Monday, 22 February 2010

Carmarthen Gaol Closed

On the 13th February, 1922 the people of Carmarthen heard that their historic gaol was to close. The government were looking to save expenditure in all departments; docks, board of health, mines, police and prison. All through Wales and England none were left unaffected as government looked to save £75 million.

Report from The Western Mail, 13th February, 1922:

'The Home Office has issued an intimation that it proposes to close His Majesty's Prison, Carmarthen, as from the end of March.
This step is believed to be in accord with the present campaign to affect economies in the national expenditure as urged in the Geddes Report. Eight other prisons in the country, it is learned, are also to be closed.
The Geddes Committee report states regarding the closing of prisons (England and Wales): We understand that the Prison Commission are of the opinion that no further closing of prisons is considered to be practicable at the present, but in view of the release of Sinn Fein prisoners we think thisquestion should be very carefully examined.'


In those times Carmarthen gaol served the three counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke and Cardigan. It had played a major role in the history of the town and surrounding Counties, all the way from the earliest days of public executions.
The day following the announcement of Carmarthen's closure, Swansea prison announced that all of its female prisoners would be moved to Cardiff, making way for the inmates of Carmarthen gaol. There is no doubt that if the prison had not closed, the walls of Carmarthen gaol would have witnessed more condemned ending their days on the gallows.
With the transfer of inmates to Swansea Prison, executions in Carmarthen were ended. In March 1922, the famous Gaol finally closed and it was demolished in 1938 to make way for the new County Hall. In so doing, Sir Eric Geddes achieved in 1922 at Carmarthen what John Nash and all the others before had failed to do and that was to destroy one of the most historic landmarks in West Wales.


**** Life Comes Full Cycle ****

The gates to the gaol went missing after its closure and for over 70 years, their disappearance remained a mystery. Those gates that were once used to keep inmates locked up, returned to Carmarthen museum and are now left open for all to see and walk freely through. The last governor of the prison, Captain John Nicholas, had removed the 12 foot gates to adorn his countryseat, Maes Teilo, near Llandeilo. But now Maes Teilo was a nursing home, and they returned the gates to Carmarthen as it was felt that gaol gates were not an appropiate entrance to a nursing home.
History again coming its full cycle.

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