Known nowadays to locals as the ‘Riddrie Hilton’ or Bar-L, Barlinnie Prison was built in 1880 on farmland to the north east of Glasgow, in an attempt to alleviate prison overcrowding in the city. It was opened in 1882 and was designed to hold 1000 male prisoners. The regime was harsh, with the inmates breaking rocks in the nearby quarry, but the prison was equipped with a library and an impressive range of workshops to teach the prisoners skills to equip them for release back into society.
The history of the gaol has been dogged over the decades with violence and riots, frequently the result of overcrowding and poor living conditions. Finally the decision has been taken to replace Barlinnie with a new facility in a different locus. The old building will be demolished in 2025 and plans are being drawn up for the decommissioning of the site and its future use.
Within the walls of Barlinnie there is a burial ground, the layout of which can be viewed online at ScotlandsPlaces. The map shows the burial plots of the eight men executed in the prison up to 1952. Burials of two more took place after it had been drawn up.
A number of bodies were discovered during pipe-laying works in the 1970s and moved to another intramural location. It is not known how many burials are involved in total. During renovation work in 1997, the remains of all executed prisoners were exhumed and buried elsewhere on the site
The Scottish Prison Service will apply to the Sheriff Court for consent for the current exhumations. If relatives can be contacted, they will be consulted regarding the future of the interments which will otherwise be cremated.
[Image of Barlinnie 1955 courtesy of Glasgow Archives]