THE story of Knutsford Prison, Session’s Court House and Governor’s House are revealed in a major exhibition opening this week at Knutsford Heritage Centre.

The Inside Story exhibition is the result of two years of research by centre manager Val Bryant, and runs until the middle of December.

The exhibition will also commemorate the life of Lt Douglas Rigby, a Knutsford soldier who did not come home from The First World War.

Val has researched the history of the buildings and their occupants, and worked with Richard Elsner, Lt Rigby’s great nephew and his son Thomas.

She said: “The exhibition has been a two-year long research project, which has been fascinating to undertake.

“It charts the history of the Manor Court and Quarter Sessions in Knutsford, and presents a range of photographs from the Sessions Court House, before it was taken over by Flat Cap Hotel Group.

“In an interesting presentation on Knutsford Gaol, visitors will be able to discover the timeline of the gaol, including its grand opening in 1820.

“The gaol layout will be portrayed, together with a description of prison life and the weekly routine of prisoners, not to mention some grisly executions.

“Knutsford Gaol closed its doors to prisoners in 1915, and was taken over by the War Office for Military Offenders.

“During The First World War the prison housed conscientious objectors, who for one reason or another refused to ‘take up arms’.

“After the Easter 1916 uprising in Dublin those arrested were dispersed to various jails throughout England, including almost 600 dissidents sent to Knutsford during May and June.

“A company of German prisoners were also housed in ‘A’ block, bringing the gaol somewhere near to full capacity.

“The Governor’s House is featured in the exhibition, together with the prison warder’s accommodation in County Terrace and St John’s Avenue.

“The exhibition then moves on to the post-war period, when the prison building was converted to an Ordination Test School to provide theological training for 320 students.

“Bringing us up to the current day, the exhibition concludes with the redevelopment of the building by Flat Cap Hotels into The Courthouse we see today. “

The Inside Story exhibition includes a display commemorating Lt Douglas Marshall Rigby, and tells the story of how Douglas’ family supported him during the war and grieved after his death.

Val added: “It was a pleasure to work alongside Richard Elsner, Lt Rigby’s great nephew, and his son Thomas, on their family history.”

The Inside Story exhibition runs until Saturday, December 22, at the centre on King Street, which is open from Tuesday to Saturday between 11am and 4pm.

Lt Rigby grew up in Buxton, and his parents later moved to Knutsford, where he lived until he went to war.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment in 1915, and after being badly wounded in 1916 and 1917 he rejoined his regiment at Ypres in August 1918.

Two weeks later, on September 4 1918, he was shot by a sniper as he was leading his company in the advance which led to the end of the war.

Lt Rigby's greatest passion was art, and he produced watercolours, landscapes, sketches and caricatures.