THE fascinating history of Dartmoor Prison ­is waiting to be explored as the prison museum opens its doors for the summer season, writes Sarah Pitt.

In the normal course of events, the museum housed in the old dairy outside the prison gates opens in February. Maintenance work has however seen it shut to visitors until now.

Curator Paul Finegan said it was good to welcome them back. ‘We do get a lot of visitors from overseas, and we’ve been seen it definitely this week. We get a lot of German and Dutch visitors coming to this part of the world.’

He said the museum helped debunk some misconceptions about the prison, originally established in 1809 to house French and American prisoners of war. ‘Although people think it is a maximum security prison, in fact it never has been, so we are exploding a lot of preconceptions people have,’ said Paul. The museum was set up in 1990 to showcase prisoners’ arts and craft work. ‘We have got a lot of matchstick models from the 1950s and 1960s,’ said Paul. ‘There are also teddy bears which the prisoners made. A friend of mine has one because her father worked here in the hospital and a prisoner made that for her.’

‘Some of the crafts and models are brilliant. People say if they are that talented, why were they in prison? I say they probably didn’t realise how talented they had all that time on their hands.’