Oxford Prison "A" Wing part of Oxford Castle in August 2004 on the last Open Day before redevelopment as Malmaison hotel (Photo: Quintin Lake)

Oxford Prison was built in 1870. A product of Victorian enlightenment, all the cells had windows, and its massive central gallery (A Wing) — three tiers of cells — was brightened by sunlight pouring through three-storey-tall, barred casement windows. If you’re a fan of British television and movies, you’ll recognize A Wing from episodes of the Oxford-based Inspector Morse, series or from the 1969 version of The Italian Job.

In its day, Oxford Prison was considered airy, healthful, and light. But when the prison closed in 1996 it was so overcrowded that prisoners were apportioned three to a cell. Nevertheless, the once-revolutionary design qualified parts of the building for coveted protection status. Malmaison, which has earned a reputation for converting unusual city center locations into luxury hotels, was one of the few companies willing to take on a project that involved keeping A Wing virtually intact.

These photos were taken on the last Open Day before the Oxford Prison site closed for redevelopment in 2004 before reopening as a Hotel, Malmaison Oxford.

From Wikipedia : “The county gaol gradually grew to take over most of the site. In 1888 it became HM Prison Oxford (Oxford Prison). The prison was closed in 1996 and the site reverted to Oxfordshire County Council. It has since been redeveloped as a shopping and heritage complex, with open courtyards for markets and theatrical performances. The scheme also includes a hotel in the Malmaison chain, Malmaison Oxford, occupying a large part of the former prison block, with converted jail cells as guest rooms. This is the first time in the UK that a prison has been turned into a hotel. The redeveloped site also includes apartments, bars, restaurants, events venues, and a visitor centre operating as “Oxford Castle–Unlocked”

View / Buy more images from this photoshoot here

Photography © Quintin Lake, 2010