Report - - H.M.P. Camp Hill - Isle of Wight - March 2018 | Noteworthy Reports | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - H.M.P. Camp Hill - Isle of Wight - March 2018


Regular User


In 2013 the then justice secretary Chris Grayling announced plans to shut seven prisons across England and build a brand spanking new 'SUPER PRISON' to take their place.

The years have gone by, the justice secretary's have changed and yet more jails have been closed with the government planning ever more of these 'SUPER PRISONS' for the future.

The Victorian monoliths, built on prime real estate, are closing.

However, it's all started to go a bit tits up.

The government have run out of money: hell the prisons are the least of their worries right now. But they are still sending ever more people to jail. They figure they'd better hang on to a few of the old sites. Just in case.

So since that first lot of closures little old Camp Hill has been sat there, gathering dust for the last 5 years, but there if it’s needed.

And of course, we fancied a look.

Many pints were drunk. We probably kept the local pub in business chatting about this shit.

We walked around the perimeter.

We tampered with the gates.

But how were we gonna get in?


We watched the security hut and figured out their routines.

We messed around next to the CCTV.

No one came but still, how were we gonna get in?


Imagine you were the security for that place. Been sitting there for 5 years.

Protecting a prison from intruders; Yea it's kinda ironic.

To begin with you'd walk the walls every day.

Check the padlocks.

Survey the site.

But, who's gonna get in?


At night there would be noises.

Gates and doors swinging in the wind.

Birds in the bushes.

You'd have a look, see what's going on.

You are paid to do this shit after all.

But, at the end of the day; who's gonna get in?


After a while you'd start to block things out.

Put those noises down to head tricks.

They're probably just dog walkers.

Who's gonna get in?


Skrink clchulck

The ice axe locks into the fence panel.

ckccckkcckck gckrttttttt

The crampon forks bite into the gap.


The rope slips into the draw on the top of the fence.

"that's it"

The red glow of my head torch dissipates into the mist as I'm sat in a harness clipped into the top of the fence.

drumphhhh dhp drumphppp

Pulling a roll of carpet up on a rope.


And it flops over the razor wire's jagged bite.

The rope drops down and I'm abseiling over the walls of infinite fucking freedom.

Into no man's land. The zone.

Parkhurst was the first Island prison, built in 1778 as a military hospital and children's asylum. By 1838 it was to become a children's prison.

The inmates, known as 'Parkhurst Apprentices' were harshly treated. Leg irons were used routinely on the boys, aged between 12 and 15. Many were convicted of what would now be considered petty offences: picking pockets or stealing a loaf of bread. Over the years almost 1500 of the 'Parkhurst Apprentices' would be bundled onto ships and sent over to the colonies in New Zealand and Australia. Let's hope some found a better life than that which Parkhurst offered.

Parkhurst as it is now came into being in 1863. Public and political outrage had ceased the shipping of inmates to the colonies and new types of penitentiary were being touted.

The Victorians went in with their massive fucking walls and huge cell blocks. Imposing concrete blocks form the walls of these grim fortresses around the country.

By 1908 penal systems were starting to be re-thought again with the Prevention of Crime Act. And this... is where Camp Hill comes in to play.

Preventive detention as opposed to penal servitude was the order of the day; Convicts who had already served three prison sentences could be given additional time in a preventive detention prison. In addition to being punished for their crimes by being incarcerated in prisons, often made to work on treadmills which powered nothing -the prison guards tightening 'screws' to make the work harder, habitual criminals would be locked up for a further term to prevent them from committing other crime, with a focus on rehabilitation.

Inmates from Parkhurst were set to work building a new prison on the site of an old rifle range in 1909 or 1910.

1908 map showing the site of the would be prison

ch 1908.jpg

A much softer approach was to be tried and Camp Hill with it’s gardens, cupola roofed admin block, parish church style chapel and model farm was a testament to this.

1911 plans from the National Archive

“17 Oct 1911 – PARKHURST’S NEW PRISON .. The first block of the new Prison which is being erected at Parkhurst for habitual criminals is making good progress and the first lot of prisoners will, it is expected, be moved in by the beginning of April. Altogether the building will consist of four prison blocks, each to accommodate 50 prisoners, these being of two stories, and new features are that there will be dining halls, where the prisoners will assemble for meals etc., and that the cells will have familiar cottage windows of clear glass, though protected outside by stout steel bars. (Observer)
Originally the prison was planned for just 225 prisoners; as prisoners were to serve their time in Camp Hill after their sentence in a convict jail a good estimate could be made of how many spaces would be needed and the size was increased to 400 cells.

The prison as it was built, plan dated 1935, from the National Archives


During the building of the prison a Parkhurst prisoner attempted to escape:

“6 Apr 1912 – AN ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE .. was made by a convict from the old Prison, who was working at the new Camp Hill Prison on Saturday morning. Whilst a contractors cart was passing through the gate the prisoner slipped out on the side opposite to that at which the guard was posted and dashed down the road through the forest towards the Yarmouth road. The warders and workmen had joined in the short-lived chase, when guard CANTELO brought the prisoner to bay by firing over him to frighten him. Prisoner at once threw up his arms and shouted “don’t shoot any more, I will come back”. He was secured without further difficulty and taken back to Prison. (IW County Press)
Winston Churchill opened the prison in 1912 and £96,500 had been spent on its construction. No other prisons of this type were to be built.

This postcard is labeled Parkhurst but this is in fact Camp Hill

The prison had 2 chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel and a Church of England chapel. One was accessible to the prison guards and their families by a small lane called ‘Abbey Road’. This second chapel was demolished in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

To the South and East of the prison houses were built, mostly for prison guards.

The largest was ‘Holly Grange’ which was the Governor’s house, the adjacent ‘The Firs’ would have been the medical officers house and next to this the chaplains house. Further smaller houses spread out into a small estate.

When prisoners were within two years of release they could be moved to the ‘parole lines’. A row of 16 single storey rooms detached from the main prison surrounded by a second wall, just 10 feet tall. The idea was that prisoners would lead a life as close to that on the outside as possible.

All the prisoners could work in the gardens or do small jobs to earn wages, up to a maximum of 3d a day. They could spend half of their weekly earnings, up to 9d, on ‘articles of comfort’ in the canteen. Tobacco, jams and potted meat.

Mr H. G. Supple, the first Governor, in his initial report, would say:

“The many little privileges allowed, additional to what they have been accustomed during the preceding confinement in a convict prison, have been much appreciated and no attempt to take unfair advantage of them has occurred so far.”​

However it didn’t take long for things to turn. The press, public and local MP were fervently against this new style of detention with it’s ‘pampered prisoners’ and questions were raised in parliament derogating the home secretary. In December 1912 there was a riot.

The windows which had been built in a traditional style with the addition of bars on the outside were smashed by some prisoners, flower pots, food utensils and dismantled furniture were hurled from the broken windows across the yard. The prisoners ‘clung to the bars like monkeys and shouted defiance and insults at the officers, their shouts being heard a long distance outside the prison walls’ as the local paper would later report.

Despite further questioning in parliament the government’s experiment continued until 1935 when the prison became a borstal for young offenders. During WW2 housed convicts again and after the war it reverted back to a borstal.

ch 1938-42.jpg

During it’s Borstal days some boys escaped the prison using a fallen tree

daily herald 1931.jpg

During the 1950’s when Parkhurst was to become a ‘Dispersals’ prison holding the roughest of the rough – the Krays and Jack the Ripper amongst them – Camp Hill was to offer ‘Corrective Training’ to adult males.

From the late 1950’s Camp Hill became a category C training prison.

The prison site was extended with robust steel fences, workshops and, in 1972 and 2003, more cell blocks housing 500 men across the site. The prison offered many educational and training programmes for inmates, electronic repairs, construction industry training, producing textiles for the post office as well as the farm.

After 101 years of being a working prison the prison officers left Camp Hill in 2013.

The last prisoner left at 9am on the ninth of March 2013 and requested that he be the one to ‘turn the light off’.

Drone shot of the prison

drone camp hill.jpg

The prison as it now stands

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Regular User
The Firs was built for the Medical Officer of Camp Hill.

Over the years it was assigned to various different prison officers and governors until it was offered for sale to the then resident family of Deputy Governer No.4 in the 1980’s.

The owners passed away and the house, which is a goldmine of historical docoments and photographs, was left abandoned.
A planning application has been made to demolish the house and construct 12 new builds on the site which has been rejected.

the firs.jpg














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Regular User
Finally the Farm admin building


Sorry about the massive overload of pictures but it's a big site with lots to cover! Anyway a good few months was had exploring this place, running around avoiding snow, camping out in the cell blocks, figuring things out one building at a time. Hope you enjoyed the report.

PS. thanks to the security for being so shit.

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28DL Regular User
Regular User
No need to apologise. That's a mega report. Loved it. Top marks in getting in. You really had to go the extra mile to crack this place but it looked worth it. Respect.
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grumpy sod
Regular User
Can't believe someone's finally gone and done it! Massive props to you man, really good to see inside it finally. Given that it's stuck between two active prisons you'd have thought security might have been a little better ha.
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