Officials at the Prison Service are counting their lucky stars today following the discovery of a massive escape tunnel built by inmates at St. Michael’s prison.
The prison that occupied the basement of St. Michael’s Tower was finally closed in January 2011. Had it remained open for just a few more weeks it is likely that most of the eighty prisoners would have escaped.
Officials from the Prison Service were able to take a couple of brave journalists on a guided tour of the tunnel, that runs all the way to the bottom of the tor, follows the path of the nearby A361, branches east under nearby fields, passing under the A37 near Lower Wraxall and finally stops a hundred yards short of Castle Cary train station.
In a statement to the press, Prison Service spokesman Gerald Manquez said; “It seems that prisoners were planning to join their tunnel to the underground pedestrian walkway at Castle Cary train station, where they would then mingle with passengers. But as the tunnel grew ever longer the job of transporting and disposing of the hundreds of tonnes of waste material took its toll on the prisoners. It explains why Glastonbury Tor grew by 30 metres in the last decade. It also explains why the prisoners were so happy when we announced the closure of the prison. They were now able to enjoy a virtual holiday in one of Britain’s less mystical prisons – free of the responsibility of running an industrial scale mining operation.”
The final chapter in the story of Britain’s most expensive jail finally came to an end yesterday as the prison in the basement of St. Michael’s Tower closed, and its captives were let out on license to roam the streets of Glastonbury.
St Michael’s Tower sits on top of Glastonbury Tor, and for many years has been a source of friction between the prison service and the National Trust – the basement being managed by prison officers, and the upper floors staffed by National Trust volunteers.
The closure of this prison was welcomed by many people, not least Uther Henge, the mystics consultant stationed in the gift Shop at Glastonbury Tor, who explained; “Life has been intolerable at times, with prisoners being mocked by members of public who mistakenly believe they are there as part of an interactive display, and prisoners shouting abuse at visitors as they enjoy the mystical nature of the Tor”.
But prison guard Barry Evans who has been guarding prisoners at St Michael’s Prison for over twenty years and is now being reassigned to one of the prison service’s more prosaic clinks was less than enthusiastic; “I’ve spent many happy hours meditating on the meaning of life while guarding convicts in this prison – it has the reputation of being the most spiritually enlightened place to be incarcerated in the whole of the United Kingdom”.
Looking wistfully out over the misty plains surrounding Glastonbury Tor, Barry Evans continued; “The thing is though, many people high up in the prison service regard it as more of a novelty prison and although we get extra funding from the prison-related gifts sold at the National Trust shop, it still costs a lot more to lock someone up here than at the bigger but less mystical prisons elsewhere in England”.