Shrewsbury Prison

Shrewsbury Prison 1961

A Hanging in 1961

I had a walk yesterday with Harriet past Shrewsbury Prison in Howard Road and took a photo of the main gate, where in 1961 there was an uproar as protesters gathered outside to try and prevent the hanging of George Riley. He was thought innocent by many towns folk of the murder of Adeline Mary Smith who was a 62-year-old widow and who lived in Westlands Road in Shrewsbury. He was only 21 and the last to be executed there.

Harriet said that the Victorian building was spooky and gave her the shivers to think of all the men inside doing time so close to her house, albeit across the river from her, but I thought it a very beautiful and yet austere building.

It is on a hill and dominates the surrounding area, purposely so I imagine, to instill a sense of foreboding and a reminder to anyone tempted to break the law. The Dana, as it is more locally known, has been the site of a goal from several hundred years, dating back to 1793. There is a bust of John Howard, the prison reformer above the entrance way. John Howard is a historic hero of mine. I read a biography on him a year or so ago and was greatly impressed how at the age of sixty something he rode up and down the English and Welsh countryside on horse back, and later in Europe in his great survey of the state of the prisons. He was horrified at the conditions he found them in and tried his best to improve them for the poor souls who were locked up in utterly inhumane conditions, many who were there for simply steeling a bread roll or having some bad debts.

Walking past the prison, which in 2004 was deemed to be the most over crowded prison in England, it was gratifying to be made aware of my liberty, which many of us, me included, often take for granted.

August 29th, 2010 by