Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Eye, Suffolk

The Eye Borough Gaol originally occupied part of the town hall on Broad Street but in 1817 moved to premises adjoining the Eye parish workhouse on Castle Street.

A report in 1835 recorded:

The Gaol, which is very small, consisting of only one yard, one day-room and two sleeping cells, is part of the poor-house. The greatest number of prisoners in the gaol during the last year was three, all males. The total number of prisoners committed for three years was as follows:—

1830 7-

When there are both male and female prisoners, the latter are taken into the poor-house. The prison diet is 1½lb. of bread a day, and 3 oz., or rather more, of cheese. The gaoler states that no prisoner had been detained there longer than three months. The magistrates and a clergyman visit the gaol occasionally, but very seldom. The prisoners are furnished with Bibles, Prayer-books and other religious works, and the gaoler said that their conduct in general was orderly. Being only detained for trial, they have no employment, but a tailor has been allowed to work at his trade.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

THE Gaol of this borough was formerly a part of the Town Hall, but the corporation not deeming it secure, entered into an agreement with the parish in 1817, and they together erected the present building, which adjoins the poor-house, and on the land belonging to it, the gift of a former Lord Cornwallis.

The expense of this building amounted to about 300l; of which sum 50l. was paid by the corporation, and the remainder by the parish. It comprises an airing-yard 30 feet by 24, with a boundary wall 13 feet high; a day-room 14 feet by 8, and 7 feet 6 inches high; two cells 9 feet by 7, and 7 feet G inches high; two rooms above for females, each 14 feet by 11 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet in height.

Dietary.—A pound and a half of bread, 2½ ounces of cheese. The Keeper, being master of the work-house, has, upon his own authority, lowered the above ration to prisoners, to 18 ounces of bread, and 2 ounces of cheese. This he had done in consequence of the reduction in the dietary of the poor-house; he considering it necessary that there should be a distinction between the two.


Accounts.—The expenses of the prison are involved in those of the adjoining poor-house.

Magistrates.—No book is kept recording the visits of the Magistrates, which, upon inquiry, seem to take place very seldom.

Keeper.—Aged 43; appointed by the bailiffs, in May 1829. Salary, 2l. The parish not considering him sufficiently remunerated, gave him, at Easter 1834, a gratuity of 2 l. 105.

Chaplain.—The curate of the parish attends at the poor-house once a week, and occasionally sees the prisoners; those that can read are furnished with Bibles and Prayer Books.

Observations:—A Chancery suit has been carrying for the last six years, to determine whether the Borough of Eye is liable to pay its proportion of the County rate, from which it claims exemption under the privilege of its charter.

Offenders who are committed to this prison occasionally remain a period of three months, until the Sessions at Ipswich, where the Keeper takes them for trial, lodging them in the County Gaol there, and paying for their maintenance until their cases are disposed of.

The application of the Poor Law Amendment Bill to the parish of Eye, renders the appropriation of this building to the purposes of a prison still more objectionable than are its own deficiencies. The prison cannot be reached without going through the interior of the workhouse; and the brewhouse which adjoins it is now being converted into a day-room for the male paupers, thus giving additional facility to communication. Night charges, such as disorderlies, are brought here by the constables sometimes at late hours.

The Keeper says that he is always under apprehension of the escape of prisoners, having had five or six get away within a few years. There are no means of inspecting the prisoners without their being aware of his approach.

The number of committals during the year 1835, up to the present time, have been eight. The prison was inspected by day and night, and was clean and in good order. One prisoner was in confinement.

The cells are occasionally made use of by the Master of the workhouse, in confining refractory paupers, without being committed by the Magistrate. I think it very desirable that, in this case, prisoners upon committal should be sent at once to the County Gaol at Ipswich.

On inspecting the lower floor of the Town Hall, a part of which was formerly used as a prison, there appeared to be quite sufficient space to construct a cage, with the few divisions necessary for a place of such temporary confinement, as would be fully adequate to the wants of the Borough of Eye.

The prison closed in about 1838 following the adoption of the Castle Street workhouse for use by the Hartismere Poor law union. Modern housing now occupies the site.


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  • No individual records identified for this establishment — any information welcome.
  • The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Has a wide variety of crime and prison records going back to the 1770s, including calendars of prisoners, prison registers and criminal registers.
  • Find My Past has digitized many of the National Archives' prison records, including prisoner-of-war records, plus a variety of local records including Manchester, York and Plymouth. More information.
  • Prison-related records on Ancestry UK include Prison Commission Records, 1770-1951, and local records from London, Swansea, Gloucesterhire and West Yorkshire. More information.
  • The Genealogist also has a number of National Archives' prison records. More information.


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