Ruthin Gaol
Gaol front
(Click the image for a larger version)


Gaol Back
(Click the image for a larger version)


Main Block Interior
(Click the image for a larger version)


Model in the real gaol
(Click the image for a larger version)

Ruthin Gaol began in the 16th century as a small town gaol, but by late Victorian times it had expanded into a huge institution, with new wings built on the Pentonville system - several floors of cells, with their doors opening onto balconies, and a central well giving a clear view of the whole interior.

The gaol closed in 1916. The Council continued to use parts of it for various purposes, but by the end of the 20th century, it was approaching dereliction. A major restoration project was undertaken, completed in 2002. Parts of the building now house a library and the county archive, but much of it is preserved as a museum, showing the gruesome details of life in a Victorian prison.

Since the buildings are so complex, staff wanted a model of the whole site, to allow school parties and other visitors to orient themselves, and see the layout as it would have been in about 1890. They also wanted to remove the roofs of some of the buildings, to show important features of the interiors. I was commissioned to draw up plans and build the model.

Archive materials were sparse - mainly a ground plan of the site from 1870 and one side elevation of the main wing which didn't correspond exactly to the real building. Fortunately, the real thing was available, so I spent a couple of long days crawling over the site with a big tape measure. Some buildings which have disappeared had to be recreated from archive photographs.

I chose a scale of 1:76 for this project. This gave a model of about the right size, and allowed for robust construction. It is also a common railway model scale, so any further details, figures, etc. which may be required in future are likely to be available from stock catalogues.

The model has proved very useful, and it is now in constant use.