Ancestry UK

Macclesfield Town Gaol, Macclesfield, Cheshire

Macclesfield's Town Gaol, also known as the King's Gaol, dates from 1358. Its entrance was located betwen what are now 6 and 8 Mill Street. In 1776, it was described by John Howard as follows:

This Prison for the Liberty of the Hundred, Manor, and Forest of Macclesfield, in the Pinfold or Pound for that Hundred, is the Property of Lord Derby. It has four Rooms; and a Dungeon which is down seven steps, eleven feet by nine. The windows of the rooms glazed, no casements. The Building is slight, and the whole of it ruinous. Keeper, John Haslehurst, is a Bailiff; keeps a Public house; and has a Lease of the whole for sixty years at £13 clear of Taxes. No Salary: Fees 7s. 6d. no Table.

In 1812, James Neild recorded:

This Prison... is the property of the Earl of Derby, who holds a Court twice in the year; viz. in April and October.

Debtors are committed hither for indefinite sums, from one shilling up to any amount: and as they cannot obtain their Sixpences, by virtue of the Statute, called "The Lord's Act," before the holding of the Court next after their commitment, it may be their hard lot to be immured in this dreary abode for several months together, without a chance of speedier deliverance. Here is a court-yard, or area, of 24 feet by 18. The Prison consists of four rooms, two on the ground-floor, about 11 feet square, and two of about 6 feet square.

No bedding: not even straw is allowed. The Keeper furnishes those Prisoners, who can pay, with a day-room, bed-chamber, and fire, at three shillings and sixpence per week each. The old Dungeon, which is seven steps down, in size 11 feet by 9, and lighted by a window only 6 inches square, was formerly used for the confinement of Deserters; but at my visit in 1805, it was, happily, in a state of total ruin, and 6 inches deep in mud.

The Gaoler, who is a Bailiff, or Sheriff's Officer, keeps the Eagle-and-Child (the Derby Arms) Publick House, and pays 26l. annual rent, with all taxes. He told me that one Isaac Wylde was confined here six months, for a Debt of five shillings and three pence!

Neither the Act nor Clauses hung up. The Prison-rooms are dirty, and out of repair.

Gaoler, Maurice Jones; now James Stott. Salary, none.

Fees, 7s.6d. No Table. Garnish, not yet abolished, 2s. 6d. Allowance, none whatever.

The prison closed in 1822.


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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.