Shepton Mallet Prison

Shepton Mallet Prison

Shepton Mallet Prison is one of the most haunted prisons in the world

Shepton Mallet Prison, also known as Cornhill, has a rich history dating back to its construction in 1610-1625 after King James I decreed that all counties should have jails.

It was the country’s oldest operating jail when it closed in 2013. It is now considered one of the world’s most haunted prisons.

History of Shepton Mallet Prison

Shepton Mallet Prison, also known as Cornhill or The Mallet, dates back to 1625 when it housed its first inmates following the Bridewell Act of 1610 during the reign of King James I.

Initially established as a House of Correction, the prison has been both a civilian and a military ‘glasshouse’ throughout its long history that spans over four centuries.

Prisoners in the 17th century lived a miserable existence here and were not necessarily separated by the seriousness of the crime committed.

Single cells housed up to fourteen prisoners and could be a mix of men, women, and children. Cell life expectancy could be as little as three months as diseases such as gaol fever spread quickly in squalid conditions.

Conditions improved in the 1800s during the reform of the prison system. The Victorians began building new prisons and expanding those not fit for purpose. Shepton Mallet and the Victorian prison at Lincoln Castle are examples of the work undertaken.

During the reformation of the prison system, hard labor and the separate system were introduced, often keeping prisoners alone in a single cell in complete silence.

The prison population started to decline in the early 1900s, and the decision was taken to close the prison in 1930.

At the start of World War Two, the prison reopened as a British Military prison, known as the Glasshouse, before it was commandeered as an American military detainment center. It housed over 700 US servicemen accused of committing heinous crimes on British soil.

Of these prisoners, 18 were executed, including ten black and 3 Hispanic inmates, when the army was 90% white.

Sixteen prisoners were executed in the hanging shed built by the Americans in 1942. It is one of the most haunted places in the prison. The firing squad also killed two.

When the Americans left Shepton Mallet at the war’s end, the prison reverted to a British military prison. At the end of 1952, the infamous London gangsters, the Kray Twins, were incarcerated here.

It reverted to a Civilian prison in 1966 before being reroled as a Category C prison in 2001.

Shepton Mallet was decommissioned for a final time in March 2013. The remaining inmates were transferred to other jails, but it is believed a number of ghostly inmates never left.

Shepton Mallet Prison Ghosts

Shepton Mallet Prison is widely recognised as the most haunted prison in the world, and paranormal activity was rife even when the prison was operational.

In the 1970s, the Home Office launched a three-day investigation as several prison officers refused to work the night shift, and prisoners began feeling uneasy in their cells after dark.

Reports of shadow figures and disembodied voices are common, while booted footsteps can be heard pacing the wings of this sprawling complex.

The sweet smell of perfume has also been reported to waft through A wing. This smell is attributed to the most famous ghost in the prison, the White Lady. It is believed she killed her husband and was held in the jail before being sentenced to death.

As part of her final request, she wore her wedding dress on the eve of her execution. The following morning, officers found her lifeless body on the bed. It is thought she died of a broken heart, and her spirit is often seen aimlessly wandering through the wings.

Another spirit said to haunt Shepton Mallet is the supposed spirit of an executed serviceman, Private Lee Davis. Davis was executed for rape and murder while the prison was run as an American Military detainment center in 1943.

His presence has often been felt in the condemned cell and Hanging Shed, where he lost his life. Shepton Mallet prison tour guide, Paul Toole, claimed his hand was ‘burnt‘ by the spook while giving a group a guided tour of the condemned cell area.

The courtyard is also a hotbed for paranormal activity. A lady wearing a hooded cloak is often seen before disappearing into thin air.

Visiting Shepton Mallet Prison

Located in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the prison is open for tours and visits from Monday to Sunday between 10 am and 5 pm. You can purchase tickets for prison tours below.

    Shepton Mallet Prison also offers ghost tours for those interested in exploring the paranormal in the most haunted jail in the world. These tours take visitors through the prison at night, guided by experienced tour guides.

    Address: Shepton Mallet Prison, Frithfield Lane, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 5FQ

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