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If Walls Could Talk – A Spooky Throwback!

Created on Thursday, October 12th, 2017
by Kathryn Shaw

Since it’s Friday the 13th tomorrow, we thought we’d share a spooky throwback to the research we did for a Derwent Life article in 2014, and the article itself.

You may remember that the winter edition’s cover story was Richard Felix, Derby’s famous paranormal investigator and respected historian. We supplemented the main interview with an article about Derby Gaol, and the rumours that the area is haunted.

The front entrance to The Vernon Street Prison, known as Vernon Gate.

If Walls Could Talk

Southgate Court is a quiet Derwent Living scheme, situated on James Close, off Uttoxeter Old Rd, in the western part of Derby city. Its quiet location, however, conceals a grisly secret past.  There are over a hundred apartments, constructed in 1998, situated immediately behind The Vernon Street Prison.  The previous building served as the County Gaol from 1843 to 1919 at which time it was demolished, only the listed front entrance wall remains (pictured above).

The communal gardens at Southgate Court, Derby.

The last public execution, of a man called Richard Thorley, took place in 1862 on gallows erected  close to the pictured building’s frontage. The last hanging behind closed doors was 1907, however the grounds immediately behind the ancient perimeter wall, likely to have been situated very close to the tree and communal garden (pictured right), were part of the prison grounds from as early as 1732.

According to Richard Felix, featured in the cover story of this edition of Derwent Life, the area around Derby Gaol is a place of intense paranormal activity.  When the construction of Southgate Court first began, during the digging of foundations prison artefacts were found. These included rusty chains and manacles, which were probably once worn by condemned inmates.

A grisly end

As part of the research into Derby Gaol, our marketing officer at the time found this list of hanged persons. It includes their name, the year they were executed and the crime they committed. It’s very grisly indeed, but a great piece of Derby history.

As part of the research into Derby Gaol, we found this ghastly list.

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