Leeds Icons: Her Majesty’s Prison Leeds

Her Majesty’s Prison Leeds is a Grade II listed building located in Armley, an area west of the city centre. It is one of the largest prisons in the country, and with its towering 19th century castle-like battlements and imposing view over the landscape, it’s certainly a prison from a more traditional era. Originally named Leeds Borough Gaol, the building was completed in 1847 and made with local Yorkstone. It had four wings that led off from a central area in a ‘radial’ style typical of the Victorian era; this style was considered the easiest to supervise, as all four wings were visible at one time.  In 1994 two more wings were added, but since 2003 the vast majority of the older sections of the prison have been refurbished and modernised.

It was a site of execution by hanging, the first being convicted murderers Joseph Myers and James Sargisson in 1864, who were hanged in front of a crowd of an estimated 80,000 outside the prison. The last person to be hanged was Hungarian murderer Zsiga Pankotia in 1961. Notorious English burglar and murderer Charles ‘Charlie’ Peace was executed there in 1879, and Charles Bronson was imprisoned there for a time; he later became the subject of the 2008 film Bronson starring Tom Hardy.

Beth Galey

Illustration: Daniel Wilson

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