The Governor: From dealing with notorious criminals to baking cakes in Saffron Walden we speak to Vanessa Frake


From Moors Murderer Myra Hindley to Rose West, there is one lady who has met them all. 

Vanessa Frake from Saffron Walden has spent decades inside Britains most notorious prisons, during those years she's been dealing with fights, drug deals and infamous prisoners.

As the governor of the notorious Wormwood Scrubs she was responsible for thousands of inmates but after retiring her life has taken a dramatic turn, baking cakes and writing a book.

Credit: ITV News

As a teenager Vanessa wanted to sail the world with the Royal Navy, after finding out women didn’t get the same opportunities at that time she settled to milking cows. 

At the age of 22 she joined the prison service and spent over 15 years in Holloway, a women’s prison, but has since claimed men were easier to work with.

Women were far more emotional than men are. If you say no to a man he was more likely to say alright then gov. They were much more straightforward. You get violence in either.

Vanessa Frake

Vanessa was no stranger to confrontational and uncomfortable situations, having dealt with riots and attacks. 

Joe public might like to think they’re locked in the cell and the key thrown away. That just doesn’t happen and can’t happen because at the end of the day you’ll unlock an even bigger monster. I was always firm but fair. I would never lie to a prisoner. If I said I was going to do something then I did it. If i didn’t know the answer to a question I went and found out about it and that is treating prisoners with respect.

Vanessa Frake

Since retirement she has worked on putting down her ideas on paper. The result? A book that is climbing up the charts.

‘The Governor’ describes Vanessa’s experiences behind bars which is a world away from her current lifestyle: baking cakes at Angela Reed’s Cafe in Saffron Walden and volunteering with the Wood Green animal sanctuary.