Research visit to Bedford and the collection of the earliest preserved judiciary photographs of Britain, Beds & Luton Archives and National Archives, London, July 2014.
Bedford station emits a small town atmosphere – a relive after the hectic London streets. I start walking in the direction where I expect the town centre and ask some people for the way to my hotel. It turns out to be more difficult than expected, but I meet an elderly man who is happy to help and join me. He tells me that this weekend there’s the big river festival. While we are walking – as it later turns out in the wrong direction – we get to talk about the city and he shows me some landmarks.
Turning a corner, we are suddenly facing the prison complex of Bedford – this is the place where the first British judiciary photographs were produced in the nineteenth century. The history of Bedford Prison dates back to the 10th century and the current prison was built in 1801, it has been expanded in 1840 and in 1990 when a new block was added. In the early nineteenth century state of the art prison included a turnkey’s lodge and cells for different convicts such as debtors and felons. Penal work was mandatory and a system of solitary confinement and silence was severely enforced. Meals were taken in the cells and also during work hours on the treadmill prisoners were kept separate. In 1840 the goal was enlarged and houses for the governor and chief wardens were attached. Just recently, in 2012, it was revealed that the institution has the highest suicide rate of all English and Welsh prisons. We walk on and when getting closer to the riverside the quiet atmosphere disappears. We walk past large crowds of people amusing themselves with music, food and drink. And there it is – my hotel – right in the epicenter of the festivities, fortunately my room faces the backside.
Early the next morning I walk to the municipal building where Beds & Luton Archives are located. The nice staff leads me to a table in a well lit room and produces a large, leather bound volume that holds the prison records and portraits of Bedford Prison. Visualising the Criminal weiterlesen