The work proceeded rapidly and on 13th February 1797 it was reported that the prison would be ready in about three weeks for the reception of prisoners.
This estimate proved to be somewhat premature despite the work being performed as fast as possible. In that same month the decision was made to adapt some of the prison barracks then being constructed, into a hospital. In the following month plans were altered to increase the prisoner accommodation by adding an extra storey to each block then being erected.
By 25th March progress was such that a staff could be employed, and it was reported that part of the prison was ready for the reception of 1,848 prisoners. A portion of the military barracks had been garrisoned by a detachment of troops ready to mount guard over the expected inmates, who eventually arrived on 7th April, just four months after building commenced.
The prison covered a total area of 42 acres and was octagonal in shape. The outer boundary was originally a strong stockade fence but this was replaced in 1805 with a brick wall bordered on the inside with a ditch, nine yards wide and five feet deep, known as the walk for the 'silent sentries'.
The prison barracks were in the form of four quadrangular courts each of about 3.5 acres. Half of this area was used as an airing ground for the prisoners, while the remainder contained four wooded two-storey barracks, roofed with red tiles.
Each barrack housed 500 prisoners who slept in rows of hammocks, arranged in tiers one above the other. The north-east quadrangle was eventually used solely as a hospital and accommodation for the medical staff.
The quadrangles were surrounded by high stockade fences, and separated from each other by roads 20 feet wide. At the centre of the prison was an octagonal blockhouse in which were mounted six cannons.
A Detailed History >