When William Townley became Superintendent of the St Helena prison in 1882, he was particularly worried about security because there were so many long-term, potentially dangerous prisoners on the island.
At the time, the prison’s guns and ammunition were kept in wooden lockers in the end room of the single warders’ barracks. Although one armed sentry was always on duty on the barracks verandah, Townley had concerns.
‘I think we are by no means secure against a well concocted plan of surprise,’ he wrote, ‘for if the barracks were ever occupied by prisoners, the island would be at their mercy.’
In 1885, for greater security, he built an armoury by enclosing the southern end of the barracks with one-inch iron bars. An armed sentry was locked inside all day and three warders slept on the enclosed verandah at night.
The prison’s weapons were now, in Townley’s view, ‘as secure as I could wish’.