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Welshpool's gruesome past

Created on 19/07/2010 @ 11:41
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Welshpool harbours a dark secret as a town used as an iron-age Guantanamo Bay.



Welshpool jail, once located next to Park Lane, handed out barbaric treatments to ‘political’ prisoners who refused to swear allegiance to the rule of King Charles II, with many freezing to death or meeting a slow and painful end through starvation or disease. 

And the two-tier ‘house of horror’ was so badly equipped that prisoner toilet pots on the upper tier were regularly poured down onto the prisoners below who were guilty of nothing more than standing up for their religious beliefs.
Welshpool’s dark past has been investigated by after a tip off from an amateur historian about the building which later became known as the Old Crib, but was demolished in 1899 in an apparent bid to erase its shameful history.
The prison and its ruthless guards came to light in the journals of George Fox who founded the Quaker Movement and visited the prison which housed his colleagues from the Welshpool area, notably the prominent Lloyd family from Dolobran, near Meifod.
He wrote: “They are kept very close together and placed in a dirty, nasty place on the ground floor. Above them are the town’s felons whose excrements and urine often fall upon them. They have little more than wet straw to lie on.”
Of the eight Quakers that Fox had visited, three were to die in prison with the remaining five serving up to 10 years in squalid conditions. Incredibly, some of their wives chose to join them in prison with several children born and raised in captivity.
In a time of a shaky monarchy, the ruling English clamped down hard on any dissenters and had become fearful of secretive societies and the onslaught of non-conformers taking root across the Kingdom. Draconian laws were introduced as an excuse to imprison with scores of Welshpool and district residents falling victim to the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy. This went against Quakers beliefs to ‘swear upon anything’ and with the monarchy abolishing juries and placing all judicial powers in the hands of their own appointed magistrates, Welshpool jail became a busy place with prisoners literally left to rot.
“A lot of people in the area have no idea of the fascinating history associated to the town,” said Eva Bredsdorff, curator of Welshpool’s Powysland Museum. “There are some incredible stories that have shaped the town through the centuries but unfortunately, in the case of the old jail, not all of them have a happy ending!”
The jail was akin to the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba which was opened by the Americans in 2002 to imprison ‘enemy combatants’ captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics claimed it was no more than a holding house for Islamists that America struggled to pin terrorist crimes to in the fall-out of 9/11. The facility was globally berated for its conditions and the way that detainees were treated. It is currently in the process of being closed down on the orders of President Barak Obama.


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