I would have thought the first prisoner of war camp would have been built in antiquity. It didn’t occur to me that nobody got around to building on until the Napoleonic wars. I suppose dungeons or no quarter solved the issue previously...
According to the Times Channel 4’s Time Team has excavated what is believed to be the first such camp near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire.
Between 1797 and 1814 a 9ha (22-acre) site, known as the Norman Cross Depot, held up to 7,000 enemy soldiers for up to ten years, not to mention a large number of guards. Many of the captives came from famous naval battles of the period such as Camperdown and Trafalgar and from captured colonies in Spain and Portugal.
Ben Robinson, an archaeologist at Peterborough Museum said: “This is a fascinating and unique site because the concept of a ‘prisoner of war camp’ did not exist before Norman Cross was built in 1797. It was an inspired experiment in taking huge numbers of enemy troops out of action, but also keeping them in as humane conditions as possible.”
Although the prisoners were generally treated well, more than 1,000 inmates died from typhoid in 1800 and 1801 and a total of 1,770 died during the camp’s 17-year history. The buildings were dismantled and the site cleared after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Part of the camp, the stable block, now houses an art gallery. The gallery’s website has a section on the camp’s history that is well worth visiting