Ancestry UK

Town Gaol and Debtors' Prison, Hexham, Northumberland

Hexham's Town Gaol was erected in 1300-02 by the Archbishop of York and was mainly constructed of stone from the Roman site at Corbridge, three miles away. Located on Hallgate, Hexham, it is said to be England's oldest surviving purpose-built prison.

The building, a three-storeyed freestanding tower, had two dungeons that extended more than ten feet below the ground level. These pits and the ground-floor rooms housed prisoners, while an official of the archbishop or higher-status prisoners probably used the better quality first-floor rooms.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the building fell into a ruinous state but was subsequently restored.

Former Town Gaol and Debtors' Prison, Hexham.

The gaol, also used as a debtors' prison, ceased use in 1824. The building subsequently housed a bank and solicitors’ office and became known as the Manor Office. It is now home to the Old Gaol 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.

  • 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.