The town of Anglesey is a charming honeypot with a chilling past

It was a sunny spring day and the sparkling waters of the Menai Strait near Beaumaris were an aquamarine color. On the day I visited this historic city, day trippers basked in chairs outside the Bulkeley Hotel, while others licked 99ers.

This Anglesey town is a charming honeypot with, it turns out, a chilling criminal past. I parked in the main car park on the waterfront – there are few places that can compete with the views of the Great Orme and along the coast to Gwynedd – for £6 all day.

Then I walked along Beaumaris Pier to take in that incredible panorama as pleasure boats pulled up to their moorings under a cobalt blue sky. I have previously enjoyed a ride on the swelling sea to see gray seals on Puffin Island.

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So today I turned to the city itself, which is a wanderer’s delight. I passed the unfinished castle from 1295 – which I had also seen on a previous trip – and ended up in Beaumaris prison. The workers there are only too happy to regale visitors with anachronistic but fascinating details of our 19th-century penal system.

Beaumaris Pier(Image: David Powell)

A prisoner William Williams received two months’ hard labor and a whipping in 1850 for stealing a chicken. More serious offenders were forced onto a treadmill; the first was installed at Brixton Prison in 1818, with other prisons including Beaumaris following suit.

A notice board reads: “Some treadmills were used to pump water and power machinery, but the vast majority served no purpose: 10,000 steps was considered a day’s work for the offender.”