Built in the early 1800s, Dartmoor Prison is a foreboding sight, its austere granite exterior tempered little by the beauty surrounding it. Home to French prisoners in the Napoleonic war, as well as American POWs, it was rebuilt in the 1850s to house some of the country's most notorious criminals; conditions were regarded as the harshest in England. Those lucky (or foolish) enough to escape, usually perished in the peat bogs or the severe weather. If you made it off the Moor, you were usually recaptured and flogged. One account tells of convicts making skeleton keys out of bones from their food. Another of a man who fled a chain gang amid warder gunfire, apparently aimed so as not to be fatal. The report states: 'The captured convict was severely injured, having received several shots to the head.'
I took the above picture in the churchyard behind the prison. The gravestones are those of convicts who died during the prison's early days. Some have initials and dates, others are just plain.
For my next research trip, I just have to work out how to break into a prison.