Looking back at some of Strangeways’ most notorious inmates over the last 153 years

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 21st June 2021

153 years ago this week, central Manchester’s high-security prison opened its doors for the first time.

HM Prison Manchester – which is commonly referred to as Strangeways by all that know it, which was its former official name derived from the area it’s located, until it was rebuilt following the major riots in 1990 – was declared open on 25 June 1868.

Built to replace the New Bailey Prison in Salford which closed in 1868, Strangeways was famously designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse.

With construction said to cost in the region of £170,000, the eye-catching Grade II listed building has the capacity to hold 1,000 inmates and is instantly recognisable to Mancunians primarily thanks to its 234 feet (71 m) ventilation tower – which is often mistaken for a watchtower, and has become a local landmark.

The prison’s walls are rumoured to be 16 feet thick, and are said to be impenetrable from both the inside and the out.


Because of this, Strangeways has been home to some pretty notorious inmates over the years.

From some of the UK’s most-prolific serial killers, to television personalities, Premier League footballers and more, here’s a handful of famous faces who’ve spent time behind bars at Strangeways during its 153 year history.



Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman was held at Strangeways in 1998 / Credit: Biography

Harold Shipman remains to this day one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers.

Serving as a GP at a medical centre in Hyde, Shipman often targeted the elderly by injecting them with lethal doses of diamorphine, resulting in a victim number thought to be between 215 and 260 people over a 23 year killing spree – which is one of the worst ever documented.


Shipman was eventually arrested on 7 September 1998, and was held in Strangeways.

His trial took place at Preston Crown Court in 1999, where it took four months to find him guilty of just 15 cases of murder, and he was sentenced to 15 life sentences.

Ian Brady

Ian Brady served a three month stint at Strangeways prior to the Moors Murders / Credit: Biography

Ian Brady is most-known as one half of Britain’s infamous killing pair, The Moors Murderers.

Many will know that Brady and Myra Hindley devastatingly murdered five innocent children between 12 July 1963 and 6 October 1965 and buried their bodies in the vast landscape of the Saddleworth Moors, which eventually led to Brady being found guilty of three murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Prior to all of this though, within a year of moving to Manchester, Brady was caught with a sack full of lead seals that he had stolen and was trying to smuggle out of the market.


He was subsequently sent to Strangeways for three months.

Joey Barton

Joey Barton served 74 days of a six month sentence / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Former Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton’s prolific football career and life have been marked by numerous controversial incidents and disciplinary problems over the years, as well as two convictions for violent crimes.

On 20 May 2008, Barton was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty for common assault and affray during an incident in Liverpool city centre.

Barton served 74 days of this prison term at Strangeways, being released on 28 July 2008.

Ian Brown

Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown was sentenced to four months imprisonment in 1998 / Credit: YouTube

One of the more well-known names to serve a stint behind bars at Strangeways is Stone Roses’ frontman, Ian Brown.


Brown was charged for threatening behaviour towards a British Airways flight attendant and captain, and was sentenced to four months in the summer of 1998.

He served only two months of his sentence at Strangeways, and admitted that while locked up, he wrote three songs – including ‘Free My Way’.

David Dickinson

Credit: ITV

Another one of the more surprising Strangeways residents comes in the form of Cheadle Heath-born antiques expert and television personality, David Dickinson – who you’ll probably recognise as the host of Bargain Hunt and Dickinson’s Real Deal.

Believe it or not, at the tender age of just 19 years old, Dickinson served three years of a four-year prison sentence for mail-order fraud, with the majority of that sentence being spent at Strangeways.

Dickinson has since described this time as “horrendous”, and that he’s learned to “take it on the chin and accept it was his own fault”.


Dale Cregan

Dale Cregan is one of Manchester’s most notorious killers / Credit: Greater Manchester Police

Undeniably one of Manchester’s most notorious killers of this century is one-eyed murderer Dale Cregan.

He began his life of crime from an early age dealing drugs, but then notably turned to gun crime by first shooting Mark Short in the Cotton Tree Pub in Droylsden and attempting to kill three other men, before violently murdering Short’s father a few months later.

He then made national headlines when he tricked two female police officers to a property in Mottram in Longendale by reporting a burglary, before ambushing them with gunfire and a grenade which murdered them both.

Greater Manchester’s chief constable Peter Fahy called the attack “cold-blooded murder”, and then Prime minister David Cameron said it was a “despicable act of pure evil”.

Cregan handed himself in and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a whole life order on June 13 2013.


Emily Davison

Suffragette Emily Davison was detained at Strangeways twice / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Suffragette Emily Davison was detained at Strangeways twice as a result of her efforts for the women’s rights movements during the early twentieth century.

Her first stint was for disrupting a meeting with Chancellor David Lloyd George and throwing rocks at the windows, and during this imprisonment, she famously went on a significant hunger strike, which resulted in her losing 21 pounds.

She was released just five and a half days later.

Her second Strangeways stint came just two months after, again for throwing stones, and lasted two and a half days.

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor was the ringleader of the infamous 1990 Strangeways Prison riots / Credit: Merseyside Police

Unlike the other people on this list, it was Paul Taylor’s actions during his time inside Strangeways rather than prior that have ensured his name is written in the prison’s history books.


Taylor was notably the ringleader of the infamous 1990 Strangeways Prison riots.

It all started when a visiting Church of England preacher had just delivered the sermon, and the prison chaplain stood to thank him before Taylor took the microphone and addressed the congregation.

Over the course of 25-days, the riots – which are still the longest in British prison riot history, with one prisoner killed, and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners injured – spread throughout much of the prison, and Taylor famously ended up on the roof.

Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed, with the cost of repairs coming to £55 million.

Featured Image – Wikimedia Commons / Biography