Prisoners in the Westgate

Press Release: 02/09/2008

The Westgate in the late 19th Century (Hampshire Archives)

Prisoners in the Westgate Visitors to Winchester’s Westgate museum will be able to travel back in time to a previous era on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September.

Two “prisoners” will be “locked up” there for the weekend so that they can tell some of the fascinating stories from Tudor and Stuart times when real prisoners were incarcerated there.

The monument, which is a former debtors’ prison and now a popular museum, is taking part in the national Heritage Open Days initiative.

Winchester City Council’s museums service has enlisted the help of actors from the Seventeenth Century Society to bring to life the history of the much–loved Westgate.

Prisoners in the Westgate is a completely FREE event; all you need to do is turn up and join in the fun!

Winchester Museums’ Heritage Information Officer Graham Scobie said:

“The Westgate monument is rich in history; from the 16th to the 17th century it was used as a prison and a lock-up. The museum service has had great fun researching our archives to bring this period of history alive; we hope visitors will enjoy the spectacle!”

The Westgate is open from 10am to 5pm each day and there is no admission charge.

Cllr Patricia Stallard, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport, commented:

“This promises to be a hugely entertaining event and is another example of Winchester Museums interpreting the history of the city in an exciting way, and linking in with Heritage Open Days. I hope everyone will enjoy visiting the ancient gateway and learn a little bit more about this aspect of the building”.

Heritage Open Days is a once-a-year chance to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities which bring to life local history and culture. Winchester Museums is proud to be involved with this national event. See www.heritageopendays.org.uk for further details of other openings in the Winchester District and further afield.

Joseph Shelley - Life as a prisoner in the Westgate

Hampshire County Council's website contains details of a fascinating document - a petition for release, written by an inmate of the Westgate in 1727. The petition was written by a Clockmaker called Joseph Shelley and it gives an amazing insight into life as a prisoner in the Westgate.

Click here to view Joseph Shelley's petition for release