A Night In Jail


Oxford Prison



I haven’t been around too much this week, for which I apologise.

We’ve been away.



Doing time..






‘A’ Wing


It started with a few errands to run, ‘up country’.

We were late leaving home. And wouldn’t it be the day, of all days, when the electric gate failed leaving us stuck, along with the car, on the wrong side. A bit of brute force had to be employed and a new problem is added to the ever lengthening list of ‘stuff’ to sort out.

But one doesn’t get sent to jail for breaking and entering (or even exiting) their own property.. No, this was an entirely voluntary sentence. Mike had a significant birthday a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to treat ourselves to an overnight stop at somewhere a little bit different.



For 1,000 years Oxford Castle has occupied this five-acre site in the heart of the historic city. The castle was originally built by Robert D’Oilly for William the Conqueror and has been home to kings, sheriffs and, latterly, convicts. For 900 years it was used as a prison, enclosed by high walls, until it finally shut its heavily fortified doors in 1996. Since then the heritage buildings and surrounding areas have been sensitively redeveloped to provide a hotel, bars, restaurants, an art gallery and a museum. It’s now one of the most vibrant districts in this bustling old university town (edited from the Oxford Preservation Trust).



So, fancy a night locked away in the slammer? You could of course go out and commit a crime..

But there are far more comfortable ways.



(via Malmaison)


Our room was in fact three cells knocked into one, two for the sumptuous bedroom and the third providing a luxurious en-suite. Rather more salubrious than the facilities ‘enjoyed’ by the previous incumbents methinks.



The corridor that was once the way through to the Exercise Yard


After settling ourselves in Mike decided he fancied a walk. It was a bitterly cold night outside and we’d left our coats in the car. Oxford is a pretty dreadful place to park. What a smart move it was then to have paid extra for the hotel car park and be able to leave the car right outside the door. So there wouldn’t be too far to go coatless.. would there?

Except outside in the courtyard, the car was nowhere to be seen. Within seconds a man came running from the hotel reception brandishing the key. He took us across to a large metal door set into a wall. The door slid open to reveal something I wasn’t expecting at all: a huge metal box. As it transpired, a lift. A lift large enough to take a car. To retrieve our coats we descended into an underground cavern deep in the bowels of the earth.



A cell doorway on ‘A’ Wing


After the brisk walk around Oxford, dinner. In the basement of the hotel, as it happens not far from that original cell left unrestored for posterity (fourth pic from the top), a completely different world. A bar and brasserie. And this being right in the heart of the city centre, the place was buzzing. Cocktails being served, Christmas parties in full swing. So often these days, especially in modern hotels, service can be patchy to say the least. Not so here. The food was excellent and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful.



I might have to re-offend.


2018-04-25T10:22:54+00:00December 5th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Joanne December 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    What a fab place to stay, it looks very luxurious!

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      It’s quite impressive, the sheer scale of it.

  2. marigold jam December 5, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Certainly somewhere different! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      It’s been very well done, with a quality feel. I was worried that it might have been tacky but it isn’t in the least.

  3. Jenny December 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    What a wonderfully quirky place to stay – so glad you enjoyed your little bit of luxury 🙂

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      There are enough original features to keep it looking very much like a prison. With the edges softened of course!

  4. Brian Skeys December 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I would start planning your next ‘Crime’!

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Ethnic cleansing of mice. I noted the irony of the mouse tally chart appearing as one of the ‘related posts’…

  5. Mark and Gaz December 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    It’s a fabulous looking prison alright! Makes offending very attractive 🙂

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      You’d have to be a ‘lifer’ there.

  6. elaine December 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Wow what a wonderful place no wonder you enjoyed your time ‘inside’l

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      At least they let me keep hold of the key. As a student on a Psychology course a (very) long time ago I got to go on a tour of Wormwood Scrubs. Then it was my return rail ticket I kept a very tight hold of..

  7. Countrysidetales December 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    We took the kids to the old prison a couple of years ago, great place to visit. Not sure I could stay there though- too much in the atmosphere for me, but it’s certainly a novel use for it. Hope the gate allowed you home :o) x

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      Apparently parts of the castle are haunted, I discovered researching this post. But the bits of the prison where punishments were carried out is used for offices, not guest rooms!

  8. islandthreads December 5, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    sounds like you had fun Jessica, I hope the gate won’t be too much problem to fix, my washing machine sprung a leak Wednesday, if it’s not one thing it’s another, Frances

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      A reel of special wire arrived overnight delivery this morning and hopefully Mike has now fixed it.. I hope your washing machine proves to be straightforward, an even more crucial bit of kit. Yes, always one thing after another!

  9. Alison December 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    What an interesting place to celebrate a birthday! It all sounds like fabulous fun!

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Fascinating place. I like a bit of quirky, as long as it’s done well.

  10. Sue@GLAllotments December 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    I was under the impression that all prisons were like that nowadays 😀

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Nah, real prisoners probably have wi-fi… I couldn’t get my iPad connected and had to rely on the mobile network, through 2 foot thick walls.

  11. Kris Peterson December 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    What an adventure! It was very enterprising to turn the “pokey” (an American term for the original accommodations) into a fancy hotel.

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      The original accommodation certainly warrants the term ‘pokey’ or poky as we would say in England meaning small and cramped.

  12. Denise December 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Who’d have thought, eh? Glad you and Mike had a lovely ‘doing’ time!

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      It was his suggestion and it was a good one. We just didn’t allow enough time to do it, or Oxford, justice (no pun intended..). Hence the need to re-offend.

  13. Rosie December 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Glad you enjoyed your night ‘inside’ – sounds like great fun:)

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      It was Rosie! Don’t think I’d have much enjoyed being there a few years ago though..

  14. Crafty Gardener December 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    That was certainly a unique overnight stay. Glad they let you out for good behaviour.

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Perhaps I shouldn’t be so good next time.

  15. wherefivevalleysmeet December 5, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    That looks fabulous Jessica – what a memorable place to spend Mike’s birthday – I don’t expect that there is any chance of me getting in jail on an ‘Amazon Deal’ – belated birthday greetings to the young man himself.

    • Jessica December 5, 2014 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      I for one will be on the lookout for deals, but I suspect you’re right. Thank you, I’ll pass on the greetings.

  16. Jacqueline December 5, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    What a brilliant experience Jessica and quite luxurious too.
    Happy significant birthday Mike and many happy returns ….. make the most of it ‘cos there’s a list as long as your arm when you get back !!!!!!!!! XXXX

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      You’re not wrong Jackie!!

  17. woolythymes December 6, 2014 at 4:21 am - Reply

    what a great birthday celebration!!!!

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      He wants to go back next year now.

  18. Charlie@Seattle Trekker December 6, 2014 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Really interesting uses found for this old prison; I think I would have really enjoyed it as well.

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I love to see old buildings put to good use, so many of the original features were retained it was fascinating to look around it.

  19. hoehoegrow December 6, 2014 at 10:28 am - Reply

    And there was me, reading your title, and thinking you’d been banged up for ‘planticide’ or ‘Plant slaughter’! Seems you got off very lightly!

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Plant pest-icide maybe?

  20. Chloris December 6, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

    What a novel idea and very memorable for a special birthday. Not many of us have: ‘ Spend a night in jail’ on our bucket list. That’ s something you won’ t forget. I’ ve never been to Oxford and I can’ t think why not. It sounds a great place for a weekend.

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Oxford is a beautiful place, we could have spent a lot longer there and next time will.

  21. Jo December 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous, definitely somewhere a little different. Happy belated birthday to Mike, I’m sure it’s a birthday he’ll remember.

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jo. I think you’re right!

  22. Dorothy @ The Nature of Things December 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    It would definitely be worth offending to get locked up in a place like that!

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      As long as I could choose my room!

  23. Christina December 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    thanks for the recommendation! A great way to spend a birthday and what a great thing to slip into the conversation, ” one my ?th birthday O ended up in Oxford jail…….” Our local jail which was a monastery before that is now part of the university.

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Malmaison hotels are all a bit different, but this one tops the lot I think. We talked briefly to another guest who was doing just the same as us.. taking photos. It was he who pointed us in the direction of the unrestored cell.

  24. Annie December 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Ooh, now that is a bit different! If you had to commit a minor crime in order to go back what would it be I wonder?

    A belated Happy Birthday to Mike 🙂

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      Now that’s a tricky question. Threatening squirrels with menaces?

  25. angiesgardendiaries December 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    What a great use for an old building. I think these kind of redevelopments are marvelous. Glad to read you both had a good time. Hope the repair for the gate doesn’t work out too costly Jessica.

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      Mike replaced the wiring for the princely sum of £14 plus the overnight delivery charge. Result! I love to see characterful buildings getting a second lease of life, we’re getting good at it in this country.

  26. CherryPie December 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    We peered in through the windows when recently stayed in Oxford. It is nice to see what it is like on the inside and hear that it is a great place to stay 🙂

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      It clearly gets a lot of custom from the locals as well as overnight guests. But it is a very good place to stay.

  27. Sarah December 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    I love the way you find some wonderful places to stay. I hope you weren’t disturbed during the night! Your bedroom looks very comfortable fancy having a lift for the cars! Sarah x

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      It was very quiet, no clanking of keys anyway.. and the thick walls keep out all other noise! Our car couldn’t have been more secure than down there underground. I’m glad I didn’t have to drive it into the lift though..

  28. Vera December 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Wow, what an evening, what a place, and what a great birthday treat for your husband. All my husband got for his birthday treat today was lunch in our local supermarket!

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Happy Birthday Lester!!

  29. Cathy December 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Like Angie said, it was a great use of the building and sensitively done it seems. What a novel birthday treat 🙂

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      Always a bit suspicious of themed hotels, they can be OTT, but this one is very well done.

  30. CJ December 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Wow, what a novel place to stay. I’m glad it was so enjoyable, it was no doubt very memorable as well. I imagine those walls could tell some tales. CJ xx

    • Jessica December 6, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      It is easy to imagine what life must have been like for the previous residents. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to see the museum which I’m sure would have been even more enlightening.

  31. snowbird December 7, 2014 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Wow! That HAS to go on my bucket list….how unusual, quirky and fun….right up my street. Loved it!xxx

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It’s been on Mike’s for a while too, glad we got the chance to go.

  32. sustainablemum December 7, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

    I am not sure I could sleep soundly in a place so steeped in ‘history’. I am intrigued as to why it was stopped being used as a prison given the pressure on prison places or so we are told……..

    A belated happy birthday!

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you. It was so comfortable that sleep came very easily! Not sure why the prison closed, perhaps it just wasn’t possible to adapt it to modern day guidelines within public sector finances.

  33. Amy at love made my home December 7, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Happy Birthday to Mike!! Glad that you had such a good stay. Definitely somewhere different to visit. I think that I remember seeing this hotel in an episode of Lewis, but I might be totally wrong about that!! xx

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      It has been used in films and TV, so you could well be right.

  34. Anna December 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Now that’s decidedly unique accomadation Jessica. I imagine that’s there are no big windows though 🙂 I don’t think that it would be for me though – that bolt on the door makes me shiver. Birthday greetings to Mike!

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      It isn’t a hotel you go to for far reaching views. Strangely the darkness of the room didn’t bother me, despite tending towards claustrophobic. It’s probably as well I’ve only just noticed the bolt. Perhaps our door didn’t have one.. eek.

  35. AnnetteM December 7, 2014 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    I bet someone had fun converting that place. Glad you had a wonderful time and Happy Birthday to Mike!

    • Jessica December 7, 2014 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      There are enough humorous touches around the place to suggest that the designers did indeed have fun with it. It can’t have been cheap though. A goodly number of thick walls have been moved.

  36. Helene December 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    What a lovely place to go for a celebration! That bedroom looks very nicely done up. I don’t think there’s much chance in anything like that being converted down here in my area, in East London, down here there is a shortage of prisons for real offenders 🙂

    • Jessica December 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      I think there probably is everywhere Helene. But the very old buildings must be expensive to keep going, I did hear that Dartmoor is under review as well. Maybe we won’t need to travel so far next time!

  37. VintageJane December 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    What an intriguing place to stay … off to look it up now!

    • Jessica December 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      It was certainly that, I love staying in places with a bit of character to them.

  38. Em December 9, 2014 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Why not just move in? It’s even better than I imagined last week. Very envious! X

    • Jessica December 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      I wonder if they’d do me a special deal for a week or so… until the decorating is done!

  39. Natalie December 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    WOW! That place is absolutely amazing!! I am fascinated by prisons. What a great job they’ve done transforming it!

    • Jessica December 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      It is quite a transformation, but not so much that you can’t relate back to the original. Great place for you to stay if you come back over!

  40. hb December 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    So I guess you didn’t have to worry much about hotel security?

    • Jessica December 12, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Even my husband had difficulty getting back into the room 🙂

  41. Peter/Outlaw December 13, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    It seems that crime does pay! What a wonderful place to celebrate a significant birthday or a crime well done!

    • Jessica December 13, 2014 at 7:48 am - Reply

      Thank goodness not all prisons are like that. Can you imagine!

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