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HER Number:MDV114498
Name:Dartmoor Prison: Polygonal buildings, former officers' mess and former steward's house


Two polygonal prison buildings dating from 1806-9 designed Daniel Alexander, with later additions and alterations, having a much altered mid-C19 block attached to the north of the northern building, and a 1909 block to the south of the southern building. Now administration building and visits building.


Grid Reference:SX 586 740
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • OFFICERS MESS (XIX - 1806 AD to 1809 AD (Between))

Full description

Brodie, A., 2015, Devon, Lydford, Princetown, HMP Dartmoor (Report - Assessment). SDV359840.

Historic England, 2016, H M Prison Dartmoor: Polygonal buildings, former officers' mess and former steward's house, now admin building and visits building (Cartographic). SDV359431.

Mapped area of listed buildings depicted.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

Historic England, 2016, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV359353.

Reasons for Designation
The polygonal buildings, former officers' mess and former stewards' house, now admin building and visits building, H M Prison Dartmoor, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: an integral part of the historic Dartmoor Prison complex, originating in 1806-9, the polygonal buildings served as observation buildings and stores, whilst this group includes the former gatekeeper’s/steward’s house, and the 1909 officer’s mess; * Architectural interest: despite alteration, the form of the polygonal buildings is recognisable as part of Daniel Alexander's original design, and reflects their original purpose, overlooking the former marketplace; the Edwardian former officer’s mess is shows some architectural consideration within the prison context; * Group value: the buildings form part of an important and relatively complete group of listed prison buildings, together reflecting the historic development of H M Prison Dartmoor and its distinctive radial plan form as first envisaged in 1806-9.
The two polygonal buildings standing to west of the former market place date from the first phase of building, circa 1806-9. These flanked the entrance to the market place, and there was formerly a gateway between them. The polygonal form was presumably intended to facilitate observation over a wide area. It is not possible to be certain about their original form since early illustrations differ in their representation. The buildings appear originally to have been hexagonal, with canted ends to the east, overlooking the marketplace, and squared ends to the west; their pyramidal roofs had central lanterns, with the one to the south visible in an aerial photograph of 1953. In the mid-C19 the building to the north was a gatekeeper’s house, standing between the gateway to the market place, and the gateway to the infirmary compound, and the building to the south was partly a store, and partly given over to cells. The western part of the northern building, with additional building to the north, became the steward’s house, whilst in 1909 an officers’ mess was built to the south of the southern building. In 1927 both eastern polygonal sections were stores; by 1948, the officer’s mess was a workshop, whilst the whole of the northern complex was in use for visits. There are now offices in the southern building, whilst the northern building is still used for visits. All parts of the buildings have been much altered, with recent work to the window openings to the polygonal sections.
Two polygonal buildings, with canted ends to the east, and squared blocks to the west. These date from the first phase of building, 1806-9, to a design by Daniel Alexander, but have been added to and altered since, with a much altered mid-C19 block to the north of the northern building, and a 1909 block to the south of the southern building.
MATERIALS: coursed granite rubble, with replacement ashlar window surrounds, and replacement frames. The roofs are metal; the roofs to the polygonal sections are pyramidal, with finials.
PLAN: the polygonal buildings stand to north and south of the entrance to the former marketplace, with canted ends facing into the former marketplace to the east. They extend westwards, ending in squared west ends. Both buildings have later attached structures: the southern building has the large block built as an officer’s mess to the south, and the northern building has a much altered section to the north.
EXTERIOR: the two polygonal buildings stand on granite plinths. The polygonal sections have large triangular-headed windows to the first floor, overlooking the former marketplace, probably reflecting their original form. The other windows are small. The southern building is entered from the north-east and from the south; the northern building has blocked openings to the south-facing elevation, and a new secure entrance in a lean-to addition against the west wall of the former steward’s house. There is another late-C20 extension projecting westwards from the north end of this building. The former officer’s mess to the south is a two-storey building with four pairs of basket-arched windows with granite surrounds, and an attached central chimney.
INTERIORS: the interior of the northern building has been opened out, with no division between the polygonal part and northern range; it is thought that few historic features, though the bottoms of roof timbers appear to be visible in the polygonal part. The interior of the southern building was not inspected.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped features: #73837 ; #73838 ]
SDV359353National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2016. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV359431Cartographic: Historic England. 2016. H M Prison Dartmoor: Polygonal buildings, former officers' mess and former steward's house, now admin building and visits building. Listing Amendment Map. Digital.
SDV359840Report - Assessment: Brodie, A.. 2015. Devon, Lydford, Princetown, HMP Dartmoor. Historic England. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV15309Part of: Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV114496Related to: Dartmoor Prison: Former Infirmary (Building)
MDV114502Related to: Dartmoor Prison; Former Petty Officers' Block (Building)
MDV42842Related to: Prison gateway, Princetown (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7115 - Assessment of the buildings at Princetown Prison, Dartmoor

Date Last Edited:Nov 1 2016 10:24AM