Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Folkestone, Kent

Folkestone had a Town Gaol in the Market, which adjoined the town's Guildhall near the present-day junction of Rendezvous Street and Church Street. According to one author, it was a 'dirty dark cell, used as a lock-up, and appropriately termed the Black-hole.'

In 1830, a new gaol was erected, also adjoining the Guildhall. In 1832, it was said that:

This small prison comprises three sleeping-rooms, two day-rooms, and an airing-yard. Convicted prisoners are employed in breaking stones for the repair of the highways. They are dieted in the same manner as the paupers in the workhouse, by the overseers of the poor, who take the amount of their earnings. Neither bedding or clothing is furnished. Only six prisoners were confined during the last year, two of whom were females.

In 1835, it was noted that:

The Gaol, which is insecure, is kept up by the lord of the manor; who, as before stated, Gaol, appoints the gaoler. However, it is only used for custody previous to trial, and for debtors from the court of requests; other debtors are sent to Dover Castle, and prisoners under sentence to the county prison.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This gaol is the property of the Earl of Radnor, who, as lord of the manor, appoints the Keeper.

There are four Apartments:— No. 1.—9 feet by 10 feet, and 6 feet 7 inches in height; the window a foot square, not glazed. No. 2.—10 feet 9 inches by 9 feet 3 inches, and 6 feet 9 inches in height; the window the same. No. 3.—10 feet 5 inches by 6 feet 4 inches, and 6 feet 9 inches in height; the window the same. No. 4.—8 feet 9 inches by 10 feet 4 inches, and 7 feet 4 inches in height; the window the same.

Prisoners committed for trial. Debtors, and persons convicted and sentenced for short periods, are sent to this gaol — the numbers, however, are remarkably small; the total number of committals in 1835 being only seven, and in 1836, six. There has been no female prisoner since July 1834. The greatest number at one time in confinement in the last three years was three.

There were no persons in confinement at the period of our Visit.

The Magistrates of Folkstone cannot do better than arrange with the Council of Dover for sending to the Gaol of that place Prisoners who are fully committed for trial, or summarily sentenced, as well as Prisoners convicted at the sessions; using the present Gaol merely as a lock-up house for the separate confinement of Prisoners committed for and under examination.

It will be necessary, however, to provide some means of ventilating and warming such of the Apartments as may be retained even for that purpose; for, at present, they are not fit for the confinement of a prisoner. The bedsteads and bedding were wet with the damp of the rooms.

In line with the Inspectors' recommendation, the gaol became a lock-up, apparently being closed in about 1850.


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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.