Built on the site of an ancient 12th century fort, the Jail was built in 1823 to house some of the most notorious criminal in the area. Jedburgh itself lies in a troubled location in the Scottish Borders and has seen the border change between the Scots and the English many times.
Unlike popular claims, conditions in Jedburgh jail were actual quite good. Previously, jails in the UK were known to be small, filthy, overcrowded and jailers were not paid so often relied on bribes. However, this new jail was built based on a report from John Howard that looked to improve conditions inside, as well as carrying out punishment. Men and women would be separated, with more serious criminals being kept separate. Most of the time it would be 1 person per cell, although it would fill up around the High Court visits so sometimes 2 people would be in each cell. However, it was still tough here and many of the criminals brought in faced ‘Jeddart Justice’, the term originating from here – hang first, tried later.
Executions were carried out here in front of the building. Shops would close on execution days and the town folk would walk up the steep hill to get a spot. It’s also mentioned that some shops would claim a piece of the hanging rope afterwards and sell as souvenirs (“money for old rope”).
Many people were executed in Jedburgh before the jail opened at this location (previous jails existed down by the town hall and a one by the entrance to the Abbey). The castle has also been the site of the old gallows. Since the castle jail was opened, murderers James Rogers and John Wilson were executed here. Murderer Robert Scott was also imprisoned here before he was taken close to the scene of his crime near Earlston to hang. He travelled there from Jedburgh jail on a cart facing his executioner for the journey.
Jedburgh Castle Jail closed in 1886. It would later be rented out to local businesses and the jailers block would even be used for residential lodgings until it was realised that the building should be used as a museum.
The first ghost is said to be that of s Scottish Piper, who is often heard playing bagpipes on the battlements. His ghost is more of a legend to the people in the town, but strange lights have also been seen in this area.
The ghost of a prison guard is said to wander the notorious Men’s wing – he has often been reported as a dark shadow, while others have felt the sensation of being pushed out of the way. In the video, I had a strange moment in this very wing when a battery powering my camera and microphone fell onto the stone floor having seemingly been tugged from inside a pocket. I originally put this down to it being me being clumsy, however I have since heard that similar things have happened to others. The main occurance is people’s key’s being pulled from their pockets.
“Edwin McArthur” is the name mediums pick up upon in the Men’s wing. He was a violent man in life, and similar in death as he gets blamed for physically assaulting people in cell 18. It is claimed that was his cell up until he was executed in the 1850s. There is however no record of any criminal having ever been executed here or even served time here under that name, but it hasn’t stopped the name popping up at every investigation.
Several TV and radio shows have used Jedburgh to broadcast from, all of which reporting technical problems. Batteries draining faster than usual is the most common feature, and this is something members of the public have also reported – especially mobile phones going from fully charged, to flat within minutes.
The more regular paranormal occurrences that get reported here are cell doors banging. Even one of the museum staff I spoke to is a skeptic but told me that he has heard doors slamming at unusual times when nobody was around. These are quite thick metal doors so unlikely to have been caused by a draft.
Other sightings include a shadow often seen close to the execution spot and mischievous children in the family wing.
If you ever get the chance to visit Jedburgh, I fully recommend it. From Newcastle, it’s only around. 90 minute drive. Drive west along the A69 towards Hexham, then turn off onto the A68 and head north. It’s a beautiful route and takes in some stunning scenery, including one or two locations we will be visiting in the next few months. Once you get over the border into Scotland, you will see signs for Jedburgh. Stay on the A68 all the way and the road actually runs through the town itself. The Jail is at the top of a very steep hill and parking is available around the side.
From Edinburgh, it’s a similar distance – head south on the A7 then follow signs to the A68.
Please be aware that the jail’s opening times are seasonal between March and November, and general access is free. Please this their website for more info. If you are visiting Jedburgh Jail, I also fully recommend spending time in the town itself – the abbey has its own ghost story, although much of it is in ruins now. I also really recommend The Carter’s Rest for pub food. Between shooting daytime scenes around the jail and the investigation that evening, this was where we hung out at, and their Thai curry is 10/10!
Paranormal Investigations at Jedburgh Jail
Links to groups that run public ghost hunts at Jedburgh Jail: