Ancestry UK

Swinfen Hall Borstal / Detention Centre, Lichfield, Staffordshire

In 1955, despite considerable local opposition, the Prison Commissioners purchased Swinfen Hall, a 100-room mansion standing in 200 acres of parkland, two miles to the south of Lichfield, for use as a secure Borstal Institution. It was intended to accommodate about 175 boys aged 16 to 21.

Between 1959 and 1963, major new building works included the construction of three three-storey Y-shaped blocks attached to a long service block running alongside the parade ground. Security measures included steel doors, uncuttable bars at all its windows, and a twelve-foot chain-link perimeter fence, topped withcoiled barbed wire. For a while, part of the old mansion was used as officers' accommodation. The total cost of the scheme was £570,000. The borstal finally opened its doors in January 1963.

Despite its security features, escapes from the institution were a regular occurrence. In June 1964, it was reported that since its opening 31 inmates had escaped, although all were subsequently recaptured.

In October 1964, the site became a Detention Centre for Senior Boys, then in 1972 was redesignated as a Young Offenders Institution for boys aged 17 to 21.

In the 1980s, after years of standing empty, the old house and some surrounding land was sold off. In 1984, a luxury hotel was opened in the building, though was closed in 2024.

Swinfen Hall currently receives young offenders (aged 18-28) serving terms between four years and life. The prison also holds 'Category C' prisoners serving terms over four years. Prisoners are housed in nine wings, in single-cell accommodation.


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  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
  • GOV.UK - UK Government's information on sentencing, probation and support for families.