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Female Cell Block, Former Her Majesty's Prison Northallerton, Northallerton

Description: Female Cell Block, Former Her Majesty's Prison Northallerton

Grade: II
Date Listed: 11 March 2014
Building ID: 1418864

OS Grid Reference: SE3711893844
OS Grid Coordinates: 437118, 493844
Latitude/Longitude: 54.3388, -1.4306

Locality: Northallerton
Local Authority: Hambleton
County: North Yorkshire
Postcode: DL6 1AB

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Listing Text


Relatively unaltered prison wing originally designed for women, opened 1852. This building is typical in design for its mid C18 date, being a marked development on from the immediately adjacent Female Wing of 1818.

Reason for Listing

The Female Cell Block, former Her Majesty's Prison Northallerton, erected in 1852, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design: featuring a central, axial well with gallery walkways providing access to the cells, this is a good, little altered example of the form of prison buildings introduced in the 1840s;
* Illustration of evolution: the Female Cell Block provides a direct illustration of the development of prison design because of the survival of the earlier prison wing also designed for female prisoners;
* Group value: with the Northallerton Prison Quadrangle (NHLE entry 1418378) being directly connected, and having a strong, very direct, visual relationship.


The Female Cell Block at Northallerton Prison was built between 1848 and 1852, to the design of Captain Worsley, the county surveyor of bridges. This was part of a major expansion of the prison which originally opened in 1788 (see separate NHLE List entry 1418378 for Northallerton Prison Quadrangle).

In 1783 the Justices of the North Riding decided to close the house of correction at Thirsk, building a replacement in Northallerton. This was designed by John Carr, with the new prison entering service in 1788 at a cost of £3,411 3s 11d, although it is thought that only part of Carr's design was built by this date, the quadrangle only being completed circa 1818 with the construction of the original wing for female prisoners which formed the eastern side of the quadrangle. Further expansion of the prison took place in the late 1820s with the construction of the Governor's House and two prison wings designed by George Atkinson.

By the late 1840s, the prison was seriously overcrowded, prompting further building work from 1848 which was completed by circa 1852. This work included the addition of the Female Cell Block, along with a larger cell block for men (excluded from the listing, see Factual Details entry: Male Cell Block) and the extensive alteration of John Carr's original cell wing to form a chapel designed to accommodate 300 people (also excluded from the listing, see Factual Details entry: Chapel Wing). A new infirmary wing was also added to the east end of the eastern 1820s prison wing (demolished along with the prison wing in the C20).

The earliest identified plan of the prison dates to 1877, when Northallerton was inspected by Colonel A.B. McHardy in preparation for the transfer of the prison from local responsibility to the Prison Commission. By this time the prison complex had reached its full extent, although a number of buildings were replaced with new buildings in the C20. The plan shows that the Female Cell Block had 46 cells for female prisoners; the cells for women with children being in the adjacent wing built in1818 (Northallerton Prison Quadrangle, NHLE List entry 1418378).

In the 1890s, Northallerton was one of the five prisons in England selected to receive juvenile prisoners sentenced to more than one month's detention, these being held separately from adults. In 1904 Northallerton was closed to female prisoners, the Cell Block being subsequently used for male prisoners.

Northallerton Prison was completely closed in 1922 but was reopened, initially as a military prison, in 1943. In 1946 it was extensively damaged during a roof-top protest by nine prisoners. Through most of the second half of the C20 Northallerton housed male juveniles, although by the time of its closure in 2013 it was a general male prison.


Prison wing originally designed for women, opened 1852.

MATERIALS: original build is in thicker, browny-red brick, generally laid in English bond. Sandstone sills and lintels. Welsh slate roof.

PLAN: axial central well originally open to the roof with galleried walkways serving the cells to the sides of the building. Staircases to the west end.

EXTERIOR: three storeys of eight regular bays with nearly square cell windows. The east gable wall has three centrally positioned windows to the first, second and attic storeys, with an inserted doorway to the ground floor. The original entrance to the wing is via the Link Building attached to the east gable (Northallerton Prison Quadrangle, NHLE List entry 1418378).

INTERIOR: relatively little altered, retaining its original complement of cells accessed via sandstone slab gallery walkways supported on cast iron brackets and columns with cast iron staircases linking the levels. The simple iron railings are thought to be original. The natural lighting of the central well is now largely obscured by an inserted lift shaft and fire escape staircase at the east end, these C20 additions not being of special interest. The well has also been floored over at attic level, the attic (still retaining exposed roof trusses) being subdivided with stud partitions into offices, the modern subdivisions not being of special interest*.

* Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.