Statement of Special Interest
Very few purpose-built 19th century and early 20th century prisons survive and even fewer remain in use as such. Other than HMP Inverness only three remain in use: HMP Perth, HMP Barlinnie and HMP Dumfries. HMP Inverness is amongst the last of this type of prison to be built. It is an important surviving example of regional prison architecture and it is likely to be one of the last built in Scotland to 19th century principles. It is an important and rare survival of a prison set within the community it served.
While there have been alterations, extensions and additions to the site, the cell blocks unmistakeably evidence their function and purpose through their architectural treatment. They retain their character as imposing institutional structures and the high boundary wall further emphasises the prison character.
In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: all other structures within the boundary walls, the entrance block and the rebuilt southwest corner of the boundary wall.
Age and Rarity
The building of HMP Inverness came about because of the centralisation and rationalisation brought about by the 1877 Prison Acts which brought prisons under the authority of the Home Secretary, rather than County Boards, and this arrangement lasted until the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 (see Cameron, p151). Many small prisons were closed, such as Nairn, Portree, Fort William, Tain, Wick and Dornoch increasing the prison population at Inverness Castle. The Castle prison was extended in 1886 however, this was not enough to meet demand. The new HMP Inverness was to be the main centre for criminal and civil prisoners from the northern counties of Scotland, except the Orkney Islands and Lewis.
Records from 1897 relating to the sale of the old Inverness Castle prison (National Archives of Scotland, reference E824/134) explain that the cost of the new prison, including buying the land, was expected to be £14,950, but that the cost could be offset by the sale of the old prison which was expected to bring in £5,000. Inverness Castle incurred extra cost if there was no more room for prisoners and they had to pay the cost of transferring prisoners to the General Prison at Perth. The old prison did not allow for outside work and only oakum picking was undertaken as work by the inmates and this was becoming increasingly unprofitable for the prison.
An increase in statutory offences is described by Cameron on p142-44 as leading to a larger prison population during this period. It was not serious crime which prevailed but a greater severity shown to drunken behavious was a particular reason for a rise in the prison population and this is shown in the records for HMP Inverness which describe many committals for drunkenness. The Medical Officer (National Archives of Scotland, ref HH112/47) reported in 1902-03 that drink and destitution were among the principal causes for incarceration. The report notes that prisoners were employed in manufacturing (such as mat-making and fender making), oakum picking and sack-sewing, building and construction and ordinary services in prison (presumably cleaning, laundry and kitchen work).
The Annual Report of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland for 1902-03 (National Archives of Scotland, ref HH112/47) describes the early days of the prison. They note that the new prison was occupied on 15 October 1902 and that it was still in a transition state with the chapel under construction, however, all the cells were in order and the clothing and stores were sufficient to meet requirements. While the prison boundary appears on the 2nd and 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey maps (published 1904 and 1930) the footprint of the buildings are not shown.
To the southeast corner of the site and outside the boundary walls was the Governor's House. The Governor's House is last shown on the 1963 Ordnance Survey map and not on the 1976 Ordnance Survey map published in 1976 (surveyed 1975), indicating that it was demolished between these dates. Following the demolition of the Governor's House the southeast corner of the prison wall was rebuilt to match the height and stonework of the other parts of the wall.
By 1903 it is reported that the state of transition from the Castle to the new prison has disappeared and that the grounds are 'under crop' and in 'excellent order' and that 'very neat and suitable' exercise yards have been formed. The report explains that the prisoners have been employed in laying out the grounds and labouring on the buildings and that the prisoners are fully employed and clothed.
The Dundee Evening Post of 15 June 1900 (p.4) has an unusually jovial article relating to the new HMP Inverness. Noting that there is 'Great progress with new prison at Inverness' it advises its readers to 'book early and avoid the crush'.
Prisons as purpose-built structures did not come into being in the United Kingdom until the 1770s. Until this time, imprisonment as a punishment was not the norm. Prisoners were usually incarcerated for short periods of time before corporal or capital punishment was carried out or they were transported to America or Australia or, in the case of debtors, they paid their debts. In Scotland the local tolbooth often served as the place of temporary detainment and such prisons were run by the burgh. Conditions were usually woeful. All types of inmates would be held together, with no segregation, and usually in a single large room which was frequently overcrowded. Unruly prisoners could be sent to 'the pit', a dark hole in the ground. Where there were prisons, individual cells were rare.
John Howard (1726-90), one of the most well-known of the prison reformers, visited Scotland and Ireland as part of his tours of prisons throughout the United Kingdom in the 1770s and 1780s. Howard was key in instigating nationwide reform efforts with the publication of his book 'The State of the Prisons in England and Wales' (1777).
Generally, prisons of the 18th century followed a congregate system where prisoners were kept together unsegregated throughout the day and night. Howard and other reformers vehemently condemned this practice as producing moral contamination and corruption. Howard advised that alongside implementing healthier practices of ventilation and the employment of paid gaolers that prisoners should be divided by classes and housed in separate yards. It was increasingly believed that different kinds of prisoners corrupted each other and hence that prisoners of different age, sex and type of crime should be kept apart. Howard and early investigators played a significant role in instigating reform by bringing to public attention the state of prisons throughout the country. Their recommendations regarding health, classification and inspection formed the basis for the reforms and legislation of the 19th century and encouraged architectural design towards providing cellularly divided spaces to fight against the spread of physical and moral contamination within the prison environment.
HMP Inverness follows the pattern begun by the Howard Reforms with male and female prisoners kept in separate wings with individual cells.
Conditions for prison inmates at the turn of the 20th century had not changed much since the reforms brought about by the Prisons Act of 1877. There was still the rule of silence but it could be enforced less strictly in some prisons. Work was sometimes carried out in 'association' i.e. with other prisoners, but still in silence. Prisons as places of harsh punishment were still considered the best way to discourage criminal behaviour. The Gladstone Report of 1895, however, brought about some changes in the form of the Prisons Act of 1898. Unproductive hard labour, such as the treadwheel and crank were finally abolished, separation was enforced only for the first month of imprisonment and then prisoners could take part in association. Punishment by hunger i.e. the removal of food was still used for rebellious inmates.
At HMP Inverness the majority of prisoners would be expected to take part in labour. Plans dated 1900 (ref RHP24343/1) of the female block show an association cell with three benches and in a room which no longer survives there appear to be a number of individual partitioned stalls where work could be carried out without seeing (or more importantly speaking) to the inmate next to you. The laundry and kitchen were also placed next to the female block, although access could be segregated and it is possible that male inmates may also have worked in the kitchen and laundry. Architectural drawings exist for a Smith's shop (Scottish Prison Services, H-11-005) which no longer survives.
The male block and female block both had a padded cell and a strong cell with smaller entrances and windows than the other cells. Also in both blocks on the ground floor was a hospital room. The standard cell sizes were the same for males and females at 12feet 1 inches by 8feet 1½ inches. Light and heating was provided by gas.
Male and female prisoners were carefully segregated at all times. Female inmates accessed the chapel connected to the male block by a separate corridor and they entered the chapel behind a screen and sat behind it during the service.
Very few purpose-built 19th century and early 20th century prisons survive and other than HMP Inverness only three remain in use as such, HMP Perth, HMP Barlinnie and HMP Dumfries. HMP Inverness is an important surviving example of early 20th century regional prison architecture and is likely to be one of the last built in Scotland to 19th century principles.
Architectural or Historic Interest
Interiors of this building type are expected to be functional and altered over time as penal reform developed and intact prison interiors do not survive in any number in the United Kingdom. However, the interior of A and B Halls still closely resemble the plans drawn up by the architects. The cell dimensions and openings are largely the same with some alterations to the size of the window openings. The chapel has been significantly altered and no interior features relating to its period as a place of worship, other than some roof trusses, appear to remain.
The boundary of the prison site is shown on both the 2nd and 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey maps (published in 1904 and 1930) but not the outline of the buildings. The plan form of separate male and female blocks and a chapel and laundry and kitchen appears to be typical for a small regional prison of this date, with cells arranged around a central atrium space and the laundry and kitchen located on the ground floor. HMP Inverness is likely to be one of the last prisons built in Scotland using this plan form which was developed in the 19th century.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
In terms of material and design quality the design is simple and functional. The large ventilation chimneys, machicolation and crowstepped gables are all familiar architectural features used in mid to late 19th prisons, however, HMP Inverness is slightly plainer than other similar small regional prisons such as HMP Dumfries. The high boundary wall is typical and for a prison set within a residential community the security was essential.
Walter Wood Robertson was appointed principal architect and surveyor for Scotland for HM Office of Works in 1877 and he held the post until 1904. He was responsible for HMP Inverness, however, the surviving architectural drawings used in this assessment which date from 1899-1902 are mostly signed by a J MacKintosh who was likely to have been the project architect.
The Annual Report of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland for 1902-03 (National Archives of Scotland, ref HH112/47, p.77) notes that the prison was built with the assistance of prison labour. Prisoners from the existing Inverness Castle prison were taken to the new site and contributed to its construction.
HMP Inverness is located in a residential area of Inverness and is surrounded by houses. The site forms largely the same boundary as it did when constructed in 1902 and as shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Maps. Very few town prisons survive today and its 19th century residential setting adds to its rarity and interest in listing terms.
2.3 Close Historical Associations
There are no known associations with nationally significant persons or events.
There was one execution at HMP Inverness carried out by the renowned executioner Henry Pierrepoint. Joseph Hume from Moray was hanged for murder on 5 March 1908.