Reading Gaol tours

See the dark history of Victorian prison life revealed on guided tours of Reading Gaol, curated by the National Trust and in association with Artangel.

Exclusive tours will tell the history of the gaol and follow how prisoners were processed then housed.

Reading Prison was only de-commissioned in 2013 and now you will have the opportunity to see the austere corridors, wings, and cells, exploring the prisoner entrance, the hospital, the old chapel and Oscar Wilde’s own cell. Tours will take place between Friday 4 November and Saturday 26 November.

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The austere corridors and wings of Reading Prison are just a few of the locations explored on this exclusive series of tours
Internal view of a wing of Reading Gaol

Tours will be filled with stories of the prisoners, the history of the gaol’s executions and snippets of Oscar Wilde’s own works.

Wilde spent two soul-destroying years incarcerated in Reading Prison from 1895-97. It was while there he wrote De Profundis, a long and harrowing love letter on spirituality and faith which charts his journey into the depths of degradation as he renounces his debauched lifestyle and celebrates the power of art.

On his release, he immortalised the prison in his last work The Ballad Of Reading Gaol:

" Each narrow cell in which we dwell
Is a foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
In Humanity’s machine.
- Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Wilde was not the prison’s only famous resident; the film star Stacy Keach also numbered among the illustrious inmates.

The tours of Reading Gaol build on the successes of previous projects such as Brutal Utopias and Edge City: Croydon changing the perception of heritage from merely country houses and coastlines. Projects such as this seek to explore the real places in which people live and work.

This latest offsite project, runs in association with Artangel who are working in conjunction with over 30 artists to present readings and installations throughout the corridors of Reading Gaol and its empty cells. During two-month project, artists will respond to the work of Wilde, the architecture of the prison and themes of imprisonment and separation.

The prison has been opened to the public with permission from The Ministry of Justice.

Tour times

Tours will take place between Friday 9 September 2016 and Saturday 29 October at HM Prison Reading, Forbury Road, Reading, RG1 3HY

Fridays - 12noon and 2.00pm

Saturdays - 12noon, 2.00pm and 4.00pm

Getting there

The nearest railway station is Reading. 
Trains run regularly from London Paddington.