aldington | open prison

This drab prison, dark and gloomy in the October afternoon sun, was not the most architecturally inspiring site, nor of any real national interest. But this would be my one chance to see inside a prison, albeit not that important, but a prison nonetheless. And for that, it was extremely interesting.

These final shots reveal some of the most poignant images of the day: the staff’s final memo and cheap shot at the conservative government who closed the prison down and the mural in the art block, which was talented, desecrated and destined for the skip.

These pictures were taken months ago. I believe Aldington is still there, which is now a resolute monument to the dithering by various local councils.

Plus it's still an opportunity for the curious to experience an afternoon at Her Majesty’s Pleasure if they so wish.

© Simon Cornwell 2006

"I am just writing to tell you how chuffed I am to hear about your visit to Aldington Prison. I am very impressed by your photos and would like to thank you for the chance to see them."

"The reason you are probably asking yourself is why. Well in 1979 my uncle Ricky was in Aldington for six months when he was fifteen. I only found out about the prison a few months ago when my boyfriend wanted to go and have a look around. But there was no way for me to get in unfortunatly."

"I would like to give you the pleasure of knowing that it is still there, but not as intact as your pictures state. I would like to also let you know that it was actually a young offenders prison and my uncle enjoyed his time while in Aldington. I won't get to find out more information about it as he died when I was six."

"I would just like to thank you again for your impressive photographs as it has made me feel closer to my uncle knowing that he spent a short time there." - Stephanie

"My name is Steven and I am writing to you from my college library in Victoria, British Columbia. I am not a native of this wonderful place I now call home, and was for a long time not actually worthy of the life I now have. In any case, I am an ex-con who did spend some time in Aldington Prison in 1993/4 if I remember correctly. It was all a haze of drugs and ... more drugs."

"I've had your site bookmarked since the spring and have been using the pictures as my wallpaper on my laptop, and I'm not sure why? I spent most of my adult life from 14 until 28 going in and out of prisons in Scotland, I am from Glasgow, but found myself in Aldington by way of Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey and by way of Maidstone Crown Court. I was one of the Welling rioters who were used in that whole political cause of getting the Criminal justice Bill through Parliament. I have no complaints, I was as guilty as all hell and deserved everything that I got. However, Aldington has a weird hold on me now, I have a longing to know how the guys I was in there with are doing now. We were all, or for the most part anyway, drug addicts and I know at least one of them is dead. I am clean and have been for over 10 years now, but I still wonder how these guys are. The pictures stirred up emotions for me that are still hard to fathom. I had a great time in there, we ate like kings and were stoned all the time. I had a laugh. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go back for all the tea in China, my life is amazing now, but I'm feeling nostalgic and have you to "thank?", for that."

"I did my whole time in that education block, in a cookery class and in the art room, and had a ball. The cookery teachers name was Pauline, I can't remember the art teachers name. I had some artwork out for my son the other night that I did right in that room."

"I don't know man, I have no idea why I'm telling you this. There was need in me to let you know this. You are a connection to an old life and its fuckin' quite weird. I tell you Simon Cornwell, it's just as well I'm doing a psychology degree, perhaps I'll find out what drives me with this e-mail" - Steven

See also: The Sun | What A Cell Out