Berkshire

Reading Prison documents set for conservation following grant

Register of prisoners Image copyright Berkshire Records Office
Image caption A badly damaged register of prisoners is among the volumes being repaired

Historical documents from Reading Prison's archive are set to be preserved following a grant to the county's record office.

The Wellcome Trust will give £25,000 for conservation work to 43 items.

The oldest document is a small volume dating from 1787, from the original gaol on the Forbury site.

The Victorian prison was made famous by Oscar Wilde's poem, The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, which details his experience behind bars.

Wilde spent 18 months of his sentence in Reading from 1895-1897.

Reading Gaol

Famous inmates

  • Roderick Maclean Shot at Queen Victoria in 1882

  • Amelia Dyer Convicted of 'baby farming' murders in 1896

  • Oscar Wilde Playwright jailed after 1895 trial for indecency

  • Arthur Griffith Leading Irish republican interned in 1916

Among the documents being repaired is a register of prisoners admitted between 1892 and 1894, so severely damaged by damp it cannot currently be opened.

Each page will have to be repaired and strengthened before the book is re-sewn into a new cover.

The Wellcome Trust has funded the conservation work as the archive contains records of health care in custodial environments.

It is hoped that all the repairs will be completed by experts at Berkshire Record Office by January 2017.

Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council's lead member for culture said the prison and its archive was "one of the town's most important historical legacies".

The Grade-II listed Reading Prison is due to be sold by the Ministry of Justice, having been shut in 2013 under government plans to replace four prisons with a super-prison.

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