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Reading Prison opens to the public one last time

Reading Prison opened its doors again for a special 4-hour free glimpse inside, before it closes to the public completely, and begins the transformation into a new housing development.

The main cell-block and converted chapel were re-opened on May 13, whilst almost all furnishings had been removed from the interior of the rooms and offices, save the iron bunk-beds in each cell.

There was considerable public demand to take the last-chance-to-see opportunity, the entrance line reaching close to an hour in length.

This followed on from the very successful set of events held last year at the prison, with some 16,000 visitors paying to visit in the first six weeks of the prison’s opening.

Exhibitionist art charity, Artangel took over Reading Prison in 2016 to provide a number of installations and exhibitions as part of Reading’s Year of Culture. The exhibition was titled Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, and featured numerous art installations from internationally acclaimed artists, a reading of Wilde’s De Profundis by musician Patti Smith, and guided tours throughout the prison site.

Playwright and decadent poet Oscar Wilde’s cell, number C 2.2, was one of the attractions open to the public.


The prison, also known as Reading Gaol, has now moved into private ownership, following former-Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to sell the site rather than re-purpose at public expense. Development plans for the site are to be finalised ‘in the latter half of 2017’ by contractors, with input from Reading Borough Council.

About William Cole

Politics and IR Graduate 2017. Reporter and News Editor of the Spark 2016-17.

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