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HM Prison Peterhead

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HMP Peterhead
Peterhead Prison 04.JPG
LocationPeterhead, Scotland, UK
StatusHistorical museum
Capacity152 (February 2012)
Managed byScottish Prison Service
GovernorMichael Hebden

HMP Peterhead was a prison in Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, operating from 1888 to 2013. Since June 2016, the former grounds operate as the Peterhead Prison Museum.


Peterhead Convict Prison was built around 1888. It was designed to hold 208 prisoners and to be Scotland's only convict prison,[1] i.e. for prisoners sentenced to ‘hard labour’. Occupancy averaged at around 350 however, until peaking at 455 in 1911.[1] Additional buildings were completed in 1909, 1960 and 1962, bringing capacity up to 362.[1] According to the Scottish Prison Service, the prison could, in 2012, accommodate up to 142 prisoners.[2]

It closed in 2013, to be replaced by the new HMP Grampian, the first prison in Scotland to jointly house youths, men and women.[3] The first inmates transferred on to site on 2 March 2014 having been temporarily housed at other sites and connected to family with virtual visits by videolink.[3]

Until the opening of Peterhead Convict Prison, Scots convicts were transported to England to serve their sentences. The first convicts were received in August 1888.

Peterhead supplied the labour force to work in Stirlinghill Quarry and in the Admiralty Yard attached to the prison. These convicts supported the work of a civilian labour force employed by the Admiralty to construct the Harbour of Refuge breakwater.

The Admiralty project was unique in Scotland as it was served by the only state-owned passenger-carrying railway in its day.

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On 28 September 1987, a riot in the prison's D wing resulted in prisoners taking over the building and taking a prison officer, 56-year-old Jackie Stuart, hostage. The rioters were serving life in prison for violent crimes. It was thought that they had nothing to lose and would not hesitate to make good on their threats to kill their hostage, whom they had taken up to the rafters. When negotiations broke down, the then-Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, dispatched the SAS to bring the riot to an end on 3 October. The operation was successful. The hostage was released unharmed and order in the prison was restored.[4][5]


Peterhead Prison had a history of poor conditions for prisoners, being referred to as "Scotland's gulag, a prison of no hope."[6] A 2005 inspection reported that electricity had only just been made available in all the cells and slopping out continued at the prison.[7]

HMP Peterhead was a specialist centre for sex offenders.[8]

Talks on replacing the prison with a new one began in 2006.[9] They were revived in November 2006.[10][11]

Demolition of part of the prison began on 13 February 2012, with the opening of the new HMP Grampian planned for winter 2013/14.[12] The prison closed on 6 December 2013.[13]

The new facility can hold about 500 male and female prisoners – both adults and young offenders – from the Northern Community Justice Authority catchment area.[14]

In 2016, Peterhead Prison was used as a filming location for the 2018 British zombie action film Redcon-1.


The building now serves as the Peterhead Prison Museum which provides an Audio Guided Tour of cells and courtrooms.

Source: "HM Prison Peterhead", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 25th),

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  1. ^ a b c Scraton, P., Sim, J. & Skidmore, P. (1991) Prisons Under Protest, Buckingham: Open University Press
  2. ^ Peterhead Prison Archived 25 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "BBC News – First inmates at new Grampian prison in Peterhead". BBC News. Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  4. ^ "SAS Operations – Peterhead Prison". Elite UK forces. Archived from the original on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  5. ^ McKain, Bruce (23 January 2003). "Government admits the SAS ended Peterhead jail siege". The Herald. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  6. ^ Scraton, P., Sim, J. & Skidmore, P. (1991) Prisons Under Protest, Buckingham: Open University Press pg.14
  8. ^ Peterhead Prison: Granite fortress Archived 9 June 2004 at the Wayback Machine – Retrieved 31/08/07
  9. ^ "New Peterhead prison is favoured" Archived 13 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine – BBC News
  10. ^ "New jail could be built on existing site, says Salmond" Archived 28 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine – This is North
  11. ^ ""Superjail Cannot Come Soon Enough" – ThisisNorth, Feb 2008". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Peterhead Prison – History". Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  13. ^ Urquhart, Frank (6 December 2013). "Notorious Peterhead prison closes its doors". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  14. ^ "HMP Grampian: Intention to award a contract". Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
External links

Coordinates: 57°29′24″N 1°47′14″W / 57.49000°N 1.78722°W / 57.49000; -1.78722

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