Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Basingstoke, Hampshire

The Basingstoke corporation erected a Town Gaol in the town in 1816.

A report in 1823 recorded that:

It is merely a prison for the town, where offenders are placed for petty offences; for capital crimes they are forwarded to the county gaol at Winchester. No alteration has taken place in its construction within the last twelve months : it is situated in a healthy part of the town, and the different rooms are well ventilated. The gaoler's apartments occupy the front of the buildings towards the street; his bed-room window opens at the back, and overlooks the prisoners' cells, two of which are on the ground-floor. There are three night-cells, each 14 feet by 7 feet, and 7 feet high, one for women and two for men: that for women is on the second floor; it has neither day-room nor outlet: the men's cells have attached to each a small yard 7 feet by 8, enclosed by a wall, and strong iron grating over the top, eight feet from the pavement. There have never been more than five prisoners at one time, and the total number during the last year is thirteen.

There is no chapel, but a minister occasionally visits the prisoners. No liquors are admitted; water, and a pint loaf of bread per day is the allowance. No wearing apparel is provided; straw bedding and blankets are supplied. Irons are never used. Great attention to cleanliness is observable throughout. In the gaoler's yard, to which the prisoners have not access, a whipping-post is erected, and offenders are sometimes privately flogged; and it is much to be regretted that the barbarous custom of a public flogging in the market-place is more frequently resorted to.

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported that the gaol was now only used as a short-term lockup:

This building was formerly the town gaol, although on a scale far too limited to merit such an appellation. It lies by the side of a public thoroughfare, and contains only the apartments of the keeper, and two cells, one for males, the other for females. Each cell has a privy, but the female cell does not appear to have been used for some time. There is no yard properly so called, but only a small space about half the size of an ordinary cell, in which the prisoner may walk; this, however, is not a point of any importance, since prisoners do not usually remain here more than one night, unless when brought in on the Saturday evening, in which case they remain during the nights of both Saturday and Sunday. The cases which are admitted here are generally breaches of the peace, and they are taken up for examination every day, except Sunday, before the mayor or other magistrate.

The keeper of this lock-up house resides on the spot, and is the serjeant of police. As serjeant of police he receives 15s. a-week, and he derives no other advantage from the office of keeper besides the residence which is here allotted to it. The allowance of food for each prisoner is half a quartern loaf a-day: 1 lb. of meat, with potatoes, was formerly allowed twice a-week if a prisoner made any stay within the walls. The town finds straw for bedding, but there is also a small stock of blankets and rugs, which the keeper supplies to those who pass here more than one night; he lends soap and towels when required.

The present keeper has been 15 months in office, during which time the greatest number of prisoners at one time was 5; they were sent hither for creating a disturbance at the time of the fair. The total number of prisoners confined here from the 5th of June 1836 to the 2d of June 1837 was 62, of whom 11 were females; on the day of my visit, 2d of June 1837, I found one young man confined here, who had just come in. There has been no death here since the present keeper has occupied the house, nor has ho ever had occasion to solicit the aid of the parochial surgeon, which he would have done if any case of illness had occurred. Some white-washing is necessary.

The prisoners who are committed from this town to the county prison at Winchester are conducted thither by one of the policemen, of whom there are two in addition to the Serjeant.


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  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
  • GOV.UK - UK Government's information on sentencing, probation and support for families.