Wilde served two years hard labour there in the 1890s, after being found guilty of gross indecency for his relationship with Alfred Douglas. To me, this marks Reading Gaol as a historic sight of injustice and I believe there are too many of these sites in the history of homophobia already.
I do not mean to say that we should forget history that unsettles us, but I would like landmarks to lead us toward a brighter future, while celebrating the triumphs of the oppressed against certain hardship. Moreover, I can’t imagine Oscar Wilde would want that prison left standing.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
"That fellows got to swing."
Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.
- Oscar Wilde from the Ballad of Reading Gaol