Prince William now owns a prison

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, Prince William has taken over his father’s roughly $400 million property portfolio, known as the Duchy of Cornwall.

Among the estates passed down to William includes King Charles’ beloved Highgrove home (you know, the one he renovated during his marriage to Princess Diana in order to stay close to Camilla) and a prison.

Yes, a prison.

Known as a HMP Dartmoor prison, it’s a Category C men’s prison — a training and resettlement facility, which provides inmates, mostly white-collar, with the opportunity to develop their own skills so they can find work and resettle back into the community upon their release.

Located in Princetown, in the English county of Devon, the prison has been open since 1809.

Dartmoor is made up six wings that offer cell accommodation. Education is available at the prison and ranges from basic educational skills to university courses. Vocational training includes electronics; brickwork and carpentry; painting and decorating courses; industrial cleaning and desktop publishing.

Full-time employment is also available in catering, farming, gardening, laundry, textiles, contract services, furniture manufacturing and polishing. 

An aerial shot of the prison.
An aerial shot of the prison.
Andrew Rabbott

By 1815, at least 270 Americans, who were prisoners of war, and more than 1,200 Frenchmen had died at the facility. It later closed and was left unused for some 35 years after all American and French prisoners had been released, paroled and repatriated. It reopened in 1851.

By 1920, Dartmoor prison began housing UK criminals, which in turn developed a reputation for holding some of Britain’s serious criminal offenders including murderers, gangsters, thieves, spies and robbers.

Some of the most notorious criminals housed at the prison include Jack “the Hat” McVitie, John George Haigh, Jack “Spot” Comer and Frank Mitchell. Numerous escape attempts have been made by inmates over the years.

The HM Dartmoor Prison as it appeared in 1812.
The HM Dartmoor prison as it appeared in 1812.
Benson Lossing – The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812

In January of 1932, the prison’s rugged conditions led to its worst violent outburst. The prison continues to suffer from its age today. In 2001, board members condemned the prison’s sanitation status and its need for repairs. By 2002, it converted into a Category C prison for less violent offenders.

The prison has been threatened with closure over the past decade.

In October 2019, it was announced that HMP Dartmoor would close in 2023. However, following negotiations with the estate of the Prince of Wales (now known as King Charles) in December 2021, it was noted that the prison would remain open beyond 2023 and for the foreseeable future.

The main gates of Dartmoor Prison comes with the inscription 'Parcere Subiectis' which translates to 'Spare the Vanquished.'
The main gates of Dartmoor Prison comes with the inscription ‘Parcere Subiectis’ which translates to ‘Spare the Vanquished.’

The prison has a Grade II heritage listing — which means the building has particular historic and/or architectural significance. Due to the history of Dartmoor since the Napoleonic Wars in the 1800s, the Dartmoor Prison Museum has been established.

In popular culture, the prison was seen in the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love, and in the 1946 Sherlock Holmes film, “Dressed to Kill.”

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