Prison is one of the most famous in the country. It has been the home
of some of Britain's most infamous criminals over the years, including
Rose West, Myra Hindley, the Kray twins, John McVicar and Frankie Fraser.
It is also the resting place of a number of men and women executed and
buried in its grounds. Durham has had a number of prisons built within
the city walls over the years and the current prison is one of the city's
best known landmarks.
the building of the present Durham Prison there were two prisons in
the city. One was the County Gaol in Saddler Street and the second was
the old Bridewell or House of Correction which was built under Elvet
Gaol was owned by the Bishop of Durham and was rebuilt in Saddler Street
in the early 15th century. It was enlarged in 1773 but was still very
cramped. It was visited by a number of concerned individuals over time.
This included John Howard, the leading prison reform campaigner, who
made repeated visits because he was convinced that the gaoler was trying
to cover up the bad conditions that prisoners lived in. Another reformer,
James Neild, published his findings in the Gentleman's Magazine
of 1805. As well as witnessing the primitive conditions of Durham Gaol,
Neild also recounted how his visit nearly cost him his life. He had
nearly fallen down a deep shaft whilst exploring a dungeon and he was
only saved when his coat caught on a nail. Needless to day, Neild was
not impressed by his experience! Durham Gaol was also visited by Joseph
Gurney and Elizabeth Fry as part of their tour of prisons of England