Media release: 19th century prison records go digital for education

RECORDS holding details of over 4,000 prisoners who served sentences at Inveraray Jail between 1820 and 1890 have become available in a child-friendly digital format for use in primary education.

Says a spokesperson: “Ictopus, a free web-based information and communications technology (ICT) support service for primary education, has prepared a new teaching resource which uses the jail records to educate pupils on the social history of the Victorian period.

“The resource became available to educators earlier this month and is designed for young people and children using searchable databases including Microsoft Excel.

“The project started following an ictopus group trip to Inveraray Jail in June this year. The consultants were impressed with the huge educational potential available at the museum.”

The spokesperson added: “Records are on display at Argyll’s Inveraray Jail, now a popular visitor attraction and living museum.

“Visitors to the jail can search through the fascinating records which hold details on prisoners such as their name, occupation, crime committed, sentences and transportation details.

“Inveraray Jail did have an electronic copy of the records; however, ictopus spent around six weeks re-working the entire database to make it child friendly.

“This included censoring some of the original terms used and devising a glossary for children to interpret the 19th century legal terminology.

“Project activities include the use of Google Maps and Google Earth and searching through the database to find stories, patterns, trends and changes that took place across Victorian society.

“It also applies activities such as writing a news article based on real life court cases, the re-enactment of court scenes and searching through transportation records which pupils can link to those recorded in Queensland, Australia.”

Rhona Dick, a freelance educational consultant and who prepared the records for school use, said: “This project is first and foremost about history.

“The records are about real people and real events and through their stories; hopefully, children can gain a better understanding of what life might have been like for some of the men, women and children living in a rural part of Victorian Scotland.

“ICT provides a medium through which knowledge and understanding of past societies can be taught and learnt and historical skills developed.”

She added: “Data handling is important and relevant across the curriculum and children, primary and secondary, are very rarely given access to a large database such as the Inveraray Jail records.

“On behalf of ictopus, I would like to thank Inveraray Jail for making these records available to us.”

Gavin Dick, Prison Governor for Inveraray Jail and of no relation to Rhona, said: “We are delighted to have worked with ictopus on this educational project.

“We are really impressed with the activities that Rhona and her team devised which relate perfectly to the jail’s history and stories of the prisoners.

“Inveraray Jail is a living example of 19th century life so we value the importance of being involved in historic education.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for the jail to get involved further in education.  We wish ictopus every success with the project.”

Inveraray Jail was once the courthouse and prison serving Argyll. Real life warders, matrons and prisoners bring the 19th century prison alive. Visitors can try out prison beds and hammocks in the old and new prisons, sit in on a trial in the spectacular courtroom, sample the brutal 19th century prison punishments and search through prison records for their naughty ancestors. The privately run attraction is open all year round.  For more information on Inveraray Jail please visit the jail website on or call 01499 302381. 

For more information on ictopus or to register for free please visit


For more information please contact:

Pauline Foster

PR Account Manager – Inveraray Jail

Pure Shores PR – Oban

+ 44 (0)1631 569 651

Notes for editors:

About ictopus:

  • Ictopus is run by a voluntary group of primary teachers, university lecturers and consultants who wish to support colleagues working in the field of primary education. It aims to be flexible and adaptive to the needs of users and to provide a forum for dissemination of the excellent practice currently found in many schools.
  • Registered users of ictopus are principally teachers in the UK but a substantial number from the USA and Australia, as well as smaller numbers from very many different parts of the world, including home educators, also use the online service.
  • The resource holds a creative commons licence.

Inveraray Jail:

  • Inveraray Jail is a superb visitor attraction with interest and excitement for all ages. Visitors can tour at their own leisure. There are also great family deals and concessions for seniors and groups.
  • The Royal Burgh of Inveraray lies on the beautiful banks of Loch Fyne in Argyll. From Glasgow take the A82 North along Loch Lomond to Tarbet and then take the A83 round the head of Loch Fyne to Inveraray. Allow one-and-a-half hours.
  • Inveraray Jail appeared in TNT Magazine this month as one of the world’s top five prison museums.

MEDIA RELEASE posted by Pure Shores PR. You too can most media releases (aka press releases) on For more information, email here.

Contact: Pauline Foster