Graded locations

Listed buildings are graded in each location in this blog. Eg. Grade I, II* II of grade I is of most importance. Grade A relates to Scotland. See BLB

Friday 26 September 2014

THE JAIL WHERE EVEN THE GHOSTS CAN'T LEAVE - Armley Jail, Leeds, West Yorkshire


Name: Armley prison
Locality: 2 Gloucester Terrace Stanningley Road Leeds West Yorkshire LS12 2TJ
Built: 1847
Owner: Crown Property
Grade II*

As Jules walks around the prison's exterior walls and down its long dark internal corridors she is filled with trepidation, it's a frightening place day and night especially walking past the old (long drop) topping shed and old graveyard area, She has witnessed what she will call 'strange oddities' within this establishment, which she can't note as paranormal because of possible misinterpretations. Armley jail is still a working prison, permission to visit in a paranormal capacity will never be allowed unless it closes maybe. 

In the beginning part of this post, what you will read is information that is word of mouth first hand from staff and prisoners, emailed to Jules and told to Jules in person. Extra information is written thanks to author Stephen Wade (of Haunting's in Yorkshire books).

Charlie Peace (mock up) execution Armley Jail
The Execution of Charlie Peace (reconstruction)

Armley Jail hauntings
Armley Jail

Since I last updated this blog, more strange occurrences have taken place but, I am not at liberty to mention or describe what they are at this present moment in time.

Update: October 18th 2014

Written by an undisclosed prisoner (#2)

Hi there
Hope this is of some use to you.
I’ve been in Armley jail a few times. The windows on D Wing used to blow open by themselves, however I always thought it was the wind and as it always seemed windy it never bothered me until earlier this year. I never, ever, believed in ghosts until I found myself back in Armley on remand. I was in the first night centre in my cell (alone) when I spotted what looked like a small torchlight on the wall which seemed to become larger. Within moments I felt someone sit on the end of my bed. I looked up to see the top half of a male, about thirty years old. I could not see his legs. He was shirtless and didn’t look like a person from the olden days… I freaked out and muttered ‘are you going to hurt me?’.

‘Am I f**k’ he replied and disappeared. The torch light on the wall appeared to move further away.

All that night I was scared. Every time I nodded off to sleep, I would be grabbed and touched, and it felt like someone was trying to climb in to the bed with me, even though I put the light on. In the end I tried to convince myself I was crazy and turned the light out, but there was still a dot of light on the wall which seemed to move around the cell.

I wasn’t taking drugs or anything, and never have, but it scared the life out of me. I never, ever, even believed in ghosts up until then but, yep, Armley is very haunted and scary. I’ve never mentioned this to anyone, not even my mum - they would laugh at me and call me crazy, but I know I know what happened…


I also received an account from a former worker a few years ago which is here.

“I used to work nights at HMP Armley, in the segragation block, which used to be the old "death cells" where the prisoners were brought prior to execution, many strange events happened there, gates closing, and sometimes seeing prison officers from the past, in victorian uniforms, and hearing rattling chains tapping the metal security gates. The two new wings which have been built are built over the graves of prisoners hung at Armley, (I remember them been built, as the body's of the dead had to be dug up prior to the new wings been built) the wings which were built over the graves are reportedly the most haunted area's of the prison, with many sightings.”

With thanks to for kindly providing me with the above material.

28 August 2011 - Anonymous said:

I work at HMP Leeds and confirm that these stories are accurate and true. a note to be added is the odd happenings in the north turret to the old gate lodge. footsteps can be heard within upon the stairs with no person to ommit them and several members of staff have felt themselves pushed from behind on the stairs, many blame the bust of a officer made by a ex prisoner (believed to be haunted) that resides on the top floor and like the mona lisa, its eyes seems to follow you providing a cold chill everytime down your neck.

I can't recollect a bust in the north turret (J).

First hand eye-witness accounts at Armley Jail, Leeds )

Recent sightings and news: Female wearing an old military style uniform carrying a baby, figure seen in the gym, just a pair of feet wearing striped pumps walking down stairs, man in a white tee shirt in the early hours of the morning.

Built in 1847 this Victorian Jail at Armley in Leeds, is reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in West Yorkshire and it has an abundance of paranormal activity both day and night, including full 'solid' apparitions appearing almost daily! There have been some  major reports just recently, the ones mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg. Many full apparitions have been seen  most days and nights here mostly by staff, the most recent shade is that of an officer wearing a barathea, which is a 'number one' uniform usually only worn on special occasions; the witness who saw the ghost noted that as he walked passed it it didn't communicate, he also noticed its shoes were very highly polished and it wore a blue shirt, modern day guards wear white shirts and the figure walked straight though the old gate wall in broad daylight, frightening the witness so much he had to radio the CCTV control room, but it wasn't caught on camera. Maybe there is some sort of time anomaly manifesting itself here for some reason.

There has been movement of furniture in cells too which has also been witnessed by prisoners. Doors and windows open and close by themselves usually in-front of peoples eyes, mostly at night.  In August 2008 someone saw a figure of a man wearing an old-style officers cap he was smoking a cigarette outside the old gate, this figure has also been seen throughout different parts of the jail by three other independent witnesses. Fleeting shadows are seen regulary on the landings at night, sometimes figures are seen prompting a full head count of prisoners.  Areas had to be blessed, some say it was excorcised by a nun to clear the atmosphere.

Very recently someone saw a pair of legs walking past a main area door, just recently just a pair  of legs were seen again walking in-front of someone up a flight of stairs around the old part of the building; other people claim to have seen the top half of this figure. Apparently there have been some major renovation to one of the wings, people are saying that this has opened up 'something weird' and is causing a plethora of experiences daily, even major sceptics who scoff at the idea of ghosts have changed their views about the place!
Armley jail is still a working jail, no paranormal investigator would ever get permission to investigate it, so it's only down to these unique eye-witness accounts by staff and prisoners who make note of their experiences before they are forgotten about that you are reading this.

There has also been knockings on doors when there is no one there. Two admin staff  saw an apparition at the same time in broad daylight outside whilst eating their sandwiches, the figure just vanished into thin air, the ghost of Charlie Peace has been blamed for sightings around the admin block, Charlie was hung by the long drop (rope) at the jail. Other witnesses have seen a man with sucken eyes and a protruding jawline, a good description of what Charlie looked like from photographs.

Prison officers have also seen a ghostly soldier who was known to have murdered his partner Anne Mayne by slitting her throat and he was subsequently hung by Albert Pierrepoint in 1919. There is historical reference to a  soldier who killed his partner after finding her in bed with another man, at his trial he repeated the words 'she is a Jezebel' (slut).  A former prisoner heard the same words whispered into his ear.

Ghosts are seen walking though walls in certain parts of the jail, a prisoner who took his own life down the segregation block was seen again the next night walking through the wall to his old cell, frightening a member of staff so much they quit their post! The ghost of a recently passed guard has recently been seen in broad daylight. Sounds of objects being thrown around empty rooms is a common occurence

Oppression is felt around the old topping shed, where prisoners where once hanged and guards have heard footsteps following them and key-chains rattling when there is no one else about. The Grey Lady a ghost of a female guard haunts the wings and chapel, wearing period uniform, she is thought to have died there back in the 1800's.

Workmen are still uncovering wooden coffins to this day. Prisoners who were hung at the jail were actually buried within walls of the jail. The new E and F wings are  actually built on the top of the graveyard.

Written by former prisoner #1

In 2003 I was a prisoner in HMP Leeds (Armley) following an incident with a bullying prisoner , I was moved to a cell on the 5s landing of F wing . E & F wings are relatively new wings built on the old graveyard .

The previous occupants of this particular cell had ransacked it completely preferring to spend time "down the block" rather than spend another night in the haunted cell. I was alone in the cell & for the first few hours devised a way to connect the TV to the
wall mounted aerial socket , I was able eventually to devise a way by placing the TV on top of a folded prison mattress and leaning it slightly backwards with a bolt from the broken table joining the TV to the aerial socket.

I fell asleep some time during "the bill" . I awoke suddenly in darkness the TV set had fallen over and was lying face down emitting the white noise of a TV without aerial. I had chosen to make my bed on the floor , I was suddenly aware of a presence, which as I recollect makes the hairs on the back of my neck bristle .

A few feet away I could make out the shape of a man , I was gripped with a kind of terror that’s hard to describe . The weirdest thing was that only his upper body shoulders & head were visible above the floor. With my heart in my mouth I watched as he just disappeared through the wall .

Only a moment later I heard a shriek from the next cell. Trembling , I stood up & turned on the light , the electrics in the cell tripped out , the TV went silent and all I could hear was my own heartbeat . For an hour or 2 I just laid on the floor , it was July & came light early . I fell asleep , but was woken up by two burley screws who said "get your kit" your out of here ,I grabbed the few things I had a pillow a blanket & some tea bags & was out onto the landing in no time . After that I was padded up on the 3s landing with a number of prisoners , usually only for a few days as they were regularly shipped out to other prisons .

Only once did anyone acknowledge what I was saying about my experience , but most nights there were  screams from upstairs . I was serving a four month sentence which quickly passed . I took a walk around the perimeter after I was released the daunting Victorian structure , I vowed never to return . I do occasionally travel to Leeds , & when I do the dark battlements of Leeds castle always dominate the skyline.


Links: About Charles Peace

Rare photo of Charlie Peace here

Charlie Peace the notorious criminal from the 1800's, it is believed that he also haunts the National Emergency Services museum in Sheffield as featured on the TV programme Most Haunted in 2014 

Link backs: this blog entry also appears on Mysterious Britain & Ireland

If you like this post you might like this book Yorkshire Hangmen