Ancestry UK

Visit a Prison Museum!

Although The Prison Website provides a vast amount of information about prisons, there's nothing like exploring a real prison building to get a first-hand idea of what they were like. The best way to do this is to visit one of the museums now housed in a former prison.

Always check current opening details with each museum when planning a visit.

ENGLAND - arranged by county
Buckingham Old Gaol
Market Hill, Buckingham MK18 1JX. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1280 823020. Open Mon-Sat 10am-4pm (last entry 3.30pm). Admission charge.
Explore the cells that housed murderers, counterfeiters, poachers and thieves. Find out who attempted risky escapes, and who didn't survive to tell the tale.
Bodmin Jail
Berrycoombe Road, Bodmin, Cornwall PL31 2NR. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1208 76292. Open daily 9.30am-6.30pm (last entry 4.30pm). Pre-booked tickets only. Admission charge.
Includes an immersive 'Dark Walk' experience, naval prison wing, administration block and hanging pit. Guided and self-guided tours available.
Dartmoor Prison Museum
Princetown, Devon PL20 6RR. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1822 322130. Open daily 9.30am-4.30pm (4pm Fri/Sun). Admission charge.
Housed in part of the notorious Dartmoor Prison, displays included the history of the institution, famous prisoners and escapes, prison uniforms, weapons and memorabilia.
Gloucester Prison Museum
Barrack Square, Gloucester, Gloucestershire GL1 2JN. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)330 1118227. Guided tours only - check website for dates and times.
Tours visit all parts of prison. Also regular events such as ghost hunting. Some tours are not suitable for under-14s.
Littledean Jail
Littledean, Nr. Cinderford, Gloucestershire GL14 3NL. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1594 826659. Was closed due to Covid - check website for updates.
Displays include 'Crime Through Time', 'The Nazi SS and the Holocaust', witchcraft, capital punishment, police and crime memorabilia Not suitable for children or those easily offended or of a sensitive nature.
Lancaster Castle Prison
Castle Parade, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1YN. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1524 64998. Site open daily 9.30am-5pm. Interior viewing by 60-minute guided tours only (10am-4pm, no pre-booking).
See the male and female penitentiaries, debtors' prison, male felons' tower, executioner's yard and Crown court (unless in session).
Lincoln Castle Prison
Castle Square, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN1 3AA. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1522 554559. Open daily 10am-4pm (5pm during British Summer Time). Timed entrance slot for prison etc. Online pre-booking advised.
Visit a prison designed to implement the 'separate' system with prisoners kept in separate cells fitted with a sink, toilet, hammock and equipment for labour. The chapel, with its partitioned pews, is a unique survivor of its type.
Clink Prison Museum
1 Clink St, London SE1 9DG. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)20 7403 0900. Open daily 10.00am-6.00pm. Admission charge.
Dating from 1144, The Clink was one of England's earliest prisons, though very little of the original building remains. Displays include archaeological artefacts and handle old-style torture devices.
National Justice Museum
High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)115 952 0555. Open Mon/Fri/Sat/Sun 10.00am-5.00pm (may vary in school holidays). Admission charge.
Based in former county gaol and courtroom. 'Through real spaces, real objects and real stories, we explore the impact justice and the law has on you, your community and society.'
Shrewsbury Prison
The Dana, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2HP. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1743 343100. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission charge.
Bills itself as 'The World's Most Interactive Prison'. Special features included underground tunnel tour and escape room. Guided and self-guided tours available.
Shepton Mallet Prison
Frithfield Lane, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 5LU. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1749 681862. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission charge.
Showcasing four hundred years of prison life at Shepton Mallet, you can also see authentic items which belonged to officers and prisoners, as well as displays on the historic market town. Guided and self-guided tours available.
Prison and Police Museum
St. Marygate, Ripon HG4 1LX. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1765 690799. Open Tuesday-Sunday 1pm-4pm (11am-4pm in school holidays). Admission charge.
Housed in the former Ripon Liberty prison, the museum includes a look at policing from the Anglo-Saxons onwards, as well as an exhibition in the prison cells about life in a Victorian prison.
York Castle Prison
Eye of York, York YO1 9RY. (website)
Tel:+44 (0)1904 687687. Open daily 9.30am-5pm. Admission charge.
The museum, which occupies the 18th century female prison debtors' prison, forms part of York Castle Museum, which also looks at many aspects of life in historic York and has a reconstructed Victorian street.
Beaumaris Gaol
Bunker's Hill, Beaumaris, Anglesey LL58 8EP. (website)
Tel: +44 (0)1248 810921. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission charge.
See the gaol's condemned cell and experience the darkness of the punishment cell. Also pay a visit to the Court House Museum, on the A545 very close to Beaumaris Castle.
Ruthin Gaol
Clwyd Street, Ruthin, Denbighshire LL15 1HP. (website)
Tel: +44 (0)1824 708281. Open 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday, April-September. Admission charge.
The only purpose-built Pentonville-style prison open to the public as a heritage attraction. Learn about the Victorian prison system and how the prisoners lived their daily lives. Explore the cells including the punishment, 'dark' and condemned cell.
Peterhead Prison Museum
South Road, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire AB42 2ZX. (website)
Tel: +44 (0)1779 581060. Open daily 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct), 10am-4pm (Nov-Mar). Last entry 90 mins before closing. Admission charge.
Audio tour covers the cells, halls, kitchen, laundry, barber's shop, booking in area and shower block, and hear about the 'A Frame' used to give inmates 10-20 of the "lash" from 1888-1939. Then enter the court room and punishment block, before stepping into the 'silent cell' then across the former exercise yard and into the hospital.
Crumlin Road Gaol
53-55 Crumlin Road, Belfast BT14 6ST. (website)
Tel: +44 (0)28 9074 1500. Open 10.30am-3.20pm (Sun-Thu), 10.30am-6.20pm (Fri-Sat). Admission charge (online booking discounts).
Explore The gaol basement and tunnel, holding cells, gaol circle, C-Wing, the condemned cell, the hangman's cell, the graveyard etc. Guided and self-guided tours available.
Kilmainham Gaol
Museum Visitor Centre, Kilmainham Courthouse, Inchicore Road, Kilmainham, Dublin D08 RK28. (website)
Tel: +353 1 4535984. Open daily approx 9.30am-5.30pm (varies slightly through year). Free. Admission by pre-booked tour ticket only.
Kilmainham Gaol symbolises Irish militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. Leaders of various rebellions were held and in some cases executed here. Convicts from many parts of Ireland were held here prior to transport ion to Australia.