York & North Yorkshire

Cinema and shops plan for former Northallerton prison site

Image of planned development Image copyright Vector Design Concepts
Image caption The planned Treadmills scheme will include leisure and retail developments

Plans for a £17m retail and leisure scheme on a former prison site have been revealed.

The proposed Treadmills scheme on the Northallerton jail site would include a cinema, shops and offices.

Listed buildings on the North Yorkshire site would be brought back into use and a heritage centre would be created under the plans, the developer said.

A spokesman described the scheme as "Northallerton's most significant regeneration scheme for decades".

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The name of the proposed redevelopment is drawn from an unusual punishment some inmates at the jail endured during the Victorian age.

A number of wooden treadmills, including one thought to be the biggest in the world at the time, were introduced at the prison in the 1820s and inmates were forced to line up and pace on the devices.

Prison treadmills were abolished with the passing of the 1898 Prisons Act.

Image copyright YAT/HAMBLETON DISTRICT COUNCIL
Image caption Male and female inmates would be expected to walk the treadmill

Ahead of demolition of some buildings on site, the York Archaeological Trust (YAT) carried out exploratory works and uncovered the original foundations of the largest treadmill.

The new plans have been put forward by the Central Northallerton Development Company (CNDC), a joint venture between site owner Hambleton District Council and developer Wykeland Group.

A CNDC spokesman said the scheme would offer "sensitive conversion of the site's five remaining listed former prison buildings to form offices, apartments, shops, cafés and restaurants".

"Conversion of these buildings will respect their history and heritage and key period features such as the cell windows will be retained," he added.

Image caption Archaeologists at the Northallerton jail site

Treadmills in prisons

  • Engineer Sir William Cubitt invented the "everlasting staircase" in 1818
  • It was a long cylinder surrounded by steps - as the prisoner put weight on a step it depressed, forcing inmates to keep climbing as the cylinder rotated
  • Larger treadmills would have up to 25 positions
  • Prisons usually had separate treadmills for men and women
  • It was often merely used as a punishment with no purpose
  • Treadmills could also be used to power water pumps or grind corn
  • Men and women would be expected to walk the treadmills for hours as part of the hard labour element of their sentences

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