HeritageGateway - Home

Login  |  Register
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.


HER Number:MDV15309
Name:Dartmoor Prison, Princetown

Summary

Dartmoor Prison was built circa 1806-9 to house prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars and also from America, from the war of 1812. A series of different militia detachments were assigned to guard the prisoners and were housed in a series of adjacent buildings. The last prisoners of war left in 1816 and the prison and associated barrack complex were left largely empty until 1850 when it became an active prison again for housing convicts. It is now a category C men's prison.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 586 741
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX 57 SE 143
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57SE/177
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II): 92797

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PRISON (XIX - 1806 AD to 1809 AD (Between))

Full description

Devon County Council, 1838-1848, Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848 (Cartographic). SDV349431.

The prison is depicted on the Lydford Tithe Map with minimal detail; the map shows a perfectly circular structure with no internal detail, labelled 'Prison of War'.


Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

The late 19th century historic map depicts the prison as 'Dartmoor Convict Prison' and similarly to the Tithe Map, shows no internal detail of the prison buildings. Gas works to the north-west and the cemeteries on the north-eastern edge of the prison area are also shown.


Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

'His Majesty's Prison' is marked on the early 20th century (1906) historic map. Detail of the gatehouse buildings now shown (but no other internal buildings). French and American cemeteries depicted.


Brooking-Rowe, J., 1905, Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt and Princetown, 471-472 (Article in Serial). SDV237567.

Dartmoor Prison, Princetown. The proposal to build a prison for French prisoners-of-war was first made in 1805. Building began in 1806 and was completed within three years.


Alford, R. G., 1909-1910, Dartmoor (Article in Serial). SDV360108.

Article about the prison when visited in 1903, going into detail about the buildings and number of prisoners and staff, water supply etc.


Royal Air Force, 1946 - 1949, Royal Air Force Aerial Photographs (Aerial Photograph). SDV342938.


Hicks, C. E., 1947-1949, A note of the Plymouth and Dartmoor railroad, 380-381 (Article in Serial). SDV252925.

The circumstances which led to the building of the prison are mentioned.


Pevsner, N., 1952, The Buildings of England: South Devon, 249-250 (Monograph). SDV336217.

Of the original buildings only one is supposed to survive, known as the French prison.


Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 429 (Monograph). SDV17562.

The prison was closed in 1816 and remained derelict until 1850 when it was re-opened for prisoners serving long sentences.


Unattributed, 1974?, The History of Dartmoor Prison 1809-1974 (Report - non-specific). SDV359847.


Endle, R., 1979, Dartmoor Prison, 4-69 (Monograph). SDV359849.

Overview of the history of the prison and some interesting photographs from the 1970s of the textile shop, the wool machine shop, the metal fabrication shop, library, gym and assembly room. Some famous escapes recounted.


Department of Environment, 1987, Lydford, 31 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV266265.

Prison. Original date of build 1806-1809 designed by Daniel Alexander; most of the original buildings replaced in mid-late 19th century. Further additions in the 20th century. Constructed of granite rubble and dressed granite blocks. Gable ended slate roofs.
Plan: the original plan of seven blocks was arranged around a central open space like the spokes of a wheel. Of the cell blocks only one now survives - F block - and this has been considerably extended while the two other main cell blocks A and B date from the mid-late 19th century but replace earlier blocks on the same site. Each of these cell blocks has a central open well with the cells galleried around it although originally there were merely hammocks slung on cast iron pillars. The other buildings which also trace back to the original plan are the two administrative buildings placed like lodges directly inside the inner gate and the two larger blocks behind them formerly the hospital and the officers' block - these have however been considerably altered and extended. Further buildings were added in the early 20th century - some being dated 1912 - and there has been a relatively small amount of building since then.
Exterior: the original block is two storeys and built of granite rubble. Along each side wall it has 16 small windows with a central projection. At its outer end a five storey mid-late 19th century addition has been built of granite ashlar which has 18 windows each side and a central projecting air vent which served the original plenum heating systems. The other mid-later 19th century cell blocks are of the same form as this addition. The impetus for the original construction of the prison came from Thomas Tyrwhitt who founded Princetown. It was built to accommodate prisoners of war in the Napoleonic War. The last prisoners left in 1818 and the prison was disused until 1850 - apart from a brief period of use by the British Naptha Company - when the decision was made to convert it to a convict prison which involved a considerable amount of rebuilding.


Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 695-6 (Monograph). SDV325629.


Breihan, J. R., 1990, Army barracks in Devon during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, 143 (Article in Serial). SDV336175.


Dickinson, M. G., 1990, The Princetown Massacre - a footnote to Baring Gould's account, 248-9 (Article in Serial). SDV251717.


Barber, C., 1995, Princetown of Yesteryear Part I, 6-12 (Monograph). SDV359850.

Images of the prison dating back to the early 20th century, including one from 1916 showing concientious objectors, who were imprisoned during the war for refusing to fight, walking along the street to work. Image and details of the 1932 riot included.


Barber, C., 1995, Princetown of Yesteryear Part II, 16-18 (Monograph). SDV359851.

Image of the administrative block that was destroyed during the 1932 riot, as well as of the inside of the Roman Catholic chapel and Protestant church at the prison. Aparently the band the Stranglers played at the prison, after one of the warders one a competition in a national newspaper on National Music Day.


Stanbrook, E., 1996, The Building of Princetown Church, Dartmoor, 91-99 (Article in Serial). SDV232552.

Prison planned by Thomas Tyrwhitt.


James, T., 2001, About Dartmoor Prison, 3-30 (Pamphlet). SDV359846.

The construction of the prison at Princetown was partly prompted by the expensive, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of the prison ships in Plymouth. The location was seen as ideally placed; far enough away from Plymouth and the Dartmoor towns, but close enough if reinforcements were required. It was originally called the Dartmoor Depot and Thomas Tyrwitt laid the foundation stone. A leat was constructed from the River Walkham to a reservoir adjacent to the prison. The harsh conditions and lack of local workforce led to the work taking nearly twice as long, and costing almost twice the amount, originally anticipated. It was a huge and spectacular undertaking but when the first prisoners arrived in 1809, the building work was unfinished and some was such poor quality it had to be redone.
Originally there were five prison block, a hospital and a separate prison for the officers, surrounded by two high, circular walls. A gap between the walls was called the 'Military Walk'. The prison blocks were three storeys high, with slate roofs and concrete floors (except the top floor, which was timber-floored and used as an exercise area for bad weather times) and open dormitories where prisoners could sling hammocks from iron posts (500 per floor). The block were unheated and the windows unglazed.
As prisoner numbers increased all floors were used to accommodate them and in 1811, two more blocks were built and quickly filled as the number of prisoners rose to nearly 10,000.
The upper half of the prison was shut off from the prisoners sections and housed the hospital, washrooms and 'Petty Officer's Prison', where officer prisoners lived. Outside the prison, by the entrance was the accommodation for the medical and administrative staff and the Agent, or Governor's living quarters. The famous archway into the prison is inscribed with 'Parcere Subjectis' (Spare the Vanquished).
Between 1809-1815, around 1500 prisoners died at the prison, mostly from disease, although some were killed while trying to escape, or were murdered during quarrels.
Details on the life of prisons, mutinies, escapes and punishments detailed.


Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 1 The War Prison 1809-1816 Parcere Subjectis (Monograph). SDV359842.

Details of the construction of the convict prison and life inside by a former prison officer. Includes list of the first prisoners and when/where captured.


Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure (Monograph). SDV359843.

Detailed insight into prison life, including prisoners letters, doctor's reports and details of work carried out. The author started work as a prison officer in 1968 and over many years has collated a wealth of information about the prison, eventually being named the 'offcial historian'. Many sketches by the author and personal recollections. Details of all the buildings included, as well as other buildings in Princetown that are associated with the prison.


James, T., 2002, Dartmoor Prison of War depot and Convict Jail (Monograph). SDV359844.

Detailed information about the establishment of the prison and the development of Princetown. Construction drawings included from 1807.


Stanbrook, E., 2002, Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817, 9-76 (Monograph). SDV359848.

Detail of the design of the Dartmoor Depot and the extensive problems encountered during construction. By 1808, it was decided to change the name to 'Dartmoor Prison'. Detailed description of costs and the problems encountered in building and maintaining the prison. Construction took longer (and cost more) than originally envisioned and building work was still ongoing in 1814. Endless issues with the supply of food and clothese etc are detailed, as well as the harsh conditions endured by the prisoners.


Various, 2004, Beyond Granite Features. A collection of poetry from HMP Dartmoor, Devon (Monograph). SDV360399.


Dell, S., 2006, Mutiny on the Moor (the story of the Dartmoor Prison riot of 1932) (Monograph). SDV359845.

Book focuses on the events of 24th January 1932, examining the events that led up to the mutiny and includes information from handwritten accounts, as well as formerly unseen photographs.
Discipline in the prison has been increased in the 1920s due to the type of prisoners being accommodated. The immense social change following the First World War and the depression of the 1920s saw the rise of a new type of criminal; the 'motor car bandit'. These tended to be ruthless young men who were aggressive and fearless and often carried guns, which had been a rarity in the days of their predecessors. A new governor also introduced increased the amount of time prisoners had to spend doing a particular job before they could change to an alternative, which was unpopular. Food allocation and foiled escape plans also led to feelings running high in the prison at the time.
Detailed information provided charting the riot and extensive collection of photographs from the time, as well as newspaper articles included.


Laing-Trengove, D. + Wapshott, E., 2013, Grosvenor House, Princetown, Devon. Results of Historic Building Recording & Archaeological Monitoring & Recording, 6, 8, 10 (Report - Survey). SDV352031.

Dartmoor Prison was built circa 1806-9 to house prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars and also from America, from the war of 1812. A series of different militia detachments were assigned to guard the prisoners and were housed in a series of adjacent buildings. The last prisoners of war left in 1816 and the prison and associated barrack complex were left largely empty until 1850 when it became an active prison again. It is now a category C men's prison.


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

Detailed description of the history of the prison and its buildings, including old plans and images of the prison showing the development of the prison over time. The numbering of the prison blocks (and changes to numbering systems over time) is included, as well as details of the costs of the original building programme, and contemporary descriptions of the newly built prison.
After the Treaty of Ghent marked the end of the war with America in 1814, the American prisoners of War were set to be repatriated but 67 were killed in the massacre at the prison in April 1815 (citing Stanbrook, 2002). The Battle of Waterloo (18/06/1815) saw the end of the Napoleonic wars with France but the French prisoners of war only left the site in February 1816. The site was not occupied for the next 34 years, although the buildings were maintained.
Thomas Tyrwitt's plan to rejuvenate Princetown through the construction of a railway proved unsuccessful and a plan by King George IV in 1820 to move London orphans to Dartmoor was never carried out. In the 1830s there was a revival of the granite industry on the moor and some of the prison buildings were used as barracks (citing Joy, 2002).


Historic England, 2015, HM Dartmoor Prison. HMP Dartmoor, Yelverton, Devon PL20 6RR (Correspondence). SDV359242.

Listing of the prison is under consideration; alterations to the Listing may involve identification of individual elements under separate listings.


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

HM Prison is depicted on the modern mapping.


Richards, A. F., 2016, Princetown Prison listings (Personal Comment). SDV359841.

The prison was originally Listed as a whole, with the wall listed separately. In 2015 the site was reassessed by Historic England and the listing updated, with induvial listings replacing the main listing.


Dell, S., 2017, The Dartmoor 'Conchies' (Dartmoor Prison's Conscientious Objectors of the Great War) (Monograph). SDV360380.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 429.
SDV232552Article in Serial: Stanbrook, E.. 1996. The Building of Princetown Church, Dartmoor. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 128. Paperback Volume. 91-99.
SDV237567Article in Serial: Brooking-Rowe, J.. 1905. Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt and Princetown. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 37. Digital. 471-472.
SDV251717Article in Serial: Dickinson, M. G.. 1990. The Princetown Massacre - a footnote to Baring Gould's account. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 36.7. Unknown. 248-9.
SDV252925Article in Serial: Hicks, C. E.. 1947-1949. A note of the Plymouth and Dartmoor railroad. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 380-381.
SDV266265List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1987. Lydford. Historic Houses Register. A4 Bound. 31.
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 695-6.
SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336175Article in Serial: Breihan, J. R.. 1990. Army barracks in Devon during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 122. A5 Paperback. 143.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336217Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: South Devon. The Buildings of England: South Devon. Paperback Volume. 249-250.
SDV342938Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 - 1949. Royal Air Force Aerial Photographs. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Digital).
SDV349431Cartographic: Devon County Council. 1838-1848. Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848. Digitised Tithe Map. Digital.
SDV352031Report - Survey: Laing-Trengove, D. + Wapshott, E.. 2013. Grosvenor House, Princetown, Devon. Results of Historic Building Recording & Archaeological Monitoring & Recording. Southwest Archaeology Report. 130816. A4 Stapled + Digital. 6, 8, 10.
SDV359242Correspondence: Historic England. 2015. HM Dartmoor Prison. HMP Dartmoor, Yelverton, Devon PL20 6RR. Amendment to List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interes. Digital.
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #81547 ]
SDV359840Report - Assessment: Brodie, A.. 2015. Devon, Lydford, Princetown, HMP Dartmoor. Historic England. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV359841Personal Comment: Richards, A. F.. 2016. Princetown Prison listings. Not Applicable.
SDV359842Monograph: Joy, R.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 1 The War Prison 1809-1816 Parcere Subjectis. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. 1. Hardback Volume.
SDV359843Monograph: Joy, R.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. 2. Hardback Volume.
SDV359844Monograph: James, T.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison of War depot and Convict Jail. Dartmoor Prison of War depot and Convict Jail. Paperback Volume.
SDV359845Monograph: Dell, S.. 2006. Mutiny on the Moor (the story of the Dartmoor Prison riot of 1932). Mutiny on the Moor (the story of the Dartmoor Prison riot of 1932). Paperback Volume.
SDV359846Pamphlet: James, T.. 2001. About Dartmoor Prison. A5 Paperback. 3-30.
SDV359847Report - non-specific: Unattributed. 1974?. The History of Dartmoor Prison 1809-1974. Unknown. A5 Bound.
SDV359848Monograph: Stanbrook, E.. 2002. Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817. Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817. Paperback Volume. 9-76.
SDV359849Monograph: Endle, R.. 1979. Dartmoor Prison. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. Paperback Volume. 4-69.
SDV359850Monograph: Barber, C.. 1995. Princetown of Yesteryear Part I. Princetown of Yesteryear Part I. Paperback Volume. 6-12.
SDV359851Monograph: Barber, C.. 1995. Princetown of Yesteryear Part II. Princetown of Yesteryear Part II. Paperback Volume. 16-18.
SDV360108Article in Serial: Alford, R. G.. 1909-1910. Dartmoor. Unknown. Digital.
SDV360380Monograph: Dell, S.. 2017. The Dartmoor 'Conchies' (Dartmoor Prison's Conscientious Objectors of the Great War). The Dartmoor 'Conchies' (Dartmoor Prison's Conscientious Objectors of the Great War). Paperback Volume.
SDV360399Monograph: Various. 2004. Beyond Granite Features. A collection of poetry from HMP Dartmoor, Devon. Beyond Granite Features. A collection of poetry from HMP Dartmoor, Devon. Paperback Volume.

Associated Monuments

MDV42840Parent of: Barrack Complex, Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Monument)
MDV51404Parent of: Boundary stone north of North Hessary Tor (Monument)
MDV112635Parent of: Boundary stone north-east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV112638Parent of: Boundary stone west of Princetown (Monument)
MDV114503Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: A and B Wing cell blocks (Building)
MDV114504Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: C and D Wing cell blocks (Building)
MDV114508Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: E Wing cell block (Building)
MDV114511Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: F and G Wing cell blocks (Building)
MDV114512Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: Former Chapel and Service Building Complex (Building)
MDV114496Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: Former Infirmary (Building)
MDV114498Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: Polygonal buildings, former officers' mess and former steward's house (Building)
MDV114499Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: section of wall enclosing the former marketplace (Monument)
MDV114510Parent of: Dartmoor Prison: the Old Kitchen (Building)
MDV114502Parent of: Dartmoor Prison; Former Petty Officers' Block (Building)
MDV104798Parent of: Grosvenor House, Princetown (Building)
MDV51517Parent of: Prison boundary stone at Holming Beam corner (Monument)
MDV123079Parent of: Prison boundary stone at junction west of Two Bridges (Monument)
MDV123076Parent of: Prison boundary stone at Oakery Bridge, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123077Parent of: Prison boundary stone at roadside, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123078Parent of: Prison boundary stone at roadside, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123075Parent of: Prison boundary stone at Roundhill Cottage, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123080Parent of: Prison boundary stone by leat (Monument)
MDV123074Parent of: Prison boundary stone in road, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123073Parent of: Prison boundary stone in wall, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123081Parent of: Prison boundary stone near Rendlestone, Princetown (Monument)
MDV112633Parent of: Prison boundary stone north-north-west of Mis Tor Farm (Monument)
MDV123083Parent of: Prison boundary stone outside school, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123084Parent of: Prison boundary stone, Princetown (Monument)
MDV123085Parent of: Prison boundary stone, Princetown (Monument)
MDV122604Parent of: Prison boundary stones at Holming Beam, Princetown (Monument)
MDV42841Parent of: Prison wall and inner gateway, Princetown (Monument)
MDV51393Parent of: Stone east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV51394Parent of: Stone east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV51395Parent of: Stone east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV51396Parent of: Stone east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV51397Parent of: Stone east of Little Mis Tor (Monument)
MDV51406Parent of: Stone near Woodville Avenue, Princetown (Monument)
MDV104777Parent of: The Old Dairy, Princetown (Building)
MDV114800Related to: 1-3 New Villas, Princetown (Building)
MDV51419Related to: American cemetery, Princetown prison (Monument)
MDV117261Related to: Blackabrook House, Princetown (Building)
MDV117262Related to: Burrator Avenue, Princetown (Building)
MDV117259Related to: Church Row, Princetown (Building)
MDV40642Related to: Coffins Wood, Peter Tavy (Monument)
MDV51421Related to: Cricket Pavilion, Princetown (Monument)
MDV51416Related to: Cricket pitch, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117270Related to: Dart Cottage, Princetown (Building)
MDV117301Related to: Dartmoor Prison Farm (Monument)
MDV42843Related to: Dartmoor Prison reservoir, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117243Related to: Devonshire Flats, Princetown (Building)
MDV57038Related to: Flint arrowheads found in peat bogs of the prison grounds, Princetown (Find Spot)
MDV117271Related to: Former Officers' Club, Princetown (Building)
MDV18410Related to: Foul water prison Leat, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117267Related to: Heather Terrace, Princetown (Building)
MDV51412Related to: Herne Hole Quarry, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117287Related to: Hisworthy House, Princetown (Building)
MDV117268Related to: Moor Crescent, Princetown (Building)
MDV55621Related to: Nissen huts along road north of Princetown Prison (Building)
MDV117299Related to: Nissen huts in Princetown (Building)
MDV55620Related to: Nissen huts in quarry north of Princetown (Monument)
MDV51420Related to: Princetown Primary School (Building)
MDV122637Related to: Prison boundary stone at Holming Beam (Monument)
MDV117300Related to: Prison farm estate, Princetown (Monument)
MDV42842Related to: Prison gateway, Princetown (Monument)
MDV27089Related to: Prison Leat, Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV42844Related to: Prison sewage aqueduct, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117272Related to: Prison slaughterhouse, princetown (Building)
MDV51408Related to: Quarry to the north-east of Herne Hole Quarry (Monument)
MDV117280Related to: Rundlestone Inn, Princetown (Building)
MDV5013Related to: St Michael and All Angels Church, Princetown (Building)
MDV51414Related to: Stables near prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV28933Related to: Stone near Two Bridges Road, Princetown (Monument)
MDV117283Related to: The Chaplain's House, Princetown (Building)
MDV117269Related to: The former ladies' club, Princetown (Building)
MDV117285Related to: The Oratory, Princetown (Building)
MDV117257Related to: Tor View, Princetown (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

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

Date Last Edited:Oct 15 2018 9:26AM