Littledean Jail Museum: The Hauntings And History

Littledean Jail Museum

The History Unveiled

Our story for the most haunted gaol (an old-fashioned word for prison) begins on Church Street, just outside Little Dean in Gloucestershire, England.

Where Sir George Onesiphorous Paul, a pioneer of prison reform, and hotshot architect of his day, William Blackburn, began the construction of Littledean Jail back in 1788. It was initially built to house 24 short-term offenders from the Forest of Dean area.

After the sudden death of Blackburn, William Hobson (Paul’s brother-in-law) took over the building, but the construction was suspended for a short while due to bankruptcy. J. Fentiman, a builder from London, completed the Grade II building in 1791. It cost a mere £1,650 in total.

The Littledean Jail was so impressive that the world-famous Philadelphian Cherry Hill Penitentiary System in America was modelled after it! Its strong sandstone walls are a true testament to the blood, sweat and tears that went into the building work, and much of the original gaol can still be seen today.

The prisoners of Littledean Jail

In November 1791, Joseph Marshall was welcomed into the prison as its first inmate. His crime? He stole a spade.

Wrongdoers were housed at Littledean Jail for crimes ranging from petty theft, prostitution, and military deserters to murder. Children as young as 8 years old were sent to Littledean Jail and three babies were born within its walls between 1837 and 1838; however, only one survived.

Each prisoner had two cells; one for sleeping and one for day-time working. In the first 26 years of Littledean Jail’s existence, only 195 prisoners were incarcerated here, with the highest number of 6 being held at one time.

Between 1798 and 1803, there were pretty much NO prisoners at all! In 1854, the jail stopped operating as a prison, only housing remand prisoners (prisoners awaiting sentencing).

From 1854 to 1972, Littledean Jail was used as a police station and courthouse. Archives from the Gloucestershire Record Office were stored here during World War II, and the building was later sold to the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group company in 1985.

From Punishment To Museum

In 2003, the 212-year-old prison was bought by the Jones family. Andy Jones and his family (including 6 children), live above the museum. This is when Andy opened the Crime Through Time Museum. There have been boycotting actions imposed upon the owner – for containing some offensive items – over two decades. Nonetheless, its doors have remained open.

Mr Jones said: “The Holocaust and those types of exhibitions – the Black Panther Party and the Ku Klux Klan – although it’s disturbing, we like to think it provides educational value.

A prized criminal collection

While the nature of Andy’s bizarre collection may not be to everybody’s taste, you sure can appreciate this interesting attraction.

Andy’s fascination with dark criminal artefacts has grown over the years to an impressive size. This time collection of true crime bits and bobs has had tourists streaming through the doors! The Littledean Jail Museum has been running for 20 years. Its attraction especially grew after Netflix’s Dark Tourist visited the former jail.

Andy has been known to visit notorious prisoners in jail, striking up friendships with Reggie Kray and Charles Bronson. He has even said that many prisoners contact him to pass on personal items to ensure their immortality – “Reg Kray contacted me initially and a number of other notorious villains got in touch”.

This treasure trove of unusual and rather unorthodox criminal relics is home to:

  • Paganism, witchcraft and the paranormal
  • Nazi Holocaust years and Nazi occult
  • Celebrity sleaze, scandal and debauchery
  • Murderabilia
  • History of the Ku Klux Klan
  • History of The Peaky Blinkers
  • Fascism in Britain
  • Freaks of nature, curiosities and oddities
  • The UK’s only permanent Quadrophenia Exhibition

Hauntings And Legends

The legends you have heard about the Littledean Jail Museum are true. It’s renowned for its reputation as one of the most haunted locations in Gloucestershire. The Jones family, who live in the old prison, have said that there are definitely ghostly entities lurking about, and they have experienced eerie phenomena.

Paranormal investigations have been done, using ghost-hunting equipment, and have confirmed the strange, spooky sightings. Reports of museum exhibits shaking uncontrollably, light bulbs flickering, menacing shadows and the faint sound of children crying in the cells are just a few things that bring visitors coming back for more.

The frequent eerie sound of thumping footsteps, heavy doors slamming and objects being hurled at visitors with no logical explanation have also been reported. Among these macabre sightings, the jailer himself is considered the most frightening. His presence can be felt either by physical contact or by catching a quick glimpse of his ghost in one of the museum’s darker corners.

The Littledean Jail Museum’s Crime Through Time Collection has certainly made Andy Jones somewhat of a celebrity in the area, not it’s not the place for children.

Touring The Museum

Location

Gate 1, Littledean Jail, Church St, Cinderford, United Kingdom GL14 3NL

Website

Visit Littledean Jail’s website for more information.

Museum trading hours

  • The Littledean Jail Museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 – 17:00
  • Tickets are £10 for adults; £9 for seniors; £9 for children (aged 3 – 18)
  • Only cash payments are accepted

Reviews

  • Amazing place so much to look at. You could be there all day!” – September 2023
  • Not appropriate for children… Should have an age limit to a minimum of 18, do not take your kids!!!” – August 2023
  • Old town jail housing a crime museum. Literally wall to wall with items relating to serious crimes, terrorism, scandals and The Holocaust.” – December 2022

FAQs

Who was “Old Ellen” of Littledean Jail?

Ellen Hayward was the last woman in Gloucestershire to be tried for witchcraft at the jail back in 1906. She was found not guilty.

Who were Rose and Fred West?

Rose and Fred West were notorious serial killers, committing at least 12 murders between 1967 and 1987 in Gloucestershire. Many of their victims were young women who were put through horrific sexual assaults, including rape, bondage and mutilation.

The West’s home became known as “The House of Horrors” as many of the victims’ bodies were found buried in the cellar and garden.

Are there any other haunted prisons?

Yes, there are many haunted prisons such as Bodmin Jail, Shepton Mallet Prison, Shrewsbury Prison, and Ruthin Gaol.

Final Thoughts

The spooky existence of the old Littledean Jail is what your worst nightmares are made of. While housing an impressive collection of true crime artefacts, its ghosts are the talk of the town.

Could the prison be haunted by the spirits of Rose and Fred West? And who is the infamous ol’ jailer that torments his visitors?

We dare you to take a step back in history and decide if the haunting legends are true or not…

Sam Ashford
Sam Ashford - Author

Hey, I'm Sam Ashford! I'm a ghost-hunting expert, writer and founder of SpiritShack. My mission is to help people like yourself learn about spirituality and how to hunt ghosts!