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Little Dean Jail is listed as a Grade II building and was designed and built by Sir George Onesiphorus, a pioneer of prison reform and a leading architect of the time, William Blackburn. The prison was completed in 1791 and was supervised by another architect, William Hobson after the death of William Blackburn, who was also his brother-in-law. The building work started in 1788 but it was halted for a short time due to bankruptcy. J. Fentiman from London finished the job.
During its time, Little Dean jail was revolutionary and it later became the government’s model of the best house of correction. The world famous Philadelphian Cherry Hill Penitentiary System in America was modelled after it. The prison’s formidable sandstone façade has withstood the test of time and it stands today like it did hundreds of years ago. It has a lot of history and it is also a place of infamy. It is a reminder of the labour, blood and sweat which were needed in order to build it. Little Dean Jail is not just a prison; it is an architecturally significant building.
The first inmate admitted to Little Dean Jail was a 19-year old labourer by the name of Joseph Marshall. He was convicted for stealing a spade. Aside from adults, children as young as 8 years old were also incarcerated there. There were three babies born in the jail, from 1837 to 1838. However, only one survived. In 1854, Little Dean was used as a police station and a petty sessions court until 1874. The jail is currently owned by the Jones family and is open to the public as a crime museum displaying crime material from over a century.
Little Dean Jail is one of the most haunted places in Gloucestershire. The owners of the jail (the Jones family) who live in the jail, have reported many sightings of entities and they’ve also experienced an abundance of numerous other paranormal goings on.
As well as the Jones family, many ghost investigations have proved fruitful too with activity such as:
Museum exhibits have been reported to shake and lights have also been reported to flicker.
The sounds of little children crying coming from the cells made especially for them have been reported often, as well as heavy footsteps and doors being slammed even when no one is around. Menacing shadows is also a common experience among people visiting the jail. Objects have also been reported to be thrown by unseen hands.
It is said that the scariest presence in the jail is the jailer himself. He would sometimes make his presence felt by touching people and sometimes throwing things at them. He has also been known to appear to a few visitors.