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HM Prison Peterhead

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HM Prison Peterhead is described as the first convict prison in Scotland and was operation from August 1888 to December 2013.

Following its closure, the facility was re-opened in 2016, as a prison museum, having been sold to local engineering group Score, by the Scottish Prison Service after the last prisoner left in 2013.[1]

The prison was originally designed to hold 208 offenders, but completion of an additional building in 1909 increased this to 350 (1911). Further extensions completed in 1960 and 1962 increased this further still, to a peak of 455.

In the days when 'hard labour' could be part of a sentence, prisoners were put to work in Stirlinghill Quarry, and the Admiralty Yard, where they supported the work of a civilian labour force employed by the Admiralty to construct the harbour breakwater.

Latterly, the prison housed up to 295 prisoners (down to 142 at the time of closure). Some were Category A - offenders who were considered to be highly dangerous to the public or national security, having committed crimes such as terrorism, murder, rape, drug-dealing, or armed robbery.

The prison was notorious, and became better known after rampaging prisoners, revolting over living conditions, assaulted prison guards and set fire to A Wing in 1986.

The following year, two prison guards were taken hostage and one, Jackie Stuart, was beaten by prisoners for five days. Mr Stuart was freed only after four SAS team members, armed with smoke bombs and stun guns, stormed the jail.

Remarkably, Mr Stuart, 87 years of age when the museum opened, was amongst its first visitors.

The prison had housed serial killer and paedophile Robert Black and murderer Peter Tobin amongst its inmates, and had been described as the "prison of no hope". Electricity had not been available in all the cells until 2005, and the process of 'slopping out' had continued until 2007.

One of the earliest cells, from 1888, is tiny, just 5 ft x 7 ft x 7 ft high, and hung with a hammock-style bed.

One cells is set up to show the conditions created during the 'dirty protest' era of the 1970s and 1980s, when prisoners would smear their cell wall with their own excrement.


1 Scotland’s “Alcatraz” - Peterhead Prison - reopens as museum - The Scotsman Retrieved October 08, 2016.

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