Atlas Obscura - Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations

Ruthin Gaol Museum

A look into the life of a Victorian-era prisoner.  

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During the Victorian era, a stint inside Ruthin Gaol was a fate close to death. Today, a visit serves as the perfect afternoon for fans of the macabre.

Ruthin Gaol was built in the late 18th century to replace a smaller “correction center” that was forced to modernize because conditions were so poor. It was expanded over the years and continued to function as a prison until 1916. After, the site became a makeshift munitions factory during World War II before eventually being partially converted into a public library and office space. Today, a large chunk of the building serves as the only purpose-built Pentonville-style prison (a prison that focused on isolating inmates in individual cells) open to the public as a heritage attraction.

Visitors are free to explore the cramped cells, where inmates spent the vast majority of their days alone, and witness the various forms of punishments dolled out for bad behavior. These ranged from a stint in the dark cell to a machine with a crank-shaft handle that prisoners were forced to turn thousands of times, despite it not actually serving any purpose.

Visitors will also learn stories about some of those who once inhabited these walls.

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June 12, 2023

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