Reading Gaol: a short history


  • A short history of Reading Gaol from its 19th-century origins to the present day
  • Includes several previously unpublished and rarely seen historical images, as well as artwork produced for the exhibition ‘In Reading Gaol by Reading Town’ by local artists Martin Andrews, Sally Castle, Jenny Halstead, Martina Hildebrandt, Carole Pembrooke and Linda Saul.


A history of Reading’s iconic gaol: architectural landmark, cultural emblem and symbol for a community determined to cherish the town’s heritage. Layers of history and art are carefully peeled back as Peter Stoneley reveals its past as architectural showcase for Sir George Gilbert Scott’s decorative (and expensive!) style, location for experiments in prison reform, training ground for the leaders of the Irish Independence movement and, of course, the inspiration for Oscar Wilde’s famous Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Bringing the narrative right up to the present day with the discussions over its future use, the impact of the ArtAngel exhibition and Banksy’s graffiti, this book is a timely platform for the building to tell us its story.

Peter Stoneley. Paperback, 210 x 135 mm, 100 pages, May 2022

Peter Stoneley is Professor Emeritus of English Literature at the University of Reading. He has a long-standing interest in Oscar Wilde and contributed a special Afterword to the Two Rivers Press edition of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He feels strongly that the old buildings of the Gaol should be preserved and used for cultural events and the teaching and learning of history.

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