Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Nantwich, Cheshire

In 1782, a new Town Gaol was erected on Pillory Street, Nantwich.

In 1784, John Howard recorded that:

This prison (called the round house) was built by the county in 1782. Two rooms and a kitchen for the keeper. For prisoners, a room arched with brick (12 feet 3 inches by 19 feet 2 ), with a barrack-bedstead: no chimney: no court: down 12 steps two dungeons with apertures 12 inches by 9. The gentlemen seem to have overlooked a clause in 14th Geo. III. Cap. XLII.— "to prevent the prisoners from being kept under ground, whenever they can do it "conveniently." The water has been 18 inches high, by the marks, in these dungeons. Only one fire-place, that in the keeper's kitchen.

1782, Nov. 23, No prisoners.

In 1812, James Neild — elaborating on some of Howard's comments — gave his report on the prison:

This "Round House," as it is usually called, was built by the County in 1782. It consists of two rooms and a kitchen for the Gaoler. Here is a room for Prisoners, of 12 feet 3 inches by 10 feet 2 inches, arched with brick, which has an iron-grated window, and is supplied with a barrack bedstead, and straw; but no fire-place.

Down eleven steps are two Dungeons; the largest 17 feet by 10, the other 12 feet by 10, with iron-grated apertures, 12 inches by 9; brick-floored, and damp. Only one fire-place, and that in the Gaoler's kitchen. Here is an adjacent courtyard, about 34 feet square; but of which the Prisoners have no use. It is occupied by the Gaoler, and in one comer of it is a sewer. No water laid on.

The Gentlemen hereabout, and in the adjacent Counties, seem to have overlooked a Clause in the Act of 14 Geo. III. cap. 43, "To prevent Prisoners being kept under-ground, whenever they can do it conveniently;" for amongst those Prisons which have been lately built, I observe very few that have not a Dungeon.

Since my visit in l802, I find that water is now prevented from getting into the Dungeons, which rendered them uncomfortable, and even dangerous to their pitiable inhabitants. Whatever is both needless and injurious, may well be laid aside.

Gaoler, Henry Robinson. Salary, 8l. a suit of clothes, hat, shoes, and a load of coals.

Number of Prisoners, 1802, Oct. 29th One. 1805, Oct. 29th, Two. Allowance, none.

The prison appears to have closed by 1818.

The Town Museum now stands on the former prison site.


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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.