(Images: Stevie Douglas. Old road signs stored in Victorian cells beneath Ayr Town Hall)
On the rare occasions when access is granted to the historic cell block in the bowels of Ayr Town Hall, members of the public will find more than just a musty Victorian jail. Its 12 prison cells have long been disused, but over the decades they’ve found a new purpose; and it may come as more of a surprising than the hidden existence of the jail itself.
Atlas Obscura reports that “the historic cells have changed surprisingly little since their inception, still maintaining their original doors with closable viewing slots and heavy steel hinges.” Some of the cramped rooms, which line a gloomy tiled corridor, are now empty, and could have remained so after their last occupant was dragged off to trial.
But others are now used as storage basements by South Ayrshire Council, which occupies the building above. Amongst the cleaning supplies and other prosaic objects of modern life can be found a more unusual scene: dozens of defunct road signs artfully arranged in one cell by someone with an eye for design.
The vintage signs, which include Pleasantfield Road, Rosemount Gardens, Broadwood Park and Blackford Crescent, came from roads that have either been abandoned and demolished or redeveloped over the years. They make for an intriguing display in their own right, and add an extra layer to this intriguing glimpse back in Ayr’s past.
As Atlas Obscura writes, “on the rare occasions that the basement is open it is as if time has stood still, providing a great insight into the historical storage of humans and the modern storage of supplies.”
(Images: Stevie Douglas)
Next, take a virtual wander through Sheffield’s Old Town Hall, a Steel City landmark which also boasts a forbidding block of abandoned jail cells.