Two new exhibits are among the attractions received by Dartmoor Prison Museum as it reopens for the new season after winter closure, writes Guy Boswell.

One is a 1957 painting by then inmate Bernard Pearsall of another Dartmoor prisoner, double murderer Donald Hume who is infamous for chopping up one of his victims and flying over Rainham Marshes, dropping the parts in a dramatic bid to hide them. He was known as the Rainham Marshes Killer. The painting was donated by a Princetown resident.

 The other item of interest is a carved sailing ship, believed to have been made by a former Napoleonic prisoner of war and donated to the museum by a resident of Inkleigh. It was previously owned by her father-in-law who obtained it in the 1940s. He thought it was made by PoWs in Dartmoor Prison in the early 1800s.  

The carved ship model
The carved model ship (Dartmoor Prison Musem)

Museum curator Paul Finegan said: “Items found in the prison or from families of ex-prison staff are often donated to the museum. 

“The painting is by a prisoner who learned to paint in prison and persuaded the infamous Rainham Marshes Killer to sit for him. In the painting you can see the prison and his plane. The ship is unusual because it’s carved of wood with animal hide sails. We have several made of bone.”