Castle Prison York | History and Haunted!

I had a quick look around the Castle Prison at York, some of the mugshots I saw on the walls, you certainly would want to meet at night… and that was just the staff [Joking].


Paranormal Phenomena reported at Castle Prison is staff and visitors hearing chains rattling, ghostly voices and a strange scratching emanating from cells. There is even a ‘ghost dog’ spotted in the darkened galleries.

Prisoners and keepers

Criminals, women, children, soldiers, and even innocent civilians were locked up within York Castle’s walls between 1705 and 1929; their accounts reveal the insanitary, dangerous, and corrupt ways of prison life.

Prison Life

In the 1700s imprisonment for debt was common. It could often be the fate of a tradesman who had fallen on hard times. Debtors could be released only once money was repaid, their creditors relented or they could prove to a court they were solvent. In the new baroque country gaol of York Castle, the first class debtors and the gaoler lived on the first floor, which had tall, glazed windows. The second class debtors were kept on the second floor.Life could be made comfortable for a price with food, drink and luxuries solely by the prison turnkey at inflated rates. The ground floor cells hosted those who had committed the most serious crimes, such as coin clipping, arson, horse stealing, murder and robbery. Prisoners awaiting transportation to Australia were also held here.

Conditions were poor and brutal, with straw bedding, little fresh air, and no running water until 1780. Many prisoners suffocated in the packed cells and cramped conditions meant diseases such as smallpox and typhus spread quickly. The combination of mine modern architecture and notorious criminals proved to be a tourist attraction, and promenading gentry came to view the inmates behind the railings of the exercise yard.

A picture of one of the many examples of prisoner’s graffiti is also included in the images here.

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