SOMERSET’S only prison, at Shepton Mallet, was closed in a £63 million cost-cutting drive 10 years ago this month.

HMP Shepton Mallet Prison, which dates to the 17th century, held around 200 prisoners before its closure in May 2013.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had announced in January that the category C prison - which was the oldest still operating in the UK - would close along with others at Bullwood Hall, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston and Shrewsbury.

They were all classed by the MoJ as “smaller, older and more expensive”.

Parts of three other prisons, at Chelmsford, Hull and the Isle of Wight were also closed.

At the time, the Government was planning to build Britain's largest prison at Berwyn in north Wales, which now has the capacity for more than 2,000 inmates.

It also wanted to increase accommodation at four existing prisons.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive.

“But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available.

“So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system.

“That’s why we are moving ahead with immediate plans for new prison capacity, as well as closing older and more expensive facilities.”

The prison was decommissioned on March 28, 2013 with a ceremony held on the Exercise Yard, attended by past and present officers and staff.

Four years later, Shepton Mallet Prison opened as a tourist attraction that takes visitors on a journey behind bars.

It underwent an extensive refurbishment during lockdown, which saw the interpretation spaces revamped and the number of  information boards and sound boxes at the site increased. 

In the year 2020, the prison was named the third most haunted place in the UK, according to the editor of Haunted Magazine.

HMP Shepton Mallet Prison was said to have ghostly visits from the detained murderers, victims of brutal executions and suicides.

The research, conducted by editor Paul Stevenson, was commissioned by Amazon Prime Video after their launch of the new series Truth Seekers.

In 2020, another Amazon series, Paranormal Lockdown UK, saw two investigators spend 72 hours inside the prison “to capture physical evidence on record”.