Residents' disappointment over prison sell out
OPEN day tours of Shepton Mallet prison have been booked out within days – leaving many disappointed.
After 403 years of public service, the oldest purpose-built prison in the British Isles was shut down earlier this year.
As we reported last week, the doors of the building in Cornhill will be thrown open again over two days next month.
But many residents have been left dismayed after missing out on tours of the prison, which were found to be fully booked soon after the Journal was published.
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One of them, Susan Hiller, from Shepton, wrote to the Journal to say: “The Journal only came out on Thursday and by Friday morning all tickets had been booked. Some of our friends have been disappointed as well.”
A Mrs Taylor, from Shepton, also wrote saying: “Having purchased my Shepton Mallet Journal on Thursday 15 August at 10am, I contacted the website that day regarding a visit to Shepton Mallet Prison. I was informed at that time that all appointments for the two days were already booked. Not everyone has internet facilities and all Shepton should have the opportunity to visit the prison if interested. Many Shepton people are very disappointed.”
But it appears, there won’t be another chance of catching a glimpse behind the historic walls any time soon.
After contacting the Ministry of Justice concerning the situation, we were told: “There are no further plans to arrange any more open days.”
The guided tours on September 14 and 15 are being run in conjunction with Heritage Open Days.
Announcing the scheme, Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “I am pleased to be able to mark the Heritage Open Days by offering local people this unique opportunity to go behind the gates of HMP Shepton Mallet.”
Visitors lucky enough to have made it onto a tour will be able to walk along the galleried Victorian wings, take a stroll across the exercise yard and see the visiting hall, workshops and kitchen.
Mr Wright said: “We have replaced older prisons like this with newer, cheaper and more efficient accommodation as part of our efforts to drive down running costs, and this will be an opportunity to see this historic building.”
The prison has remained empty since the closure in February and there are still no plans for the buildings.
A variety of suggestions have been made by the public including that it should become a museum, a hotel and MP Tessa Munt even joked that its only use is a prison.