Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol and Lock-up House, Much Wenlock, Shropshire

In 1835, it was reported of Much Wenlock that:

There is one Gaol within the borough. It is, however, only used as a place of detention for prisoners prior to commitment. It consists of one room only, and has no yard attached to it. It is in fact only a species of dungeon.

The gaol, essentially a lock-up, was located at the north end of the Guildhall, which was erected in the mid-16th century on Wilmore Street, Much Wenlock.

In 1842, after the borough applied to hold Quarter Sessions in the Guildhall's courtroom, the Inspectors of Prisons visited the site to appraise the accommodation for the prisoners who would be held there prior to trial. At that date, there was clearly more than one cell, as the Inspectors' recommendations for alterations indicate:

1. In case any prisoner should remain one night, or more than one night, a constable or policeman is to sleep in the adjoining room (which is at present called he gaol), and suitable accommodation is to be prepared for such officer.

2. If it is found to be practicable, an iron railing should be erected in front of the doors of the cells, and in front of the windows also, in order to prevent the public from approaching so as to converse, &c.

3. If such railing is found to be impracticable, a solid double door should be added to each cell.

4. A fire-place must he provided in each cell.

5. A privy is to be made for each cell. If it can be arranged in a recess adjoining each cell, with a door, it will be Letter than to have it in the cell. Attention must be paid to the drainage.

6. A female is to be appointed, whose business shall be to attend on any female prisoners, to clean all the cells at settled times, and to take care of the bedding.

7. Three iron bedsteads should be fixed in each cell.

The prison closed in around 1863 and moved to a new location as part of the new police station on Shineton Street. The Guildhall, now a listed building, is still used for meetings of the local town council and other events.


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.

  • Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Very few records survive, mostly from the 1860s relating to the new building.
  • 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.