Monday, February 2, 2009

More history ...

The following extract was taken from The Knaphillian and gives some intersting background to the prison:

In 1858 the Home Office bought just over 64 acres of land from the London Necropolis Company in order to build a special prison for disabled prisoners in Knaphill. Known as the ‘Woking Invalid Convict Prison’ it was the first prison to be specifically for disabled prisoners – not just for those physically ill, but also those suffering from mental illness.

The main prison building was designed by Sir Joshua Jebb and Arthur Blomfield (sometimes mis-spelled as ‘Bloomfield’ as in Bloomfield Close). It consisted of two large wings on either side of a large central tower. The west wing was for the chronically sick and insane, whilst the east wing was for some of the more able-bodied prisoners.

The whole site was surrounded by a wall, eighteen feet high, the bricks of which can occasionally still be found on the escarpment down towards Robin Hood Road.

Work began on the building in 1858 with prisoners and officers brought in from Lewes, Carisbrooke and Dartmoor to help with the construction.

The north-east wing was opened on the 28th April 1859, although the official opening of the whole site was not until the 22nd March 1860 when three-hundred prisoners were transferred from the already cramped and inadequate Lewes Prison in Sussex.

The average number of prisoners at Knaphill was 613.

In 1867 work began on the second prison at Knaphill – this time for female convicts, and once again some of the more able-bodied men from the male prison were employed as cheap labour.

The new prison opened on the 5th May 1869 when 100 were transferred here from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight.

Many of the women worked in the prison kitchens or laundry, whilst a number were employed as Tailoresses, Needlewomen or Knitters. Woking Prison was also well-known for its Mosaics Department where the women could earn 1s2d a day breaking up refuse marble to be laid as mosaic floors. Some were exhibited at the ‘International Exhibition of Fine Arts and Industry’ at the Royal Albert Hall in 1872, and it is said that part of the floor of St Paul's Cathedral and the ‘South Kensington Museums’ were produced at this time. St John’s Church also exhibits some of the work

In 1886 it was decided to close the prisons at Woking over a ten year period, and in 1888 most of the male prisoners were transferred. The invalid prison finally closed on the 21st March 1889 and in November the Home Office transferred the site to the War Department.

In 1891 they bought an extra 20 acres adjoining the site from the Necropolis Company for £5,600, to be used as part of the parade ground.

The female prison continued to be used until October 1895 when it too was closed and the last of the women transferred to Holloway. During the First World War the female prison was used as a military hospital, whilst the male section housed various units, including many troops from all over the Empire.

After the Second World War the barracks became the base for the Royal Military Police who finally vacated the site in 1965 when they moved down to Chichester (although part of the site was retained as a clothing store)

The site then became available for housing with Woking Borough Council and The Guinness Trust developing part of the estate in the early 1970s – followed by more private houses in the 1980s and 90s – although it is perhaps the restoration of the original prison officers quarters in Wellington Terrace and Raglan Road that are the most distinctive part of the area.


  1. Clearly a labour of love. Thank you.

  2. Some of the houses that stood beside the prison are still there today, just around the corner from me! It amazing to see what it looks like now compared to what it was before.