Dartmoor (HM Prison)

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HM Prison Dartmoor is a Category C men's prison, located in Princetown, high on Dartmoor in the English county of Devon. Its high granite walls dominate this area of the moor. The prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, and is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.



Early history

Designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and constructed originally between 1806 and 1809 by local labour, to hold prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars, it was also used to hold American prisoners from the War of 1812. Although the war ended with the Treaty of Ghent in December 1814, many American prisoners of war still remained in Dartmoor. On April 6, 1815, 7 of them were killed and 31 wounded when guards opened fire at the behest of the allegedly drunk British officer in charge, who thought that they were attempting to escape. A memorial to the 271 POWs (mostly seamen) who are buried in the prison grounds has been erected.

Dartmoor Prison was reopened in 1851 as a civilian prison, but was closed again in 1917 to be converted into a Home Office Work Centre for certain conscientious objectors granted release from prison; cells were unlocked, inmates wore their own clothes, and could visit the village in their off-duty time. It was again reopened as a prison in 1920, and then contained some of Britain's most serious offenders.

Dartmoor mutiny

On January 24, 1932, there was a major disturbance at the prison. The cause of the riots is generally attributed to the food, not generally but just on specific days when it was suspected it had been tampered with prior to the disturbance.[1] There had also been other instances of disobedience prior to this, according to the official Du Parcq report into the incident such as a model prisoner attacking a popular guard with a razor blade and rough treatment of a prisoner being removed to solitary.[2] At the parade later that day, 50 prisoners refused orders, and the rest were marched back to their cells but refused to enter. At this point, the prison governor and his staff fled to an unused part of the prison and secured themselves in there. The prisoners then released those held in solitary. There was extensive damage to property, but no prison staff were injured, although a prisoner was shot by one of the staff.[3] According to Fitzgerald (1977) "Reinforcements arrived, and within fifteen minutes these 'vicious brutes', who for some two hours had terrorized well-armed prison staff, and effectively controlled the prison, had surrendered and been locked up again".[4]

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