Reading Prison


Reading Prison is a Grade II listed building in the heart of Reading built on the site of part of Reading Abbey. No longer operating as a prison, it was most famous for being "home" to Oscar Wilde in the late nineteenth century.


Reading Prisoninterior AB webHM Prison Reading was built in 1844 as the Berkshire County Gaol in the heart of Reading alongside the ruins of Reading Abbey and beside the River Kennet.

It was designed to carry out what was the very latest penal technique of the time, known as the separate system. As a county gaol, its forecourt served as the site for public executions, the first one in 1845 before a crowd of 10,000; after 1868 executions took place inside, the last one in 1913.

Between 1895 and 1897, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned there.

In 1973 Reading was re-designated as a local prison and around that time its old castle wall was removed. In 1992 it became a Remand Centre and Young Offenders Institution, holding prisoners between the ages of 18 and 21 years.

HM Prison Reading closed as a prison in November 2013. It has been empty since then, awaiting re-development.

In May 2016 it was announced that the former prison would be made available as an arts venue as part of Reading 2016 Year of Culture programme with a special exhibition by Artangel. MORE

Reading Prison’s Victorian buildings were designed by renowned architect George Gilbert Scott. The prison itself is a Grade II-listed building, but the whole of the site it stands on is designated as a Scheduled Monument as it sits on part of the site of Reading Abbey.

Brief history of the jail timeline 





Oscar Wilde and Reading Prison

Playwright Oscar Wilde was among the illustrious inmates who have languished in Reading’s historic Grade II-listed jail.OscarWilde

At the height of his fame in 1895, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with other men and sentenced to two years’ hard labour in Reading Prison.

In 1897, while in prison, he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials.

On his release, he moved to France where he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol , in 1898, describing prison life.

Visiting Reading Prison 

Reading Prison is now closed as the Ministry of Justice work through plans for its disposal. Between September and December 2016, a major art project by Artangel, an international art producer, was open in Reading Prison. Leading writers, artists and performers responded to the prison's most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde, as well as the architecture of the buildign and themes of imprisonment. MORE>>>>


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