World’s first purpose-built prisoner of war camp - near Huntingdon

The former tower at the Norman Cross prisoner of war camp

The former tower at the Norman Cross prisoner of war camp - Credit: Archant

The story of the world’s first purpose-built prisoner of war camp - constructed near Huntingdon more than 200 years ago - has been told in a new book.

A map of the Norman Cross prisoner of war camp

A map of the Norman Cross prisoner of war camp - Credit: Archant

Author and Napoleonic-era expert, Paul Chamberlain likens the camp, at Norman Cross, to a lost Huntingdonshire town.

The Napoleonic prison of Norman Cross: The Lost Town of Huntingdonshire tells how the camp was more than just a prison and resembled a community with houses, offices, butchers, bakers, a hospital, a school and a banking system.

About 7,000 French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars were housed in the camp, which became an important prison and military establishment for the region.

The camp opened in 1803 and ran until 1814 when it was closed and subsequently demolished - but some of the key buildings from the site remain and can be seen close to the Norman Cross junction with the A1, together with a memorial featuring a bronze imperial eagle.

Paul Chamberlain, a leading expert on the Napoleonic era, gives a detailed examination of the prison in the book and explores what life was like for the inmates who passed through its gates and the gaolers who worked there.

It details the clothing, food, health, education and punishment for the prisoners, along with what happened when the camp was closed down.

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Paul Chamberlain is an author and historian of the Napoleonic era. He is an authority on prisoners of war from the period and was involved in the Time Team dig at the site in 2009 as well as being involved in the restoration of the eagle memorial which was replaced after the original was stolen and its site moved as a result of an upgrade to the A1.

The Napoleonic Prison of Norman Cross is published by The History Press on March 19 at £16.99.

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