Reading Gaol: a short history – Publishing on 21st March 2022 – pre order your copy now


  • A short history of Reading Gaol from its 19th-century origins to the present day
  • Looks at the social and political context of prison reform in the early 19th century and the design and building of Reading’s Gaol in the 1840s
  • Describes what the prison regime was like and tells the stories of individual ordinary prisoners
  • Includes chapters on Oscar Wilde and on the “Aliens and Irish” imprisoned around the time of the First World War and the 1916 Easter Rising
  • Covers the 20th century changes to the Gaol up to its decommissioning in 2013 and the subsequent campaign to “save Reading Gaol” for future use as a cultural hub for the town

Available on backorder


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, March 2022


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