Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol and Bridewell, Newark, Nottinghamshire

A Borough Gaol, also used as a Bridewell, or House of Correction, was in existence by in Newark by the seventeenth century. It occupied premises on the east side of Hawton Road (now Albert Street), Newark, adjacent to the town workhouse.

In 1784, John Howard wrote:

Two rooms arched with brick, the largest up stairs 12 feet by 11. The two windows being towards the street, it is impossible to prevent spirituous liquors, &c. from being conveyed to the prisoners. No court: no water: no sewer. Keeper lives at a public house at a little distance: salary, for the bridewell, £1: fees, 4s. no table. Allowance, three-halfpence a day: no straw. Among the various improvements that are making in this town, may it not be hoped the corporation will make some addition to this prison from their ground behind it?

1776Sep. 23,Prisoners 2.
1779Sep. 20,- - 0.Deserters 2.
1782Nov. 17, - - 0.- - 4.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, William Cropper. Salary, 10l. out of which he is to provide straw for the Prisoners.

Fees, Debtors, 4s. Felons, 13s. 4d. No Table.

Surgeon, when wanted, from the Workhouse.

Allowance, three-pence a day!

Number of Prisoners 1803, l8th August, One. 1809, 2d Sept. One.


This House of Correction adjoins the Workhouse. It has two rooms above, and one below, of about 22 feet by 12; with arched roofs, flagged floors, a fire-place, and one double-bar iron-grated and glazed window to each, for light and ventilation. Here is a small court-yard, 26 feet by 10, with a pump in it, but no sewer; a half-tub in each room being substituted.

Without the prison-wall is one room, about 15 feet by 8, in which Women Prisoners are occasionally confined; and for the admission to it of light and air, there is a circular grating over the door. The Corporation allows to every Prisoner two blankets and a rug.

Below, within the Gaol, is a horrid Dungeon, of about 22 feet by 12. The descent to it is by fourteen steps: totally dark. The only possible light or ventilation it can ever receive, is from a wicket in the door, of about 6 inches by 4, which heretofore was opened — to give the Prisoner his Food! The flooring is of damp mud. On enquiry, I learned from the Keeper, that sometimes, in Winter, the water in this subterranean cavern had been sixteen inches deep! N.B. The vile old dungeon is now happily turned into an oil-cellar.

No employment. The rooms and staircases very dirty; not having been whitewashed for five years (1805), The only Prisoner, at my visit in 1809, was a Man for Bastardy, who had been here five months!

A report in 1835 noted:

There is one borough Gaol, but of a very indifferent description,, ill-constructed and insufficient in point of size. It is not used as a place of permanent confinement for criminals but merely for the purpose of temporary custody previous to commitment. The magistrates are authorized by the charter to commit to the county gaol, and, in practice, always avail themselves of this power. But it unfortunately happens that the borough gaol is the only place in which persons taken under process from the court of record can be confined. A debtor was lately imprisoned there for a considerable time, till released by the operation of the insolvent Debtors' Act. This is a serious evil, and one which calls loudly for amendment; for it thus happens that persons in custody upon civil process are incarcerated in a prison which is deemed too bad even for the abode of felons and other criminal offenders.

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This prison is connected with the poor house, and occupies both sides of a gateway, being Newark, the public entry to the latter establishment. It contains two cells on the ground floor, and two above, of the following dimensions:—

Ground Floor.

No. 1.—21 ft. by 11 ft.

No. 2.—11 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 6 in.

First Floor.

No. 1.—21 ft. by 11 ft.

No. 2.—18 ft. by 12 ft.

An airing-yard 25 ft. by 10 ft. A room over the gateway is appropriated to debtors. The keeper is apartments occupy one side of it. There is a dungeon below ground, which, since the occurrence of an accident, has been disused, for the confinement of prisoners.

The keeper is allowed 4d. a day for the subsistence of prisoners. He provides them with bread to the amount of of 3d., 1 lb. 10 oz. best wheaten, and a pint of milk daily. No Divine service is ever performed. Bibles and Testaments are supplied. The parish surgeon attends when required. This prison is wholly unfit for any purpose beyond that of a lock-up. There are no privies, no effectual separation of the sexes, and the accommodation for the debtors is of the very humblest description. No female is appointed to attend upon the women. The grant of Quarter Sessions to this borough was accorded on the understanding that all prisoners upon committal should be sent under an existing contract to the house of correction at Southwell. This appears not to have been complied with, for, upon looking over the keeper’s books, I find the following prisoners to have been detained here for corrective discipline since August, 1836:—

R. E. Assault, 21 days, August 8, 1836.
A. T. Assault, 1 month, Nov. 10, 1836.
E. C. Assault, 2 months, July' l6, 1837.
M. H. Assault, 1 month, July 31, 1837.
J. F. Vagrancy, 7 days, July 17, 1837.
J. S. Assault, 2 months, July 31, 1837.

Two males and two females of the above were undergoing imprisonment on the day of inspection. It is moreover the practice of the magistrates, the week or fortnight preceding ' the borough sessions, to commit them here for trial. The greatest number of prisoners at one time has been six. The greatest number of debtors, three. A female debtor, liberated on the 1st of February, 1837, remained here five months in custody. The contract price with the county for the lodging, clothing, and maintenance of the borough prisoners, is at the rate of 11¾d. per day.

Keeper appointed 1828. Formerly constable. Salary 20l. Formerly received 25l. a-year, paid out of the county rate in lieu of fees.

I have every reason to believe, from the representation made, that the practice of sentencing prisoners for any period in this gaol will be from henceforth discontinued, and that it will be applied solely to the purposes of a lock-up for temporary detention

The prison closed in 1849. The site was later occupied by the Castle Brewery.


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