HM Prison Manchester

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HMP Manchester
HM Prison Manchester
LocationStrangeways, Manchester
Security class Adult oust Male/Category A
Population1,238(as of April 2013)
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor Rob Knight
Website Manchester at

HM Prison Manchester is a high-security men's prison in Manchester, England, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. It is still commonly referred to as Strangeways, which was its former official name derived from the area in which it is located, until it was rebuilt following a major riot in 1990.


It is a local prison, holding prisoners remanded into custody from courts in the Manchester area and Category A prisoners (those whose escape would be highly dangerous).

Strangeways was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and opened in 1868 alongside the demolished Manchester Assize Courts. The prison is known for its prominent ventilation tower and imposing design, structured by the principles of the separate system.


Strangeways ventilation tower Strangeways watchtower.jpg
Strangeways ventilation tower

Construction of the Grade II listed prison was completed in 1869, and it was opened on 25 June 1868, to replace the New Bailey Prison in Salford, which closed in 1868. The prison, designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1862 with input from Joshua Jebb, [1] cost £170,000, and had a capacity of 1,000 inmates. Its 234 feet (71 m) ventilation tower (often mistaken for a watchtower) has become a local landmark. [2] The prison's walls, which are rumoured to be 16 feet thick, are said to be impenetrable from either inside or out.

The prison has an element of the separate system with its plan in the form of a star or a snowflake, with two blocks housing ten wings that emanate from a central core where the ventilation tower is situated. [3] The prison consists of two radial blocks branching from the central core with a total of ten wings (A, B, C, D, E, F in one block, and G, H, I, K in the second). [4]

The jail was built on the grounds of Strangeways Park and Gardens, from which it was named. Strangeways was recorded in 1322 as Strangwas from the Anglo-Saxon Strang and gewæsc meaning "[a place by] a stream with a strong current".

The prison was open to male and female prisoners until 1963 when the facility became male-only, and in 1980 it began to accept remand prisoners. As of 2005 the prison held more than 1,200 inmates.

As a place of execution

Overlooking Manchester Arena and the old Boddingtons tower to Strangeways. Overlooking Manchester towards Manchester Arena Strangeways.jpg
Overlooking Manchester Arena and the old Boddingtons tower to Strangeways.

Originally, the prison contained an execution shed in B wing and after World War I a special execution room and cell for the condemned criminal was built. Strangeways was one of the few prisons to have permanent gallows. [2] The first execution at Strangeways was that of twenty-year-old murderer Michael Johnson, who was hanged by William Calcraft on 29 March 1869. [5]

Twenty-nine hangings took place over the next twenty years and 71 took place in the 20th century, bringing the total number to 100. During the second half of the century, the number of executions decreased, with no hangings between 1954 and 28 November 1962, when James Smith was executed. John Robson Walby (alias Gwynne Owen Evans), one of the last two people to be hanged in England, was executed here on 13 August 1964. Out of the 100 hangings, four were double hangings, while the rest were done individually. The "quickest hanging" of James Inglis, in seven seconds, carried out by Albert Pierrepoint, took place here. [6]

Other executions

  • John Jackson was executed on 7 August 1879.
  • Mary Ann Britland (38) was executed on 9 August 1886 for the murder of two family members and her neighbour. She was the first woman to be executed at the prison.
  • Thom Davies was hanged on 9 January 1889 for sexual deviancy charges.
  • Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt was hanged on 13 April 1920 for the murder of twenty-six-year-old Kathleen Breaks.
  • Louie Calvert was hanged on 24 June 1926. [2]
  • Doctor Buck Ruxton was executed on 12 May 1936 for the murder of his wife. A petition for clemency was signed by 10,000 people, both sympathetic locals with high regard for this "people's doctor" and abolitionists who mounted a large demonstration on the day of his execution.
  • Margaret Allen was hanged on 12 January 1949 by Albert Pierrepoint for the murder of an elderly widower. Her execution was the first of a woman in Britain for twelve years [2] and the third execution of a woman at Strangeways.
  • After the seven second hanging, Albert Pierrepoint executed Louisa May Merrifield on 18 September 1953. She was the fourth and last woman to be executed at the prison. [7]

The bodies of executed criminals were buried in unmarked graves within the prison walls, as was the custom. During prison rebuilding work in 1991, the remains of 63 executed prisoners (of which 45 were identifiable) were exhumed from unmarked graves in the prison cemetery [8] and cremated at Blackley Crematorium in Manchester. The cremated remains were re-interred in two graves (plot C2710 and C2711) at the adjacent cemetery. [9] [10]

The following people were hanged at Manchester Prison between 1869 and 1964:

People hanged at Manchester 1869–1964
Date hangedNameReason given
29 March 1869Michael Johnsonmurder of Patrick Nurney
26 December 1870Patrick Durrmurder of his wife, Catherine
30 December 1872Michael Kennedymurder of his wife, Ann
21 December 1876William Flanagan alias Robinsonmurder of Margaret Dockerty
27 March 1877John M'Kennamurder of his wife, Annie
4 February 1878George Pigottmurder of Florence Galloway
19 November 1878James McGowanmurder of his wife
20 May 1879William Coopermurder of Ellen Mather
17 February 1880William Cassidymurder of his wife, Rosemary Ann
28 November 1881John Aspinall Simpsonmurder of Ann Ratcliffe
13 February 1882Robert Templetonmurder of Betty Scott
12 February 1883Abraham Thomasmurder of Christiana Leigh
26 November 1883Thomas Rileymurder of Elizabeth Alston
24 November 1884Kay Howarth [h 1] murder of Richard Dugdale
24 November 1884Harry Hammond Swindellsmurder of James Wild
9 August 1886Mary Ann Britlandmurders of daughter Elizabeth, husband Thomas and Mary Dixon
15 February 1887Thomas Leatherbarrowmurder of Katherine Quinn
30 May 1887Walter Woodmurder of his wife, Emma
15 May 1888John Alfred Gellmurder of Mary Miller
7 August 1888John Jackson (Charles Firth)murder of Ralph D Webb
24 December 1889William Dukesmurder of George Gordon
19 May 1891Alfred William Turnermurder of Mary Ellen Moran
20 December 1892Joseph Mellormurder of his wife, Mary Jane
28 November 1893Emanuel Hamarmurder of Catherine Tyrer
31 July 1894William Crossleymurder of Mary Ann Allen
27 November 1894James Wilshaw Whiteheadmurder of his wife
4 August 1896Joseph Hurstmurder of his daughter, Maud Goddard
22 February 1898George William Howemurder of Joseph Keirby Pickup
6 December 1899Michael Dowdlemurder of his wife, Ellen
4 December 1900Joseph Holdenmurder of his grandson, John Dawes
3 December 1901Patrick M'Kennamurder of his wife, Anna
2 December 1902Henry Mackmurder of Esther Elizabeth Bedford or Thompson
12 May 1903William George Hudsonmurder of Harry Short
2 December 1903Charles Whittakermurder of Eliza Range
27 February 1906John Griffithsmurder of Catherine Garrity
12 May 1908John Ramsbottommurder of James McCraw
28 July 1908Fred Ballingtonmurder of his wife, Ellen
3 August 1909Mark Shawcrossmurder of Emily Ramsbottom
22 February 1910Joseph Wrenmurder of John Collins
12 December 1911Walter Martynmurder of Edith Griffiths
12 December 1911John Edward Tarkentermurder of his wife, Rosetta
23 July 1912Arthur Birkettmurder of Alice Beetham
13 August 1913James Rydermurder of his wife, Ann
17 December 1913Ernest Edwin Kellymurder of Daniel Wright Bardsley
8 March 1916Fred Holmesmurder of Sarah Woodall
29 March 1916Reginald Haslammurder of Isabella Holmes Conway
19 December 1916James Howarth Hargreavesmurder of Caroline McGhee
21 March 1917Thomas Clintonmurder of Henry Lynch.
17 December 1918William Rooneymurder of his sister in law, Mary Rooney
6 January 1920Hyman Perdovitchmurder of Solomon Franks
6 January 1920David Caplanmurder of his wife, Freda
13 April 1920Frederick Rothwell Holtmurder of Katherine Elsie Breaks
22 June 1920William Thomas Aldredmurder of Ida Prescott
31 December 1920Charles Colcloughmurder of George Henry Shenton
5 April 1921Frederick Quarmbymurder of Christina A Smith
24 May 1921Thomas Wilsonmurder of Olive Duff
30 May 1922Hiram Thompsonmurder of his wife, Ellen
3 January 1923George Frederick Edisburymurder of Winifred Drinkwater
28 March 1923George Perrymurder of Emma Perry
8 April 1924Francis Wilson Bookermurder of Percy Sharpe
13 August 1924John Charles Hornermurder of Norman Widderson Pinchin
26 May 1925Patrick Powermurder of Sarah Ann Sykes
11 August 1925James Makinmurder of Sarah Elizabeth Clutton
15 December 1925Sam Johnsonmurder of Beatrice Philomina Martin
16 March 1926William Thorpemurder of Frances Clarke
24 June 1926Louie Calvertmurder of Lilly Waterhouse
3 January 1928Fred Fieldingmurder of Eleanor Pilkington
28 June 1928Walter Brooksmurder of Beatrice Brooks and Alfred Moore
6 December 1928Chung Yi Miaomurder of Wai Sheung Yi Miao
4 April 1929George Cartledgemurder of his wife, Ellen
16 April 1931Francis Landmurder of Sarah Ellen Johnson
15 December 1931Solomon Steinmurder of Annie Riley
3 February 1932George Alfred Ricemurder of Constance Inman
18 May 1932Charles James Cowlemurder of Naomi Annie Farnworth
19 December 1933William Burtoftmurder of Frances Levin
30 May 1935John Harris Bridgemurder of Amelia Nuttall
12 May 1936Buck Ruxtonmurder of his wife, Isabelle and Mary Jane Rogerson
4 February 1937Max Mayer Haslammurder of Ruth Clarke
12 August 1937Horace William Bruntmurder of Kate Elizabeth Collier
20 April 1938Charles James Caldwellmurder of his wife, Elisa Augustine
11 February 1941Clifford Holmesmurder of his wife, Irene
4 September 1941John Smithmurder of Margaret Helen Knight
26 July 1944James Galbraithmurder of James William Percey
9 April 1946Harold Berrymurder of Bernard Phillips
24 April 1946Martin Patrick Coffeymurder of Harold Dutton
27 February 1947Walter Graham Rowlandmurder of Olive Balchin
12 January 1949Margaret Allenmurder of Nancy Ellen Chadwick
28 November 1950James Henry Corbittmurder of Eliza Wood
19 December 1950Nicholas Persoulious Crosbymurder of Ruth Massey
26 January 1951Nenad Kovacevicmurder of Radomir Djorovic
8 May 1951James Inglismurder of Aice Morgan
12 June 1951John Dandmurder of Walter Wyld
3 July 1951Jack Wrightmurder of Mona Mather
15 January 1952Alfred Bradleymurder of George Camp
26 February 1952Herbert Roy Harrismurder of his wife, Eileen
18 September 1953 Louisa May Merrifield murder of Sarah Ann Rickets
17 December 1953Stanislaw Jurasmurder of Erena Wagner
8 January 1954Czeslaw Kowalewskimurder of Doris Douglas
28 November 1962James Smithmurder of Sarah Isabella Cross
13 August 1964Gwynne Owen Evansmurder of John Allen West
  1. Kay Howarth (a male)

Strangeways riots

Between 1 April and 25 April 1990, 147 staff and 47 prisoners were injured in a series of riots by prison inmates. There was one fatality among the prisoners, and one prison officer died from heart failure. [11] Much of the old prison was damaged or destroyed in the rioting. Several inmates were charged with various offences, and Paul Taylor and Alan Lord faced a five-month trial as ringleaders.

The riots resulted in the Woolf Inquiry, and the prison was rebuilt and renamed Her Majesty's Prison, Manchester. Repair and modernisation cost more than £80 million after the riot, and rebuilding was completed in 1994. [12]

The prison post-1994

The prison is a high-security category A prison for adult males and has a maximum capacity of 1,269 as of 4 August 2008. Operation of the prison was put out to tender in 1994 and 2001. [4] Accommodation is divided into nine wings in two radial blocks. Cells are a mixture of single and double occupancy, all having in-cell power points and integral sanitation.

The prison has become known for a high suicide rate following its reopening in 1994. From 1993 to 2003, Strangeways prison had the second highest number of suicides among inmates of any prison in the United Kingdom [13] and 2004, Strangeways had the highest number of suicides in the country. [14]

Education and vocational training is provided by the Manchester College. Courses offered include information technology, ESOL, numeracy, industrial cleaning, bricklaying, painting and decorating, plastering, textiles and laundry. The prison's gym runs courses in physical education and offers recreational sport and fitness programmes.

In 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that a drone aircraft was being used in an attempt to deliver drugs and smartphones to precise locations within the prison. [15]

In 2017, a report by the Independent Monitoring Board described Manchester Prison as squalid, vermin infested and reminiscent of Dickensian England. The report added that the prison urgently needed modernisation and assaults on staff have risen owing to staff shortages. [16]

In 2016, Nicky Reilly, also known as Mohammed Saeed Alim, a Muslim convert was found dead in his cell after hanging himself. Reilly had a chronic history of self harm, he suffered from Asperger's Syndrome and a personality disorder. A jury decided it was "more likely than not" that he did not intend to die and "acted impulsively." It is unclear if Reilly understood the concept of death or could form the intent to die. Senior coroner, Joanne Kearsley said evidence given at the court raised "significant concerns." Kearsley said she was not convinced the prison had a clear plan and awareness of his needs and she questioned why he was not under a care programme approach (CPA) where care coordinators are given to individual prisoners. The coroner asked whether a type of review should be considered for prisoners with recognised lifelong mental health problems and chronic risk of self-harm. [17]

Notable inmates

Cultural references

See also

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  17. Death in prison of man with Asperger's 'raises serious concerns' The Guardian
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  • Eddleston, John J. (2004). The Encyclopaedia of Executions. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN   1-84454-058-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fielding, Steve (1994). The Hangman's Record. Volume One: 1868–1899. Beckenham: Chancery House Press. ISBN   0-900246-65-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fielding, Steve (2008). Pierrepoint: A Family of Executioners. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN   978-1-84454-611-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Coordinates: 53°29′33″N2°14′47″W / 53.49250°N 2.24639°W / 53.49250; -2.24639