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HER Number:MDV114512
Name:Dartmoor Prison: Former Chapel and Service Building Complex


Former prison block, dating from 1806-9, built to a design by Daniel Alexander. The block, later used as a chapel, has been much altered. The southern part of the block has been demolished, and replaced by a complex of service buildings enlarged and much altered since 1900.


Grid Reference:SX 587 741
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

  • CELL BLOCK (XIX - 1806 AD to 1809 AD (Between))
  • CHAPEL (XIX - 1806 AD to 1880 AD (Between))

Full description

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

Historic England, 2016, H M Prison Dartmoor: Former Chapel and Service Building Complex (Cartographic). SDV359440.

Map depicts the area of the listing.

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

Former prison block, dating from 1806-9, built to a design by Daniel Alexander. The block, later used as a chapel, has been much altered. The southern part of the block has been demolished, and replaced by a complex of service buildings enlarged and much altered since 1900.
The former Church of England chapel was originally the eastern section of No. 3 Block, the easternmost of the 1806-9 prison cell blocks (becoming No. 4 in 1812, with the insertion of an additional block to the north). It is one of three original blocks to have survived in some form, the others being the current F Wing, and the Old Kitchen. It is understood that the block was used to house American prisoners after the war of 1812, and walls were built to either side of the block at that time, and a fragment of wall may survive to the north of the block. The plan of 1847 shows cells within the building, probably added in 1835. For a short time from 1850, the block was used to house the artificer convicts – those who worked to repair and convert the existing blocks for incoming prisoners. Soon afterwards, the block was converted to become the Church of England chapel, with the removal of the internal cell structure and the floor, so that the building became a single storey rather than two. The building remained in use as a chapel into the early C21 century, doubling as a cinema. Since then, it has been used as a gymnasium and concert hall. The block is now largely unused, though there is a workshop in the western end.
At some time in the second half of the C19 the western part of the original prison block was developed to provide service buildings, possibly incorporating some of the original fabric. At the beginning of the C20 this complex included the kitchen, bakehouse and laundry. These have been much altered, adapted and rebuilt during the C20.
Former prison block, dating from 1806-9, built to a design by Daniel Alexander. The block, later used as a chapel, has been much altered. The southern part of the block has been demolished, and replaced by a complex of service buildings. These have been enlarged and much altered since 1900.
MATERIALS: the former prison block/chapel is of granite rubble, with granite ashlar quoins and cills, now painted. The roof covering has been replaced with metal sheeting.
The buildings of the service complex are of granite rubble and granite ashlar. The roofs have been replaced with metal sheeting.
PLAN: the eastern former prison block/chapel is rectangular in plan, with a projecting block at the centre of the east elevation.
The western service complex is attached to the west end of the former prison block/chapel, and is in line with it, though wider, and with a projecting block to the south-east. Immediately to the west of the former prison block/chapel is
EXTERIOR: the former prison block/chapel is now of a single story, with a plinth, and with four tall windows to both the north and the south elevations. Formerly of two storeys, the cills for the original smaller windows can be seen projecting from the walls, with an additional low window to the east where the ground slopes downwards, possibly reflecting the former presence of a stair, shown on the 1847 plan. The tall window openings occupy every second bay. At the western end of the north elevation is a small external stair, leading to the upper floor of the block immediately to the west. From the eastern end of the south elevation projects a wall, linking the block with E wing, and enclosing a small yard between these two buildings and the former laundry to the west. The eastern elevation is occupied by the projecting block, originally built as a privy block, later becoming the chancel of the chapel. Early images suggest that this has been heightened, and is now staged, with a higher central section. There are small ground-floor windows to north and south, and the eastern wall has three tall windows, the central one being higher, the trio forming an east window. The pitched roof has a low hipped clerestory, visible on early images of the prison, the light now blocked with corrugated iron.
The western service complex consists of a number of interlinked buildings, built and altered over a long period. It is possible that some fabric of the original prison block remains. Immediately to the west of the former prison block/chapel is a two-storey bay entered by the external stair. Beyond this is an early-C20 section formerly containing a bakehouse; the roof of this section has been lowered. This section has three tall windows, with a square window to the east and a blocked opening at a high level to the west. To the west of this, a single bay framed by rock-faced quoins, with an entrance having a heavy rock-faced lintel leading to a passageway linking the service buildings, and a stair – part of the plan in 1900. Further west, the former kitchen, and beyond that, the former C19 boiler house, remodelled in 1927, with attached calorifier house to the north-west. The boiler house, which has lost its chimney and ventilators, has a keyed oculus to the western gable. By 1947 there was a further block, constructed of squared granite, in the angle between the kitchen and boiler house. The wing extending to the south of the former bakehouse building is the former laundry, a C19 building with a canted south-east corner and a large modified opening to the west.
INTERIOR: within the former prison block/chapel, the internal cell structure and floor have been removed, so that the interior is largely a single space. At the entrance is a heavy panelled and studded door. This still retains its overall fitting out as the prison’s Church of England chapel. There is a gallery at the west end, erected prior to 1909; beneath this is a temporary workshop. There is an arch supported on pilasters framing the entrance to the west end, and applied to the west wall above the gallery, and a triplet of arches to the east end, separating the nave from the chancel. At the east end, the chancel has been formed out of the eastern projecting block. In the narrow eastern openings are what remains of stained glass windows, given by the Church Army in the early C20; the central window has been lost, and the north window is badly broken. Below, a granite reredos with a stepped central section and to either side, blind arcading supported on colonnettes, designed for the space by Alten Beamish in 1892. The granite altar, with columns to the front corners and in between, carved and painted panels with ‘IHS’ flanked by fleur-de-lys, is pre-1906. To the south is a credence table, designed in 1906, also of granite, with a single column as support. Above the ceiling, the roof remained intact in the mid-1990s, being the only remaining original roof over an 1806-9 prison block. The structure is understood to have been complex, with queenposts supporting kingposts, which in their turn supported the clerestory. The timbers are understood bear marks testifying to the presence of prisoners in the early C19, including scorch marks from lamps, and hooks made of bone, hammered into the timbers, for hanging lamps and hammocks.

The interiors of the service complex have been much altered with changes of use, but they retain some historic features. Inside the former boiler house, the granite corbels which formerly supported the roof remain, and there is a row of three blocked brick-arched openings.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV359353National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2016. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV359440Cartographic: Historic England. 2016. H M Prison Dartmoor: Former Chapel and Service Building Complex. Listing Amendment Map. Digital. [Mapped feature: #73854 ]
SDV359840Report - Assessment: Brodie, A.. 2015. Devon, Lydford, Princetown, HMP Dartmoor. Historic England. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV15309Part of: Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV114504Related to: Dartmoor Prison: C and D Wing cell blocks (Building)
MDV114508Related to: Dartmoor Prison: E Wing cell block (Building)
MDV114511Related to: Dartmoor Prison: F and G Wing cell blocks (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

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

Date Last Edited:Nov 1 2016 10:25AM