Building the Gaol


Building the Gaol

Plan of the first floor at Reading Gaol

Date: 1842 | Reference: D/EX485/2/3

The Berkshire justices received 17 entries in their competition to design a new gaol. They chose Scott and Moffatt's iconic design with the help of Sir Joshua Jebb, the Government's Inspector of Prisons.

This working drawing (scale 1 inch: 20 feet) was produced by Scott and Moffat in the summer of 1842, shortly after they had won the competition. To the right can be seen the original gatehouse and women's wing, both since demolished. In the cruciform core are, clockwise from the top, wings C, D, A and B. This is the third floor of the gaol as originally configured. The chapel can be seen in D wing, while the gallery of C3 - including what would become Wilde's cell - is also shown.

The gaol took longer than expected to build. This was partly due to the exceptionally wet spring of 1843, partly due to the bankruptcy of the main contractor, and partly due to delays caused "by the difficulty of removing the old foundations of the Abbey." Eventually, the original budget of £25,000 nearly doubled to £44,000.