Ancestry UK

Bridewell, Newbury, Berkshire

A Town Bridewell, or House of Correction, was established in Newbury in part of the former town workhouse premises on St Mary Hill (now the south end of Cheap Street).

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

The Bridewell contains four rooms. The first, 8 feet square, lighted by a small iron-grating, and an aperture in the door, of 6 inches by 4. The second room is 16" feet 6 inches by 8 feet, and 8 feet high, lighted by a glazed window. In it was a Woman Prisoner, ill in bed. The third, of nearly the same dimensions, is lighted by two large glazed windows. To these rooms the Corporation allows a bedstead, flock-bed, a coarse sheet, bolster, two blankets, and a rug. The fourth, is for the refractory, totally dark; size 10 feet by 8, and 8 feet high.

Men and Women Prisoners are here kept separate.

Like the Corporation Gaol, this has its privations. No water accessible. No firing allowed. No court-yard. The Prisoners constantly locked up. The whole Bridewell filthy, and very ill ventilated. Divine Service never read. No employment provided. The Act and Clauses not hung up

Keeper, Frederick Arrowsmith; now William Hudson.

Salary, as Keeper of the Bridewell, none; but for the Workhouse which adjoins it, 25l. No Fees.

Prisoners, 1801, Dec. 13th, One. l806, Oct. 16th, Two.

Allowance, as at the Workhouse.

In 1828, the Town Gaol was incorporated into the bridewell site, having previously stood on the Market Square, adjoined old Guildhall, which was being demolished.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons gave a critical report on the combined establishment:

This gaol is occupied as a County as well as a Borough prison, part of Newbury (Speenhamland) being in the jurisdiction of the County. The prison is part of an old building which was formerly occupied as a Workhouse. It consists of five cells on the ground-floor, which are of the following dimensions:—

No. 1, 9 feet 9 inches by 8 feet 6 inches.
No. 2, 8 feet 3 inches by 6 feet 6 inches.
No. 3, 8 feet 2 inches by 5 feet 4 inches.
No. 4,10 feet 3 inches by 8 feet 4 inches.
No. 5, 10 feet 4 inches by 8 feet 4 inches.

The Cells are cold and damp; they are badly ventilated, and offensive from the state of the privies, of which there is one in each Cell. The Cells are very insecure. Two Prisoners effected their escape in September 1835.

The Prisoners can hold communication with persons from without, the Court-yard leading to the Cells being accessible to the Public. Spirits and other objectionable Articles may be conveyed to them through the Windows of the Cells in the rear of the House.

The Gaoler does not reside in the Prison. He takes the ordinary allowance of food to the Prisoners at 8 o'clock every morning, after which they are generally left to themselves for the day.

The Prisoners are not allowed to go into the open Air,

The Borough contracts with the County Magistrates for the maintenance of all Prisoners sentenced to Hard Labour. The Prisoners confined in the Borough Gaol are those under examination, Prisoners sentenced to imprisonment and not to Hard Labour, and Vagrants.

It appears that, in 1835, 154 Borough Prisoners passed through this Gaol, 21 of whom were under 17 years of age. The greatest number of Borough Prisoners confined at one time in that year was nine; and of County Prisoners 11. In the last year four Prisoners were committed for the several periods of 22, 24, 30, and 38 days; but the ordinary period of confinement appears to have been from seven to twenty-one days.

The prison appears to have been closed in about 1850.


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.