Welcome to the
History of Shepton Mallet Prison

Crimes, criminals and prisons eternally fascinate. These rather than politics provide the journalist tabloids and as will be seen in the following chapters, are a particularly modern order of preference Indeed our fashionable newspapers expand their pages with crime, and even the moderately lurid incident fills the courts with spectators.

My first book, Heritage of a Prison, proved this point. It brought floods of interest with numerous people offering more relevant material.  It was so successful that it was printed for a total of 3 editions

It is my pleasure and aim for this new updated Book to give its readers an absorbing guide to events and conditions pertaining to Shepton Mallet Prison throughout its chequered career of four hundred years, which now includes articles up to the date of closure. Most of the essays collected here reflect this historiographical progression.

Many of the original seventeenth century records on Shepton Mallet Gaol seem to have disappeared into oblivion, but those that have survived give a true illustration of the administration of those early times.

All the facts, figures and names that I have researched are, to the best of my belief, authentic and only relate to, or have connections with, Shepton Mallet Prison.

Other penal establishments may profess to have histories of a more dramatic nature, but the readers of this hook will find none more so than this the oldest prison in the country, on its original site, and in full occupation at this present time.

I am greatly indebted to the very many sources of information that make this publication possible. In particular my profound gratitude is expressed to the Prison Department, Governors, Civil and Military personnel, the American Archives, the local and national Press, and the Public Records Office at Taunton and London.

I sincerely hope that the varied contents of this work will prove of immense interest in the form of entertainment, knowledge and academic use; and will show how Shepton Mallet Prison has changed over the years in the treatment and care of those sentenced by the courts.


Francis J. Disney, B.E.M., I.S.M..
1st June 2001.