detox to help prisoners with drug addictions. There is also a cell converted for palliative care.
A Wing Yard
The yard was open to prisoners for 1 hour per day, from 7.30 pm. The yard is close to the perimeter fence so there was a high fence with netting which would prevent things from being thrown over the walls.
Prisoners were paid to be chefs in the kitchen, this job only available to the most trusted and paid £14 per week. Dietary requirements were catered for and HM Prison Shrewsbury was recognised for having the best prison food in the country. Today it is a cafe, so we were able to grab a hot drink and a snack whilst on our tour.
Initially, the C Wing was built for female prisoners, to keep them separate from male prisoners. The wing is single sided so the prisoners are not able to converse with the other wing. Eventually, the wing was changed to house the VP’s (vulnerable prisoners). This area only holds 43 prisoners and cells hold a similar resemblance to the A-Wing.
Like the A-Wing, there is a C-Wing yard which was used by female prisoners for hanging laundry and again used later by VP’s.
The Hang Room
Initially, hangings at The Dana were conducted outdoors, by the main gate where public executions could take place. Then from April 1868 executions took place within the hanging room. HM Prison Shrewsbury has a long history of hangings, there are notice boards within this room of prisoners who were hung, their crime and their executioner who carried out the processed. (A Picture of the original hanging room layout is at the end of the slideshow).
Every prison has a visiting area, prisoners were granted a number of visits per month depending on their behaviour. Visits would last between 50 minutes to 2 hours. Around the room are facts about how visits would take place, including the use of personal possessions, embracing prisoners, exceptions made for children visiting etc. There is a separate area for seeing prisoners who are not granted physical meetings and would need to communicate through a window.
Random Facts About “The Dana”
- The prison was initially built in 1791 of which some of the Georgian prison still remains below the current buildings which were built-in 1868. The redesign of The Dana was constructed by Thomas Telford.
- Originally HM Prison Shrewsbury was designed to hold only 171 prisoners, one person per cell.
- Capacity was doubled with the introduction of double cells meaning that up to 350 prisoners could be held. At most, The Dana held 450 prisoners.
Today we went to Shrewsbury prison and we saw 171 cells. We also saw lots of other rooms like the governor’s office, the gatehouse, the prison museum, the hang room, the kitchen, the courtyard and much more. I felt scared when I went into the mortuary room and it looks a bit creepy but I still went in. I wouldn’t like to live there because it looks dirty, gross and scary.
**This is not a collaborative post. We paid for our own entry to HM Prison Shrewsbury and I chose to write about our day. All words and opinions are my own.