02 June 2022

The museum in Buckingham
looks like a Gothic castle but
was built as a town gaol

Buckingham Old Gaol on Market Hill, the former town prison and now the town museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Buckingham Palace is not in Buckingham, and there is no Castle on Castle Street in Buckingham. The building that looks like a castle on Market Hill is sometimes known as Lord Cobham’s Castle. But this is Buckingham Old Gaol, the former town prison and now the town museum.

Buckingham Old Gaol in the heart of the market town is one of the most easily recognisable buildings in Buckingham and one of the key visitor attractions.

Following an Act of Parliament in 1747, known as Lord Cobham’s Act, the original prison was built in 1748. Most of the funding came from Sir Richard Temple (1675-1749) of Stowe, who had been MP for Buckingham. It was built in 1748, looking like a Gothic-style castle.

One of the prisoners jailed here was the Irish bare-knuckle prize fighter Simon Byrne (1806-1833), known as the ‘Emerald Gem.’ He was tried at the Buckingham Assizes in 1830 for the manslaughter of the Scottish prize fighter, Alexander McKay.

The rounded front of the building, added in 1839, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, a local-born architect. This provided accommodation for the gaoler and became known as the Keeper’s Lodge.

For 60 years or so, the Old Gaol acted as the police station for Buckingham, until a new police station was built a short distance away on Moreton Road. It became a fire station in 1891, and the C Company of the 1st Bucks Rifles rented part of the building for their armoury from 1892 until 1926. Public toilets were installed in 1907. It became an antiques shop and café In the 1950s.

Aylesbury Vale District Council took responsibility for the building in 1974. Buckingham Heritage Trust was formed in 1985 to save the building, and it opened as a museum in 1993, together with a tourist information centre. The Old Gaol Museum obtained finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a glass roof over the original prisoners’ exercise yard in 2000.

The purpose-built prison is now a museum, a tourist information centre, a gift shop which includes a selection of local interest books and a unique venue to hire.

The museum, exploring the history and rural life of Buckingham and the military heritage of Buckinghamshire, occupies part of the old cell block and the prison courtyard.

The original 18th century cells form themed display areas, including Tudor and Georgian Buckingham, as well as an Edwardian shop and mementoes of Florence Nightingale. The museum also includes the collected works of Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford.

The Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust is based at the museum, and houses its collections there. In addition to arms, regalia, and other military memorabilia, the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust also holds a small collection of military musical instruments, including early examples of rope-tensioned side drums.

The building is a member of the Milton Keynes Heritage Association and the Association of Independent Museums.

The Old Gaol was redesigned by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1839 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
2 June 2022 (Psalm 99)

‘Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain’ (Psalm 99: 9) … the peaks of Mount Athos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections in this season of Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 99:

Psalm 99 is sometimes known by its Latin name Dominus regnavit. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 98.

Psalm 99 is the sixth in a series of six psalms (Psalms 93-99) that are called royal psalms because they praise God as King. Psalm 99 has no title in the Masoretic text version, but the Septuagint provides a title: ‘A psalm of David.’

This psalm is a hymn of praise to God as king. The endings of verses 3, 5 and 9 may be a refrain for the worshippers as they praise God. God, on his throne above the cherubim, is to be praised by ‘all the peoples’ (verse 2).

God has helped people in their need (verses 6, 8), given them just laws (verse 7), and has punished and forgiven people where appropriate (verse 8).

Moses, Aaron and Samuel, who are named in verse 6, were known for communicating with God and were his representatives. They represent the ‘three crowns’ of leadership, prophethood, priesthood and kingship. Moses was the greatest of the prophets, Aaron the first of the priests, and Samuel the man who anointed Israel’s first kings, Samuel and David.

God’s holy mountain (verse 9) is Mount Zion, the hill on which Jerusalem is built.

Psalm 99 is recited in its entirety as the fifth paragraph of Kabbalat Shabbat (קַבָּלַת שַׁבָּת), welcoming the Shabbat.

‘The Lord is great in Zion and high above all peoples’ (Psalm 99: 2) … above the Swiss Alps (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 99 (NRSVA):

1 The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
4 Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Extol the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called on his name.
They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
they kept his decrees,
and the statutes that he gave them.

8 O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Extol the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Global Day of Parents.’

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (2 June 2022) invites us to pray:

We pray for those who have chosen not to have children. May we recognise the dignity of this choice and not seek to question others on this sensitive subject.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org