Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol and House of Correction, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Great Yarmouth had a Borough Gaol by the thirteenth century, which occupied a site on what is now Tollhouse Street, Great Yarmouth.

The establishment was described by John Howard in 1784:

Besides the gaoler's house, in which are four rooms for master's-side debtors, there are for all the prisoners, only a small day-room and court; and two or three lodging-rooms for such as pay for them: three dungeons or night-rooms down a ladder of 10 steps. Allowance, a penny loaf a day (weight in February 1776, 1302. in July 1782, 9½ oz.), and four chaldron of coals a year. The corporation sends out a begging-basket three times a week.—Gaoler's salary, £15: licence for beer and wine. Table of fees now hung up. The act for preserving the health of prisoners not hung up.

1776, Feb. 6,Debtors 6,Felons &c. 14.
1779, April 3,4,4.
1782, July 8,4,2.
Great Yarmouth. A Table of fees to be taken by the Gaoler of this Burgh pursuant to an Order of Assembly, A. D. 1671.
£. S. D.
For the commitment release and discharge every prisoner0   0   8
For the garnish of every prisoner0   0   6
For every prisoner that will diet with the gaoler, for every meal he takes0   1   0
For every prisoner lodging in the common chamber, finding his own bed for every night0   0   1
For every prisoner lodging in the common chamber in the gaoler's bed for every night0   0   2
For every prisoner lodging in the private chamber finding his own bed for every night0   0   2
For every prisoner lodging in the private chamber in the gaoler's bed for every night0   0   4
For every freeman lodging in the free-room for every week0   0   6
For going abroad with a prisoner every time0   0   6
For the key turning for every prisoner being an inhabitant of this town for every week0   0   4
For the key turning for every other prisoner for every week0   0   8
For every prisoner committed upon any action except actions of debt to be payed upon his discharge out of the prison whereof he is to pay to the mayor if sureties be given0   0   4
And in such case to the clerk of the court0   0   4
And to the serjeant0   0   6
But if the action be agreed to the clerk of the court0   0   2
For the withdrafts of the court in every action agreed0   0   6
Except actions of debt for which they are to compound with Mr. Mayor or pay 1s. for every 20s.   
For every grand jury or petty jury keeping0   0   4
For goods attached and brought to the town hall the party plaintiff to pay as he can agree with the gaoler.   
For every person whipped at the sessions0   0   4
For every one branded0   1   0
For every one executed0   6   8

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, Richard Helsdon; now Thomas King. Salary, 40l.

Fees, Debtors, 6s. 8d.; Felons, 13s.4d.

Chaplain, none; nor any religious attentions whatever.

Surgeon, whoever attends the Poor.

Number of Prisoners,

 DebtorsFelons &c.
1802, Feb. 16th,23.
1805, Sept. 9th,34.
1810, Sept. 13th,43.

Allowance, one pound of bread each per day: the same also to Prisoners confined here from the Court of Requests, or of Conscience.


In the front of this Gaol is the Visiting Magistrates' room, or Keeper's parlour: His sitting-room has a full command of the court-yard.

Here is only one, 30 feet 6 inches long by 19 feet 6 inches wide, for all descriptions of Prisoners. It has a passage 18 feet long, 4 feet wide, which leads to the pump and sewer.

The Master's-Side Debtors have four rooms above stairs, to which the Keeper furnishes beds, at 28. 4d. and 3s. 6d. per week; and 4d. per week to the Turnkey, from each Debtor of this description.

Common-Side Debtors have a free-ward, to which the Corporation supplies straw beds in sacking, two blankets, a pillow, and a rug. There is also a common day room for Debtors, Male and Female, of 10½ feet by 9, to which a peck of coals per day is allowed throughout the year.

One room is set apart for the Sick Debtors, 20 feet by 12, but has no fire-place: The window large, iron-grated and glazed. Here are wooden bedsteads, with straw in-ticking beds, two blankets to each, a pillow, and a rug.

Down a ladder of ten steps is the Felons' day-room, in size 15 feet by 12, with a fire-place, and one iron-grated and glazed window towards the court-yard, of 4 feet by 3.

Into that day-room opens the Women-Felons' sleeping-room, which is 13 feet by 6; with a window like the former, and outside shutter. No fire-place; but sup plied with wooden bedsteads, straw-in-sacking beds, each having two blankets, a pillow, and a rug.

For the Men-Felons are four sleeping-cells, each 7 feet by 4 feet 6, and 9 feet 6 inches high; the door-way 5 feet 9 by 21 inches wide. In each of these cells sleep two Felons. They are ventilated by a small semicircular iron grating over each door, and one air-tube, which opens into the court-yard: there is a small aperture also in the door of each cell, 7 inches by 5, which has a bar in the middle; and each cell is supplied with wooden bedsteads, raised 14 inches from the stone-flooring, with straw-in-sacking beds, two blankets, a pillow, and a rug.

Here is likewise another room, of 20 feet by 12, for the Sick-Felons, having a large iron-grated and glazed window. It has no fire-place; but is furnished with bedsteads, straw-in-ticking, two blankets, pillow and rug, like the former.

Fresh straw is allowed monthly; and mops, brooms, pails, saucepans, kettles, grid-irons, &c. are provided for the Prisoners of all descriptions.

It was formerly the custom here, for a Man to go about the Town once a week, to collect broken victuals for the Prisoners: But this has been discontinued many years, and in lieu of it the Mayor for the time being allows them two shillings per week. A peck of coals per day is given to both Debtors and Felons, from Michael mas to Lady-Day, from the same exemplary source.

On the next day after my visit in Sept. 1805, Mr. Reynolds, then Mayor, politely accompanied me to this Prison; where I pointed out to him, that by taking in the Publick-house close adjacent, the Bridewell might be properly consolidated, workrooms made, the Sexes kept separate in court-yards distinct from each other, and the loathsome cells bricked up. I was sorry, however, in Sept. 1810, to find my suggestions had been unavailing. No alteration had taken place with respect to the Females' sleeping-room, which opens into the Men's day-room; and the four Debtors, with the eight Criminals (two of them very young and decent looking Females) were all associated together in the small court-yard.

This Town-Gaol adjoins to the Toll-house Hall; where Prisoners are tried by the Recorder of Yarmouth, and the Court has the aweful power of life and death. Prisoners from the Court of Requests are committed hither for any sum less than twenty shillings; and confined twenty days. Above that sum, up to 40s. confinement is 40 days; but beyond the latter sum it has no power.

The Assize is held only once a year, and upon no fixed day. In 1809 it was held on the 5th of July. One John Allen, upon suspicion of Felony, was committed hither on the 30th of August following. He lay in Prison until the 13th of Sept. 1810, and was then acquitted, at the Session which happened to be held during the time of my last visit.

Here is no Employment for the Prisoners; although plenty of it might be procured, if work-rooms were provided for the purpose.

The Prison is white-washed twice a year. No Rules and Orders. The Act for preserving Health, and the Clauses against Spirituous Liquors not hung up.

Major building works were carried out at the site in 1824-5, as described by this report from 1827:

This prison, which was described in the last Report as being in a most defective state, has undergone considerable alterations, and the building is much enlarged; having fourteen cells and four day-rooms, with three airing-yards, added to it.

The yards and airing-grounds are under the inspection of the governor from his apartments.

The employment of the prisoners consists in shoemaking, tailoring, making straw hats,baskets, and numerous toys for children.

The prisoners are supplied with Bibles, Testaments, and Prayer-books. There being no chaplain appointed to the prison, part of the liturgy and a sermon, both in the morning and evening of the sabbath, are constantly read to the prisoners, either by a minister or a visitor. One day in each week is also appropriated to the instruction of prisoners of both sexes in reading and writing.

The female prisoners are placed under the care of a matron, and are kept constantly employed in sewing and making articles of wearing apparel for children, which are bought by the ladies of this town,and distributed to the poor. The women are con fined in such parts of the prison as prevent them from having any intercourse with the male prisoners.

Separate apartments are provided for the sick.

At Michaelmas, 1824, there were ten prisoners in confinement; but at Michaelmas, 1825, the number was only four.

The sessions of Oyer and Terminer, and of Gaol Delivery, for this borough, are held twice in the year, in April and about the middle of September, which occasions the number of prisoners at Michaelmas to be small.

The greatest number of prisoners at one time during the year 1825 was 32. The total number of persons committed during the year was 139; viz. 18 debtors, 56 felons, 61 misdemeanants, two for offences against the revenue laws,and two for non-performance of orders of bastardy.

The average number of re-committals has not exceeded three per cent., and those have been for misdemeanors.

The classes consist of six: viz. debtors, two; untried felons, two; tried felons, two. There are six day-rooms, and five airing-yards, and nineteen sleeping-cells.

The allowance of food is two pounds of the best wheaten flour bread daily, with leave to take the amount in value twice a week in cheese or butter in lieu thereof. The cost of food for each prisoner per week is 2s.4d.

The bedding allowed to each prisoner consists of a mattress, two blankets, and one rug in summer, and an additional rug in winter. Coals are allowed to debtors all the year; but in the other wards they are allowed from Michaelmas to Lady-day only. A surgeon attends at the prison when requisite.

The House of Correction, or Bridewell, for this borough, is part of the same building, and under the superintendence of the same governor as the gaol.

This part of the building is newly erected. On the 29th of June, 1825, prisoners were first received into it. The management and discipline observed are the same as in the gaol.

The prisoners' wards cannot be inspected from the governor's apartments, as the building is directly behind the gaol; the governor is therefore obliged to visit the prisoners several times in the course of the day. The boundary walls are about twenty six feet in height.

The prisoners are employed as described in the gaol,and their earnings are appropriated in the same manner. The dietary, bed ding, and other allowances, are also similar; and the same means are adopted for promoting their moral and religious instruction.

The greatest number of prisoners at one time has been eight.

The total number committed since the 29th of June, 1825, was thirty-six.

No prisoner is in confinement at this time. There has not been any re-committal.

The number of classes is two, having two day-rooms and ten sleeping-cells. There is only one large yard at present; but it is intended to divide it by a cross-wall.

There is no fund for the relief of prisoners when discharged; those who have work provided are allowed half their earnings, and the other half is reserved to the time of their discharge, when they are furnished with necessaries, or receive a small sum of money. The mayor and magistrates frequently visit the prison. An allowance of two shillings per week has for many years been given by the mayor, during his mayoralty, to prisoners on the criminal side, to be laid out at the discretion of the governor.

Former Borough Gaol and House of Correction, Great Yarmouth, early 1900s.

Former Borough Gaol and House of Correction, Great Yarmouth, early 1900s.

In 1836, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This prison is situated in Gaol-street, the most densely peopled quarter of the town. It is appropriated to the inclusion of debtors from the Borough Court, where the Mayor presides, and where any amount of debt is recoverable; debtors by sentence of a borough court of requests for debts under forty shillings, and for periods not exceeding forty days; and for criminal offenders within the Borough jurisdiction.

The old prison having been found inadequate, the Corporation, in 1824, purchased ground in its rear, built the present House of Correction, and enlarged the gaol at an expense of nearly 7,000l. The space now occupied has a frontage of 49 feet 6 inches, and a depth of 163 feet. The Sessions House and prison buildings, with the boundary walls, form two distinct areas or squares, one of which is applied to the purposes of a gaol, the other to a house of correction. The contents of the Keeper's house are a large parlour, called "The Magistrates' Room," a smaller one, a kitchen, and four bed-rooms; closely adjoining are the debtors' apartments, and beneath the Sessions House is the old gaol, which consists of seven under-ground apartments and cells, 6 feet 6 inches below the level of the street. A day-room, 12 feet square and 13 feet 6 inches high; a narrow room, called a dormitory, 23 feet long, 9½ wide, and 13 feet 6 inches high; four cells 7 feet long, 4 feet 6 inches broad, 9 feet 0 inches high, quite dark, and imperfectly ventilated; and a sleeping-room about 12 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 14 feet high. The cells in the House of Correction and modern parts of the prison are 9 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet 8 inches high. The day-rooms, 13 feet square, 9 feet high; the partition walls between the cells are 9 inches.

Observations:—The enlargement of the old gaol, and the addition of the House of Correction, have certainly afforded space for an increased number of prisoners; but a more inconvenient site could scarcely have been chosen, or a more ill-arranged plan followed. The prison is now bounded on three sides by public streets, and the fourth abuts upon premises in the occupation of a private individual. The interior of the House of Correction is commanded by, and may be looked into, from the neighbouring houses; from its airing-yard, which is completely away from any inspection, communication to and from without is carried on with every facility.

The brick partitions of the sleeping cells being-only 9 inches, and those between the male and female wards being little or no more, and also remote from any inspection, conversation in both situations is carried on almost uninterruptedly. In the old gaol the four under-ground cells are quite dark, and deficient in proper ventilation. The prisoners describe their heat in summer as almost suffocating, but they prefer them for their warmth in winter: their situation is such as to defy inspection, and they are altogether unfit for the confinement of any human being.

Diet, Clothing, and Fuel.—Two pounds of bread is the nominal daily allowance to each prisoner, but this dietary is not adhered to, as on Wednesdays and Fridays the prisoners are permitted, with the sanction of the Mayor, to have herrings, sugar, coffee, cheese or potatoes, at their own selection, in exchange for bread to the same amount, which articles are provided for them by the Keeper. No prison clothing. The debtors and female prisoners are allowed a peck of coals per day for each day-room all the year round; the male criminals have it only the winter six months.

Observations:—Upon first visiting the prison I found several of the prisoners in the yards walking about without shoes or stockings on, and otherwise imperfectly clad. The following particulars of their condition and treatment are derived from themselves, the gaoler, and turnkey.

John Bowles.—This prisoner, sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, was without shoes or stockings,, with scarcely a rag of trousers to cover him. tie had been so for four months; he was limping about the yard with a leg covered with sores, greatly inflamed and swelled. He had been without medical attendance. He told the turnkey of it about a fortnight since. Had but a single shirt, and was not allowed any soap; washed it as well as he could; he got a bit of chalk and scrubbed it.

William Edwards.—Twelve months' imprisonment; had no clean linen this month; had been four months without shoes. He borrowed a pair of shoes to go to trial with of another prisoner in the yard.

George Jameson.—No shoes nor stockings; and had been without for more than six months.

Edmund Nunsey.—Six months out of the nine he had been here without shoes or stockings.

George Reid.—No shoes.

Robert Thaxler.—Two months without shoes or stockings.

Francis Barton.—Had an attack of the ague, to which he is subject. Told the turnkey, who went to the doctor and brought him back some pills. The doctor never came to see him; but he had gruel regularly given to him by the Keeper.

After eliciting-these particulars I waited on the Mayor, who immediately at my request re-accompanied me to the prison. The state of each individual was pointed out to him. On his inquiring into the reasons why Bowles' leg had not been dressed, the turnkey said that he had several times applied to the Surgeon, but had not been attended to. The next day, upon visiting the prison, I found the prisoner's leg poulticed and bandaged. The Surgeon, upon being examined, stated that his attendance was almost constant; that Bowles' leg was attended to, as soon as he was apprized of its requiring his assistance, and that Barton had quinine sent to him for his ague.

Cleanliness.—No allowance of soap or towels. Observation:—The prison tolerably clean, but the persons and linen of the prisoners filthy.

Bedding.—Two blankets, one rug and a mattress of sedge in a coarse holland cover.

Observations:—The prisoners are permitted, in addition to the above allowance of bedding,.to bring into the prison whatever extra quantity they please; in consequence, the cells are filled with feather beds, mattresses and coverings of almost every description, and of no very cleanly appearance.

Health.—The prison is generally healthy; there is no place specially applied for the purposes of an infirmary. The Surgeon says that there have been cases of syphilitic disease, and of sore throat, where it would have been much better to have removed the patient to a separate apartment. No entry is made of the Surgeon's attendances, nor any account kept of the number or cases of ill health occurring in the prison.

Benefactions.—The Mayor gives two shillings weekly, and to this sum is added all monies found in the box, kept for the charitable donations of visitors to the prison. This box is opened every Saturday in the presence of one of the prisoners. Two shillings and sixpence is the largest amount ever found there. The Mayor's money and this are put together, and divided among all the prisoners in the Gaol and Bridewell, and generally applied in the purchase of candles. On Michaelmas-day, when the Mayor is chosen, all the prisoners, debtors inclusive, are provided with dinners at the expense of the Corporation, consisting of roast beef, plum pudding, and a quart of beer each, and also at Christmas.

Labour and Employment.—Many of the prisoners are sentenced to hard labour, but none is provided; shoemakers and tailors are permitted to carry on their trades and procure work from the tradesmen in the town; the masters send their wages to them in the prison. Until the Resolutions of the Lords' Committee were communicated by the Magistrates, they were allowed to purchase whatever articles they pleased, but the money is now received and kept by the Keeper until their discharge. The prisoners were much dissatisfied with the arrangement; they said it was a hard thing that those who had to lay so long in prison, could not have any thing sent in. Some of the prisoners have earned from eight to ten shillings a week.

Moral and Religious Instruction.—The Corporation provide nothing for the instruction of the prisoners. The Hon. and Rev. Mr. Pellew, Perpetual Curate of St. Nicholas, receives a salary of 40l. per annum, as Chaplain to the Corporation, which, however, has no relation to the prison, where he volunteers his attendance to perform one service on a Sunday. With respect to this branch of my inquiry, the particulars are of so singular a nature, that it may be better to transcribe the notes made at the time.

Sunday, November 29th, 1835, attended Divine Service in the morning, at the prison. The male prisoners only were assembled; a female, resident in the town, officiated; her voice was exceedingly melodious, her delivery emphatic, and her enunciation extremely distinct. The service was the Liturgy of the Church of England; two psalms were sung by the whole of the prisoners, and extremely well, much better than I have frequently heard in our best appointed Churches. A written discourse, of her own composition, was also read by her; it was of a purely moral tendency, involving no doctrinal points, and admirably suited to the hearers.

During the performance of the service, the prisoners paid the profoundest attention and the most marked respect, and, as far as it is possible to judge, appeared really to take a devout interest. Evening service was read by her afterwards to the female prisoners.

This most estimable person has, for the long period of seventeen years, almost exclusively given up her time to bettering the wretched condition,of the prisoners confined in this Gaol. She is generally there four or five times a week, and, since her first commencing these charitable labours, she has never omitted being present a single Sabbath-day. On the week-days she pursues, with equal zeal, a regular course of instruction with the male and female prisoners. Many of the prisoners have been taught to read and write, of which very satisfactory examples were produced; and the men are instructed and employed in binding books, and cutting, out of bones, stilettoes, salt spoons, wafer stamps, and similar articles, which are disposed of for their benefit. The females are supplied with work according to their several abilities, and their earnings are paid to them on their discharge; in several instances they have earned sufficient to put themselves in. decent apparel, and be fit for service. After their discharge, they are, by the same means, frequently provided with, work, until enabled to procure it for themselves.

Only a single instance is recorded of any insult being offered to her, which was by a prisoner of notoriously bad character; upon which she gave up her attendance upon the ward to which he belonged; after his discharge, the other prisoners came forward, and entreated most earnestly that she would be pleased to resume her visits.

There are several cases where her attentions have been successful, and have apparently reclaimed, if the continued good conduct of the discharged be admitted as satisfactory proof. That of four smugglers is singular from the fact that, upon their discharge after a long imprisonment, they addressed the felons, and entreated them to listen to her advice and treat her with respect.

Trifling pecuniary donations from charitable persons in the town of Yarmouth, and from the British Society of Ladies in London, enable her to dispose of the female prisoners' work at reduced prices to the poor. The Hon. and Rev. Mr. Pellew considers the services of this person in the prison as invaluable; he has read several of her Sermons; her tenets are strictly those of the Church of England. She obtains books and tracts through him, which are generally those published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The Keeper and Matron are also strong in their testimony as to the beneficial efiects of her interference. She is about 45 years of age, and has to earn her own livelihood by her business. Mr. Pellew thinks that if, in prisons similar to this, a Schoolmaster were appointed subject to the approval of the resident Clergyman, much benefit would ensue.

Classification.—There is no real classification; the untried of every degree, and the tried misdemeanants and felons, are placed together. In the room used as a Chapel, the prisoners are all assembled in one mass.

Prison Offences and Punishments.—The most common offences, within the prison, are attempts at escape and misconduct in the wards: the usual punishment is locking up the prisoners during the day in their cells; the Keeper has never used but one iron for many years, except in conveying convicts.

When the prisoners are sentenced to be whipped, the punishment is inflicted by one of the town watchmen, who receives a fee of five shillings. The scourge has a handle of wood 15 £inches in length, with nine lashes of common whipcord, each 21 inches in length, with two single knots in each.

The weight of the irons, used for conveying convicts, is, for one convict, 2 lbs. 6 ounces; two convicts, 4lbs. 6 ounces; three convicts, 9lbs. 6 ounces.

Visits and Letters to Prisoners,.—Until within a short time all the prisoners were allowed to see their friends; now this permission has been wholly withdrawn from the untried. Convicted prisoners are restricted to one visit in six months; but after they have suffered six months' imprisonment, they are allowed to receive visits once every month. No letters are allowed to be received or sent, f The debtors receive visits from nine till four daily, except on Sundays.

Discipline of the Prison.—This is of a very lax order. The punishment book contains frequent records of misconduct, and attempts at escape are common; the person whose house joins the House of Correction complained to me of the noise, with which she was frequently annoyed from thence, so much so as to compel her to send to the Keeper to put a stop to them. Various articles are at times thrown over the walls into her premises. Upon my first visiting the prison I found the following notice placed over the fire-place in one of the day-rooms.

"The Rules of this Room for every Man that come in this to pay 3d. for Cols, Sticks and. Candels.
When you furst com in Tow Men To Clen this Room and the youngest Priosener to do any thing that is arsk

The Rules of this Prison
Great Yarmouth 1835, September 12

Any one that is cort polan this down will have 3 donson."

The Keeper and turnkey sleep in the Old Gaol, and the House of Correction is left in charge of a prisoner as wardsman; the individual at present in this office is a felon sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment; he is paid at the rate of four-pence a week, by the Keeper; his duty is to report all misconduct.

Tobacco is said to be prohibited, yet upon going round the prison at eight o'clock in the evening, the smoke in the day-room where this man was present was so dense as scarcely to admit of my distinguishing the prisoners. This wardsman, upon being questioned, declared he did not know who was smoking.

The prisoners are not locked into their cells until past eight o'clock in the winter, and are permitted to have candles in their day-rooms until this hour; under any circumstances a most outrageous practice, but in the Old Prison, where timber is the principal material in the construction, it is highly dangerous, more especially when, as the turnkey states, the prisoners have occasionally been detected in carrying lighted candles into their cells, and been punished for it.

The quantity of bedding and boxes belonging to the prisoners, in the cells and day-rooms, is quite enormous, and most detrimental to health and cleanliness. The walls of the wardsman's cells, were decorated with a variety of low drawings, prints, and songs. Herrings, bread, and provisions of various kinds, were lying about the day-rooms. The prisoners are permitted to retain their money, and no articles are taken from them on their coming in, excepting tools that might facilitate escape. Prisoners are occasionally employed in whitewashing the walls, and, during the time they are at work, they receive 3d. per day, extra food, and half a pint of beer. The. Keeper pays 3d. per week to a prisoner for cleaning knives and shoes, and doing other domestic offices for his family. The prisoners are allowed pens, ink, and paper, without restriction. The Keeper, in his examination, says, they, the prisoners, bring in what clothes they require; they have their linen washed out of the prison if they have friends. There is no possibility of inspecting the House of Correction from his house. There are means of communicating with the street on two sides. He constantly detects articles being sent over the walls, and once found a letter, while they were at Divine Service, which contained the drawing of an instrument to be used for an escape. An attempt to escape was made by four of the prisoners, on the 4th of last August, and a considerable breach was made in the wall. The men, when detected, were kept for about 19 days in their cells; but such is the construction of the prison that communication can be carried on by the prisoners between the upper and lower stories, and, of course, with greater facility in their respective cells. He considers the prisoners to be, in general, well behaved. In long sentences the effect of the prison wears off; they get idle habits, if they had them not before. He thinks that the imposition of the Silent System would produce considerable effects. I have only to remark, that if any degree of good order be observable among the prisoners, it is solely due to the employment and instruction provided for them by the care of the above-mentioned female, which, in some degree, diverts their thoughts and hands from the suggestions and acts natural to a state of idleness.

Debtors.—The debtors, as regards day-rooms, are worse lodged than the other prisoners, the dimensions being but 10 ft. long, 8 ft. wide, and 8 ft. high. They are allowed the same quantity of bread as the other prisoners, and a peck of coals a day to each room, the whole year. If on the Master Debtors' Side of the prison, they pay the Keeper 4d. a night for beds and linen.

Accounts and Books.—The Chamberlain of the Corporation appoints the tradespeople who supply the prison, and their bills are paid quarterly; the Keeper has nothing to do with the payment of any disbursement but for sundries and extra provisions when ordered by the Surgeon. The bread is furnished at the assize price, as fixed by the Magistrates.

Keeper.—Sixty-one years of age; appointed 31 years ago. He gives a bond of 500l. to the Mayor in case of the escape of debtors. Salary and emoluments: Keeper of the Gaol £63; In lieu of fees, paid by Overseers of the Poor £40; Keeper of the House of Correction, paid by ditto £21; Total £124. His other emoluments are from the letting of bedding at 4d. per night to the debtors. He likewise receives 5s. for copies of warrants and certificates, and 16d. for going to court with each insolvent debtor. He conducts transports to the Hulks, generally to Woolwich; the expense incurred for a single convict is 13l. 5s.; but when more than one, the average is considerably less. The clerk on board the Hulk receives from him a fee of 2s. on giving a receipt for the prisoners. The Keeper holds, under the Corporation, the office of sword-bearer, at a salary of 3l. 15s. 10d.: he is also collector of the town revenue, arising from lands and houses, about 850l per annum, on which he has 2½ per cent for collecting, amounting to 21l. 5s. He likewise receives 2s. every day the Toll or Court House is made use of. He was also; until lately, Marshal of the Court of Admiralty, the Mayor being ex-officio the Judge, which usually brought him in 20l. or 30l. a year; which having been abolished, he considers himself entitled to compensation.

Matron.—Wife of the Keeper; appointed in 1829. Salary, 10l a year.

Turnkey.—Son of the Keeper; 28 years of age. Salary, 36l. 8s.; resides in the prison.


Surgeon.—Salary, 25l. per annum, for attendance and medicines: the present surgeon is an Alderman and a Magistrate. The office of Surgeon to the gaol is held alternately by the present gentleman and two others: one also an Alderman, and the third, a Common Councilman in the Corporation.

General observations:—A total change in the system of managing this prison,, and increased vigilance and attention in every department, are absolutely requisite. The number of prisoners at the period of inspection was 31, which is about the general average.

There being no labour nor corrective discipline, I should recommend the borough Magistrates to contract with those of the county, in order that all prisoners upon summary conviction or after trial, might be sent to the County Gaol. There are two officers sleeping in the Old Prison, while the House of Correction, the most insecure of the two, is left without one.

The prison was closed in 1875. The building now houses the Tollhouse Museum.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • The Tolhouse, Tolhouse Street, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 2SH. Holdings include: Summary of convictions register (1852-1870s); Register of prisoners' belongings (1867-75); Register of admissions (1868-73); Register of particulars of prisoners convicted under 1st schedule of Habitual Criminals Act (1869) (1870-3); Register of prisoners committed for re-examination (1875-7); Gaol registers (including indexes and supplementary register) (1808-75); Gaol receiving book, record of prisoners received and discharged, including descriptions and personal details (1842-5); Gaol books (1798-1865); Daily number books (1837-73); Journal of admissions and discharges (1869-76); Discharge books (1850-74); Committal and discharge books, with separate sections for debtors and Bridewell inmates (1819-38); Analyses of registers (1840-70).
  • Norfolk Record Office, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ. Holdings include: Index and Receiving book (prisoners and their belongings) (1838-9); Package containing indentures transferring the prisoners in the Gaol from the outgoing to the incoming Mayor at Michaelmas, with names and offences of prisoners stated (1814-34).
  • 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.