Varied history over 400 years
It was in 1610 that King James I ordered Houses of Correction to be set up in every county and Shepton Mallet was filled with "rogues, vagabonds, prostitutes and idlers".
Cell doors slamming shut at Shepton Mallet Prison at the end of March will sound the end of a very long chapter in the history of the jail.
Cornhill House had been bought from the Rev Edward Barnard for the sum of £160 for the purpose.
That old building did not survive, although the name was adopted by the prison.
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In 1790 more cottages and land were bought and there was a major rebuild. Men and women were segregated.
A bigger change came in 1817 with another rebuild which created the classic hollow square design which still exists today. Cells faced into the central yard. The perimeter wall, up to 35ft high, is still the second highest prison wall in the country.
The armoury records of the time show that pistols, bayonets, cutlasses, leg irons and turnscrews were among the weapons available to warders.
The prison closed in 1930 but when war was declared it fulfilled another vital role and it became the secret hideaway for the Public Records Office, including the Domesday Book, a copy of Magna Carta, logbooks from HMS Victory and the infamous "scrap of paper" that Neville Chamberlain brought home from his meeting with Adolf Hitler.
On the outbreak of war, convoys of furniture vans began the urgent smuggling of these documents to the former women's section of the prison.
The haul also included every one of the 4,000 treaties England ever made with other countries, state records, House of Commons records, letters from ambassadors, military documents, deeds and maps.
Rumours abounded around the area as to what was being kept at Shepton Mallet and many still say the Crown Jewels were kept at the prison, however the top secret location of the contents of the Tower of London has never been revealed.
The male section became a military prison, first for American servicemen and then for the British armed forces until the mid 1960s. Twenty-one Americans were hanged and two shot by firing squad.
From 1965 the prison reverted to a civilian jail.
Francis Disney, former prison offer, still gives talks on the prison, to raise money for charity and his CD and book is available from info@prison - history.co.uk. Or the Tourist Information Office in Shepton Mallet.