The doors of Kingston Prison, Portsmouth, will swing open again this weekend as part of the annual Heritage Open Days event.
Dozens of people have signed up for tours of the Victorian jail which closed earlier this year. Its future is unclear.
But memories of the forbidding building at the junction of Milton and St Mary’s Roads have come flooding back for Remember When reader John Porter.
He grew up in St Mary’s Road so it was normal to have a prison at the end of the road.
John recalls: ‘One Sunday morning we were, as usual, over the rec for a game of football. We played on the Tarmac in the far corner and it wasn’t long before the ball was kicked over the fence.
‘We had various ways of getting the ball back. In this case it was to climb on the girls’ toilet roof and drop on to the grass. But this time was a bit different because we found a man sitting down and leaning against the building.’
John says the man said he had hurt his leg and asked them to get help.
He continues: ‘After telling the parky, the park was soon surrounded by police cars. It turned out the man had escaped from the prison the previous night.’
John says another ‘adventure’ was to throw newspapers over the wall to the prisoners.
‘We would go into the cemetery, cross the railway line and climb on top of a store shed. This was just high enough for us to reach the wall to sit on and then throw the papers down to the men who were usually getting ready to support or play football. Sports Mail and The News of the World were musts.
‘We were always being shouted at by the warders while the men cheered us on. We learnt a lot of new words.’
John’s life went full circle when many years later he became a football referee and was appointed to take charge of a match inside the prison. The prison team was called the Kingston Arrows
‘About 2002 I was back again, this time my son Alan and I were working on a new roof. Steel mesh was welded all over the rafters and then the roof was refixed. We then put new leadwork back on. The Home Office did all this to stop rooftop protests.’
And he concludes: ‘I would like to see the building used for youngsters as a type of outdoor youth club. After all, the building is child/teenager proof.’