Ancestry UK

County Gaol and Bridewell, Derby, Derbyshire

The Derbyshire County Gaol and County Bridewell were originally separate establishments. From 1532 until 1757, the gaol adjoined the County Hall at the bottom of St Peter's Street. From 1660 until 1757, the bridewell was at St Mary's Gate.

In 1757, both establishments moved to new a new building at Nun's Green, Friargate.

County Gaol and Bridewell, Derby, c.1817.

In 1784, John Howard wrote:

This gaol, built in 1757, is in an airy healthy situation.—The debtors court and ward very properly separate from those for felons, but not from the bridewell. The debtors floors are bad tarras, not easily washed. The windows in general too small and close glazed.—The bridewell, in the debtors court, has a large work-room, £30 a year as keeper of the bridewell, and £10 in lieu of transports.—In the felons court there is for men a day-room, and down 3 steps a dungeon, 23½ feet diameter: for women a day-room, and two small night-rooms; the latter are too close, 7½ feet square. A neat chapel, but the ceiling too low: a bath; prisoners wash in it before assize and quarter sessions: a copper just by to warm the water.—Above are two rooms for an infirmary. There is also a new room or parlour at the keeper's house, with windows to the felons court: this circumstance keeps them quiet and orderly. The county allows eight guineas a year for straw.

A person goes round the county about Christmas to gentlemen's houses, and begs for the debtors. He carries a book, in which the giver enters his name, and donation. The whole amount, generally about £14.

GAOLER, Blyth Simpson.
Salary, £20.
Fees, Debtors. Felons, £0: 17: 4.
Transports, £5: 17: 0 each.
Licence, Beer.

PRISONERS, Allowance, Debtors & Felons per week, each two nine-penny loaves, and felons annually for coals 42: 12: 0.
Garnish, £0: 3: 6, and £0: 1: 2 for coals, &c.

 Debtors.Felons &c.Debtors.Felons &c.
1773, Nov. 1843.1776, Oct. 29107.
1774, April 2810.1779, May 14126. Imp. 5. Des. 3.
1775, Nov. 13,128.1782, Jan. 231312. Deserter 1.

CHAPLAIN, Rev. Mr. Seal, now the Rev. Mr. Henry.
Duty, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Salary, £30.

SURGEON, Mr. Harrison.
Salary, £30 for debtors, felons, &c. Three guineas for travelling charges to quarter sessions, to report the state of the gaol.

In 1812, James Neild reported:

This Gaol is situated on Nun's Green: the front of it is occupied by the Keeper, and extends 126 feet, including the passage leading to the Garden, of 5 feet wide; the depth is 121 feet; so that when the width of the passage is taken off, it forms a complete square. It was finished and inhabited in 1757, and the situation is airy and healthy.

The Keeper's back rooms command all the court-yards, except that assigned for the Vagrants.

Here is one large court-yard, S2 feet by 43, well supplied with both hard and soft water, common to the Debtors, and Men Prisoners in the House of Correction. But Debtors have the exclusive privilege of walking on the flat roof, which is 90 feet by 26. They have also a large day-room, 20 feet by 15, and 10

feet 6 inches high, with an oven and utensils for frugal cookery: to which add eight sleeping and work rooms above stairs, of the average size of about 17 feet 6 by 11 feet, and 9 feet 3 inches high; with fire-places, glazed windows,and wooden bedsteads. Chaff beds, two blankets, two sheets, a bolster and a rug, are furnished by the Keeper, each per week; but if the Debtor finds his own bed he pays nothing. Convenient water-closets are placed at the end of the lobbies or passages, to which they have access in the night time; they have also an exceeding good cold bath, and a copper for warm water.

There are no work-rooms either in the Gaol or House of Correction, nor any employment furnished by the County; but the humane Gaoler frequently procures them employment in weaving of Calicoes. They are furnished with looms from the Town, at four-pence per week, and receive all they earn.

The Women Debtors have a separate court-yard, 23 feet 9 inches by 12 feet 6, supplied with hard and soft water, and a sewer in it. Their four lodging rooms are up a flight of 18 steps; the average size about 12 feet square, and 9 feet high: They have each a fire-place and glazed window, and are fitted up with bed and bedding, the same as the Men's. Two of the lower of these rooms, are occasionally assigned to Women Felons, and misdemeanours.

Men Felons have a court-yard 93 feet by 43, supplied with water and a sewer, like the last mentioned-; also a day-room 25 feet by 18, and 10 feet high, with an oven, and proper utensils for simple cooking. A door opens from it into a lobby of 24 feet by 3 feet 4 inches; in which there are four sleeping-cells on the ground floor, 7 feet by 7 feet 4 inches,and 8 feet 3 inches high, with boarded floors, sacking filled with straw, two blankets, and a rug. To these cells warm air can be introduced, by means of flues under the floors, which keep them perfectly dry. The only light, however, that these cells enjoy, (and that borrowed,) is from an aperture over the doors, each 12 inches by 6; so that when the door is shut, they are almost totally dark, and ventilation is very much obstructed.

Near to these is another door, that opens into the court-yard. The lobby here is 25 feet 6 inches long, and 3 feet wide, and contains three cells on the ground-floor, of about the same dimensions as those above described: two of them equally dark and ill ventilated: the third has an iron grating, which looks into the Debtors ' Court, and is much preferable to any of the others. Into this cell a Convict is put when left for execution; and there is a slip or day-room near, of 12 feet 6 by 6 feet, with glazed window, a fire-place, table, chairs, and religious books, where the Chaplain daily attends him.

The humanity of the considerate Magistrates likewise allows to Criminals in this unhappy situation, a hot dinner every day, and tea, morning and afternoon.


At the General Quarter Sessions held at Bakewell, on Tuesday the 10th July, 4th year of George III, 1764; before the Rev. Sir John Every, Bart., the Rev. John Simpson, Clerk; Philip Gell, John Twigg, Henry Thornhill, and Joseph Briggs, Esquires, Justices, & c. LEONARD FOSBROOKE, Esq. Sheriff.

It is Ordered that the following Fees be taken by the Keeper, and no other.

For the lodging of every Prisoner in his house per week 0  :  2  :  6
For the Discharge of each Prisoner out of Custody 0  : 13 :  4
To the Turnkey For the Copy of every Warrant 0 0  :  2  :  0
For signing a certificate, in order to obtain a Supersedeas For registering each Declaration 0  :  1  :  0
For attending with every Prisoner, in order to give bail, or be otherwise discharged 0  :  2  :  0

And it is further ordered, that the Clerk of the Peace do cause this order to be printed, and the Keeper of the Gaol do observe the same, upon pain of being prosecuted according to Law. By the Court,   HEATHCOTE, Clerk of the Peace.

We, the Judges of Assize for the County of Derby, have reviewed, and do hereby confirm, the above-written Table of Fees. Given under our hands, at Derby, the 11th. day of August, 1764.     T. PARKER. E. CLIVE.

The House-of-Correction Prisoners here have one common court-yard with the Debtors. Their day-room is 17 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 6, and 11 feet 3 inches high; with a fire-place, and glazed window. There is also a room on the ground floor, of 7 feet 6 by 7 feet, for Deserters; supplied with wooden bedsteads and bedding, the same as to the other Prisoners. Above-stairs are two sleeping-rooms, 17 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 6, and 11 feet three inches high; and also a small room, similar to that for Deserters. These have all convenient water-closets, to which. there is access in the night time.

Vagrants have a separate court, out of sight, at the farther end of the Gaol, 39 feet by 20, with a sewer in it; but no water laid on, which is carried or sent to them by the Keeper four times a day.

On the ground-floor are two rooms, 12 feet 6 by 10 feet, and 7 feet 6 inches high, with a fire-place and glazed window; to which beds and bedding are furnished, as for the other Prisoners; and above these are two others, of the same dimensions.

The Chapel is 26 feet by 25, and 10 feet high; with four sash windows, and pewed off in such a manner, that the women and men are unseen by each other: the Clergyman has a way into it through the Keeper's house. All the Prisoners, (Roman Catholicks excepted,) are required to attend it; and Bibles, Prayer-Books, and Religious Tracts, are furnished to them by the County.

Over the Chapel are two Infirmary Rooms, each 35 feet by 11, and 9 feet 3 inches high, with fire-places and glazed windows. The wall, which has eleven courses of loose bricks on the stone coping, is 21 feet high.

Here is a man, Thomas Jenney,who goes round the Country at Christmas-time, with a Book soliciting relief for the Debtors, in which the donors enter their names and subscriptions. The amount of his collection at Christmas 1802, was thirty-one Pounds, and the number of Debtors, twenty-three: at Christmas 1804 it was about thirty-two Pounds; for the trouble of collecting which, he receives one fourth. For the Felons, also, there is a Woman who calls in at Gentlemen's houses three Sundays in the month, for the like purpose, and has a quarter part of the sum collected: it is said to amount generally to three or four shillings a Sunday. She carries with her a tin box, which has an aperture for receiving these casual donations; but, at my visit in 1809, I found the custom had been discontinued.

All descriptions of Prisoners have a hot dinner on Christmas and New-Year's Day, with bread and cheese at supper, and each a pint of ale.

An exceedingly good cold bath is here provided, and a copper for warm water. No oven, however, for purifying the offensive apparel of Prisoners, nor is County clothing statedly allowed; but, if a Prisoner be very ragged, he is put into better garb at the County's expence. All are humanely discharged in the morning, and have money given to them, according to their distance from home.

The Act for Preservation of Health, and Clauses against the use of Spirituous Liquors are both hung up. The whole Prison is very clean, and frequently visited by the Magistrates.

By 1821, the accommodation at the Friargate had become inadequate. At the county sessions in October of that year, it was decided to erect a new gaol and house of correction. For this purposes, six acres of land at the back of Friargate, and adjoining the old road to Uttoxeter, were acquired from the trustees of Large's hospital. The plans for the new building were provided by Francis Goodwin. The cost of the scheme was estimated at £37,403, excluding the cost of the land, the tread-mill, and the furniture of the cells and lodges. After some revision, the number of cells was increased to 185, several of which were able to each house three prisoners each. The cost estimate for the revised scheme was£46,208. 5s. 4d. exclusive of the purchase of land. The final bill, including the cost of contractors, architect, furniture etc. was £65,227. 6s. 6d.

New County Gaol and Bridewell, Derby, c.1826.

After the new building was opened, the old Nun's Green site was occupied by Derby's Borough Gaol and Bridewell.

The ground floor layout of the new prison is shown below:

County Gaol and Bridewell, Derby, c.1826.

The use of the buildings was specified as follows:

That the several wards or divisions of the said prisons, shall be marked, and distinguished by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, and the sections or compartments of each ward, and the airing grounds attached thereto, shall be numbered progressively, beginning with each ward with the number or figure 1.

Common Gaol for Male Prisoners.—That the whole of the wards A and B, and the sections or compartments 1 and 2 of the ward C, and the section or compartment 3 of the ward F, shall be the common County Gaol, and, with the airing grounds attached to the same wards and sections or compartments, shall be appropriated for eleven classes of male prisoners.

That section 2 of ward A, and section 3 of ward F, with the airing grounds, shall be the debtors' prison.

That sections 1 and 3 of ward A, and sections 1 and 3 of ward B, with the airing grounds, shall be appropriated for untried felon prisoners.

That section 4 of ward A, and section 2 of ward B, with the airing grounds, shall be appropriated for untried prisoners, charged with misdemeanors.

That section 4 of ward B, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for prisoners convicted of assaults or other misdemeanors.

That section 2 of ward C, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for prisoners committed for want of sureties.

And that section 1 of ward C, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated, as the visiting justices, in the intervals between the General Quarter Sessions, shall direct.

House of Correction for Male Prisoners.—That the whole of ward E, section 3 of ward C,and sections1 and 2 of ward F,shall be a House of Correction, and with the airing grounds, be appropriated for five classes of male prisoners.

That section 3 of ward C, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for convicted felon prisoners.

That sections 1 and 2 of ward E, with the airing grounds, shall be appropriated to prisoners convicted of misdemeanors.

That section 1 of ward F, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for vagrants.

And that section 2 of ward F, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated, as the visiting justices, in the intervals between the General Quarter Sessions shall direct.

Common Gaol and House of Correction for Female Prisoners.—That the ward D shall be the common County Gaol and House of Correction for female prisoners, and with the airing grounds, be appropriated for five classes.

That sections 1 and 2 of the same ward, shall be the common Gaol, and sections 3 and 4,the House of Correction.

Gaol.—That section 2 of the same ward D, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for debtors.

That section 1 of the same ward, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for untried felon prisoners.

House of Correction.—That section 3 of the same ward, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for untried prisoners charged with misdemeanors.

That section 4 of the same ward, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for convicted felons.

And that section 5 of the same ward, with the airing ground, shall be appropriated for persons convicted of misdemeanors.

Entrance Lodges.—That the day rooms, and cells in the entrance lodges, shall be appropriated, those in the lodge on the right side, to the reception and safe custody of male, and those in the lodge on the left side, to the reception and safe custody of female prisoners, until they have been examined by the surgeon, and it is thought proper to take them into the Gaol, or House of Correction, and dispose of them, according to the classes to which they may belong.

Solitary Prison.—That the solitary cells in ward G, shall be appropriated for refractory prisoners.

Infirmary.—That the ward H shall be the Infirmary, and with the airing ground, be appropriated to sick or diseased prisoners.

Tread Mill.—That the building marked I shall be appropriated for the tread mill.

Chapel. That the building, forming the uppermost story in the Governor's house, in the centre of the prison, and accessible by bridges from every ward, shall be appropriated for the chapel, and that such chapel, and the infirmary or sick wards, shall be common both to the Gaol and House of Correction.

That Mr. Richard Eaton, the keeper of the Gaol and House of Correction, shall take possession of the building in the new prison intended for the residence of himself and his wife, the matron, their family and servants, and that the prisoners of every description, shall be removed from the present County Gaol, and House of Correction, into the new prisons, as soon as possible, according to the classification above made, and under the direction of the visiting Justices.

In 1843, Stephen Glover wrote:

This Prison is in an open and airy situation in the outskirts of the town of Derby. It is enclosed with a brick wall, 25 feet in height, with 15 courses of loose bricks on the top, and defended by flanking towers, loop-holed for musquetry. The exterior front and gate presents a happy appropriation of the Grecian Doric, with columns and entablature. The lodges contain a hall, lodgings for two turnkeys, county store-room, three receiving cells, keeper's office, two drop rooms, and reservoirs for water in the roof. The interior of the prison consists of a central building (the keeper's house and chapel) with seven radiating wings, of two stories each, connected therewith by iron bridges. The portion assigned to the females consists of two small buildings, apart from the others. The infirmary is detached, and comprises a day-room, surgery, bath-house, on the basement, airing yard, and four rooms on the upper floor. A detached building of a circular shape, is exclusively appropriated for refractory prisoners, and those sentenced to solitary confinement. It contains two floors with three cells in each. Those in the basement are dark; they are of a fan-like shape, occupying two-thirds of the circle, which is completed by the stair-case. The lower cells have the appearance of being damp. Communication can be carried on between prisoners in the adjoining cells, with great facility.

Dimensions of the sleeping cells, 6 feet by 8 feet, 12 feet high.

The solitary cells, basement 11 feet by 7 feet, 12 feet high.

The solitary cells, upper floor, 11 feet by 7 feet, 9 feet high.

The airing yards are not paved. The keeper's house contains in the basement three kitchens, store-room, cellarage; first floor, four rooms; second floor, eight rooms. The chapel, above, is quadrangular. The divisions for the prisoners are 17 in number, with open iron-work in front. There is some garden-ground and stabling without the prison, the property of the county, in the possession of the keeper, likewise three small houses, at the angular points, and at short distances from the boundary-wall are tenanted by the officers of the prison, and conducing materially to its security. The water-closets, the drainage, and indeed all the fittings in this prison are perfect, and the general arrangement of the buildings most convenient, with the single exception of the one set a apart for solitary confinement.

Since the riots in October, 1831, eight martello towers have been designed by Mr. Mason, and built by Mr. Thomas Cooper, at the cost of £1540. These are furnished with fire arms.

Extract from the Inspector of Prisons' Report.

The magistrates, impressed with the necessity of warming the cells in winter, have adopted a most ingenious process, invented by Mr. Sylvester, civil engineer, which not only supplies the requisite heat, but contains at the same time a stream of fresh air into each cell, which is continually renewing itself. The apparatus was applied in the first instance only to one wing of the prison, but its complete success has induced the extension of it throughout the prison. The governor, in a communication to me, says, "I am quite delighted with this plan of ventilation and warming. We have an atmosphere which appears to change in the course of a minute or two, by a current of air which would almost take up a pocket-handkerchief into the shaft upon the roof of the wing. We are able to raise the temperature of the cells to 62, 63, 64, and 65 degrees, and to about 33 and 34 degrees above that of external air."

Upon each section of the building there is a ventilating shaft erected. The prison is warmed by hot water. There are now 212 prisoners under confinement. The boundary walls round the new prison enclose three acres of ground. The plan is upon the radiating principle, and consists of one hundred and eighty-five cells, having twenty-one wards for the classification of prisoners. The gateway is a bold and commanding edifice, exhibiting the strength of character of which the Doric order is capable. The governor's house stands in the centre, and overlooks the whole. It is one of the most complete prisons in England.

The following extract from the Third Report of the Inspectors of Prisons will explain more fully the system Mr. Sims has adopted.

"The management of Prisons should be as near as possible upon the same principles as a military organization. The prisoners should be formed into divisions, and officers appointed to their charge; all orders and reports should be made in writing; the responsibility, duties, and precedence of the officers should be defined; the daily routine of services precisely laid down and never departed from; the interior of a well-regulated prison should present the same aspect as a garrisoned fortress. In very few establishments have I found any approach to this desirable state of things; but the County Gaol at Derby is an exception, where the advantages of it are strikingly exhibited."

Mr. Sims succeeded Mr. Eaton, as keeper of the prison, in 1832, with a salary of £360. a year, now advanced to £500. a year. Mrs. Sims, matron, with a salary of £40. a year; and Mr. James Sims, their son, clerk in 1836, with a salary of £ 41. 128. now deputy-keeper, with a salary of £200. a year. The Inspector of Prisons, in his Report of the County Prison of Derby, speaks in the highest praise of the discipline and management of this Prison under Mr. Sims, and the advancement of himself and family is a sufficient testimony that he has filled the situation with the highest credit to himself, and has at all times given the utmost satisfaction to the magistracy of the county in the responsible office he has so long and so ably held.

The Surgeon attends the prison and sees every prisoner daily; and is present at the infliction of corporeal punishment. Mild inflammatory diseases are those most prevalent. Douglas Fox, Esq., was appointed Surgeon in 1822, and receives a salary of £ 100. a year, and £ 20. for medicine.

Moral and religious instruction.—The Chaplain performs two full services with sermonson Sundays, and in the intervals, or after the services, attends the school room, where the prisoners in classes are catechized. A portion of the scriptures is selected by him and read to the prisoners, who are questioned as to their conception of its meaning, and the necessary explanations afforded them if required. On other days prayers are read at 9 o'clock in the morning, and the chaplain is engaged with convicted prisoners until eleven. Rev. George Pickering was appointed chaplain to the jail, in 1813, and receives £150. a year.

There are fourteen male turnkeys who receive 20s. each per week; two females, 14s. each, and two watchmen, 14s. each.

Benson John, Fowler street.Payne Joseph, Uttoxeter road.
Birch Charles, South street.Potter Thomas, York street.
Brown, John, Dogkennel lane.Thompson John, South street.
Carrington Henry, Fowler street.Tucker William, Fowler street.
Hudson Samuel, Searl street.William Millet, Fowler street.
Kerry John, Nuns' street.White Joseph, Uttoxeter road.
Martin Anthony, Fowler streetBryan, John, Watchman.
Mather Thomas, ditto.Mary Neiland.
Payne John, Uttoxeter road. Sarah Peat.
Francis Eaton.

Dietary.—Breakfast, a quart of gruel, made from two ounces of oatmeal, and a portion of bread; dinner, one pound of boiled potatoes, and a portion of bread; supper, one quart of gruel, made from two ounces of oatmeal, and a portion of bread. One and a half pound of good wheaten bread, and one quarter of an ounce of salt per day. Prisoners, confined for a longer period than three calendar months, receive in addition to their daily allowance, two ounces of onions per day. When onions cannot be procured, a red herring is substituted every second day. The surgeon states, that he considers the diet sufficient in general cases.

The agricultural labourer in Derbyshire has cheese and a little bacon, but butcher's meat seldom forms a portion of his food. The diet is not sufficient in scrofulous cases, and when he observes prisoners to be of that habit he increases it.

The convicts sent from the above prison from 1815 to 1832, are as under: transported for life, 144; for fourteen years, 65; and for seven years, 202. 413 from 1832, to 1842, inclusive of 342 males, and 16 females, making a total in twenty-seven years of 771 persons.

In 1878, following the nationalisation of the prison system, the site became HMP Derby. The prison closed in 1916 and then was then used for a while as a military prison. Most of the buildings were demolished in 1929. From 1933 to 1987, a greyhound track operated on the site. The Vernon Gate residential and office development no occupies the site, with the old prison frontage still surviving.


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