aldington | open prison

The only two storey building on the site was the boiler house, a brick blockhouse in the centre of the main building complex. With its ladders and high roof, we proceeded towards it, hoping for a elevated view of the complex, as we were becoming disorientated moving around the various identical buildings below.

Looking north-west, we could see across the centre administration buildings towards the white painted dormitory blocks with their individual cells (Hythe, Romney, Healthcare, Rye and Hastings dorms), over the impressive fence and on to the officerís quarters beyond (now all private housing).

To the north, the red Sandwich dorm stretched away, blocked by the Clothing Exchange and General Stores. A private house could be seen just beyond the fence; I'm sure they'd be glad when all this is swept away.

To our east was one of the exercise fields, firmly bounded by huge expanses of green metal and barbed wire. Painting the fencing green did little to disguise it from the eye; it could be seen whereever you looked.

The south-east yielded a similar view of rolling hillsides, trees, fields and an enormous fence pinning everything in. Even in its picturesque location, Aldington reminded the inmates there was no escape at all times.

Looking to the south, the prisonís squat, nondescript buildings followed a winding path towards more exercise courts. Even though they looked the same as the dorms to the north, some of the more interesting blocks were here including the gymnasium, workshops, education rooms and chapel.

Our view south-west showed the entrance gates with the officers' club (located sensibly beyond the fence in the public cul-de-sac outside). There were further former officers' quarters beyond, all now sold off as private housing.

There was much conjecture as to what this building was used for. The fencing, with its triple coils of barbed wire, was the most extreme in the complex. We decided, incorrectly, that is was probably used for the most dangerous prisoners. However, it turned out to be the visitors' centre. Either most escapes were attempted here, or the visitors were given a more extreme show of security than any of the inmates in the main part of the prison.