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Steelhouse Lane prison opens its doors to the public, and we had a sneak peek

The notorious Birmingham lock-up, Steelhouse Lane, is opening its doors to the public tomorrow.

The prison, which was built in 1892, housed the likes of killer Fred West and the Peaky Blinders.

It only closed last year, but now West Midlands Police, in association with Birmingham Hidden Spaces, are letting the general public have a look around.

The prison first opened in 1892 and closed last year. Credit: ITV News Central
The Peaky Blinders, some of which are thought to be these men here. stayed at the lock-up. Credit: West Midlands Police

The prison had two main functions:

  • Prisoners waiting to go to the Magistrates court the following day were held at Steelhouse Lane and then taken to court via an underground tunnel.
  • A custody facility for the Birmingham Central area. Prisoners taken from the high street would have been taken here.

Male and female prisoners were kept at the prison, with the female prisoners originally being held on the smaller side of the building.

There's a gender separation wall which spans all three floors of the lock-up, but in the 1970s the women were moved to the top floor.

Serial killer Fred West was kept in this very cell before his court appearance. Credit: ITV News Central

The first two female officers employed by West Midlands Police also worked as lock-up matrons for the prison.

Their role was to look after the female prisoners - with one matron even keeping in touch with convicts via an annual Christmas card!

67
The number of cells at Steelhouse Lane

The prison has an underground tunnel connecting it to the nearby Magistrates Court. It was built mainly for security reasons - and to stop prisoners escaping on their way to court.

But back in the 1800s, before the prison was built, two Birmingham City Police officers were killed by "angry mobs" who assaulted the officers as they freed prisoners from them.

There are 67 cells at the prison. Credit: ITV News Central

There were three open days over the summer, all of which sold out. But don't worry if you haven't been yet - there will be plenty more events in the future.