HM Prison Finnamore Wood

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HMYOI Finnamore Wood
Location Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Security class Young offenders Institution
Capacity 116
Opened 1961
Closed 1996
Former name Finnamore Wood Borstal
Managed by HM Prison Service
Governor David Wilson 1986-1988

HMYOI Finnamore Wood, formerly known as HMYCC Finnamore Wood or Finnamore Wood Borstal, was an open prison located 1km North of the town of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England. The prison was operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.


HMYOI Finnamore Wood was opened in 1961 as a Buckinghamshire open prison for young offenders (18- to 21-year-old males) serving their last 2–3 months before release back into the community. The camp was opened as a satellite camp for Feltham Borstal and later used as an annexe to HM Prison Huntercombe.

Situated in one of the most rural areas of Marlow, Buckinghamshire on the site of the former Evacuation Camp, known as, 'Finnamore Wood Holiday & Evacuation Camp'. The site was used for housing evacuees [1] of Beal Modern Girls' School along with refugees during the Second World War.

In 1948 the camp was used to house members of the American Canoe team who used Marlow Rowing Club as a training base for their Olympic Rowers.

Shortly after, the site was used again as a holiday camp during the 1950s, owned by a company named National Camps Corporation. It was bought by the Home Office in 1960.

When the camp closed [2] in 1996, all inmates were transferred to Huntercombe YOI near Henley on Thames, which is still operational as a prison.

David Wilson (criminologist) the Governor of Finnamore Wood Borstal between 1986-1988 is now, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University.

A War Evacuation Camp

Sourced from Redbridge Local Studies - Demonstrating Evacuees Arriving at Finnamore Wood 1940

On 22 April 1940 some pupils from Beal Modern Girls' School arrived at their wartime evacuation school, Finnamore Wood Camp. Many girls spent nearly four years at Finnamore Wood before it was safe to return to London. The girls used to spend some time creating useful items to send to the forces fighting in the great war, such as quilts.

Many other evacuees from Beal Modern Girls' School would spend holidays such as Christmas at Finnamore Wood.

The prison's resources

Inmates were introduced back into the community from Finnamore Wood, where many used to have jobs in the local towns and farms. The camp consisted of an Educational Institute offering social skills courses along with a computer lab, classes in cooking in the camps Dining Hall and Kitchens, and the site also concentrated on sports recreation, with a remedial gymnasium/sports hall and a large playing field.

Inmates were assigned jobs for the short period of time that they spent at Finnamore Wood. These jobs featured Gardening and Greenhouse planting, carpentry and plumbing.

Finnamore Wood provided inmates with a taste of freedom and very rarely did anyone abuse this. Inmates slept in long dormitories without locks. Windows weren't covered with bars but instead a metal mesh.


There was no chapel within the grounds of the camp, the boys would worship in Frieth Church on a Sunday.

The Camp Grounds

The camps buildings were mainly made from wood with brick foundations apart from the Dining Hall which featured brick chimneys and metal smoke outlets. The camp contained four cell blocks each unit with a communal bathroom. Other buildings on the site, a shower block, library, first aid centre, gardeners workshop, a carpenters workshop, plumbing workshop, education building and art studios and also a visits room.

Staff & Wardens

Some prison staff lived off site and would travel to work at Finnamore Wood. Others would live within the grounds in wardens housing with their families. A bar and social club was also on site for the residential staff and wardens.


On October 16, 1992 some young prisoners from Finnamore Wood fought with their guards as they were passing through Henley-on-Thames. The guards contacted the local Police to attend and quell the riot as the wardens feared the situation could have erupted further, the vehicle was diverted to Henley Police Station.

Inmates were being transferred to Huntercombe young offenders unit when the incident took place.

Rioting in the prison was very minimal and the security was fairly relaxed compared to the life behind bars that inmates would have previously experienced.

The prison today

Finnamore Wood Main Entrance 2013

Before the prison closed, some plans to enlarge the capacity of HMYOI Finnamore Wood to enable it to accommodate adult inmates were being discussed. However after the proposition fell through, the prison camp was sold off and the wardens houses are now privately owned. Plans to redevelop the former prison camp for more housing are currently still processing. The land has been purchased, and signage erected on most of the buildings display warnings of the hazardous building material Asbestos.

The derelict prison cell blocks have fallen into extreme disrepair and the dining hall roof collapsed along with the shower block in early 2013.

The site has now been secured with high wooden hoarding along with signs erected stating Guard Dogs and Barbed Wire being present on the inside.


  • The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice: Volume 10, Issue 4

Pages 247–344 (The Howard League and Blackwell Publishing Ltd, July 1967).


External links

  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service
  • [3] Closure of Finnamore Wood
  • [4] Beal Modern Girls' School, Finnamore Wood Evacuees
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