Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum
Building Jedburgh Borders

Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum

Building In Jedburgh, Borders

Jail built on the site of the old Jedburgh Castle in the 1820s.

On our recent visit to the borders, we spent an afternoon in Jedburgh where we pleasantly surprised to find that parking was free. Turns out a number of the attractions are also free, including Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum. The museum is a charity which relies on donations, but they could very easily charge and it would be worth every penny.

The jail was built on the site of the old Jedburgh Castle in the 1820s. The castle had been demolished centuries before in 1409, after it passed from the English to the Scots several times during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

The jail was one of the first prisons in Scotland to be built according to the principles of the Scottish prison reformer, John Howard. Standards clearly slipped over the years however, as two reports from the late 1800s testify:

An inspectors report from 1879 stated that the size of the cells was unsatisfactory and the heating and ventilation were not up to standard. A further report in 1881 said that there was no drainage system, but it wasn't until 1886 that the jail finally closed. The prisoners living there at the time were sent to Edinburgh to be jailed.

There are plenty of info boards on both levels of the museum and you can also take a look inside the cells of the old jail. As you can imagine, the cells do not look cosy, but instead look very dark and cold and would have been a very unpleasant place to stay. Inside some of the cells are stories about the people who would have been held here and they made for a depressing read at times.

After the closure of the jail in 1886, it was restored in the 1960s and opened as a museum in 1968. The museum tells the story of the jail's history, and it also has exhibits on the town's history and its famous residents.

It's not a particularly cheerful place to visit, but it does give you a good insight into the history of the town. Because it sits in a high position at the top of Castle Gate, you can also enjoy lovely views over Jedburgh and the countryside too, and there is an Orchard and outdoor training area where prisoners could enjoy some fresh air. An interesting place.

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Contributed by Sandra Clemens

I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.

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Sandra Clemens

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