Polychronicon 145: Interpreting the history of the modern prison

Teaching History feature

By Alyson Brown, published 3rd January 2012

On the morning of Sunday 24 January 1932 convicts paraded in the exercise yards at Dartmoor Convict Prison in Devon. Suddenly, inmates began to break ranks, encouraging others to do likewise. Some prisoners were shepherded into cell blocks by officers but control mechanisms quickly collapsed and the remaining inmates had the run of the prison. The perimeter walls were secured by officers withdrawing from the prison until reinforcements arrived from Plymouth Police and armed force was used to retake it. During the riot, which lasted about an hour and a half, extensive damage was done and the central administrative block was destroyed by fire. This riot was one of the biggest press stories of the year and, including coverage of consequent official investigations and trials, ran for months. Newsreels were shown in cinemas across the country and can be accessed on Pathé News and Movietone websites...

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