Ancestry UK

Corporation Gaol, Newbury, Berkshire

At a meeting held in Newbury, in November 1683, it was ordered that a common prison should be built at the expense of the town Corporation. It was to be built on the Market Place, at the east side of the Guildhall, and to consist of two rooms and garretts over them, and to be set upon pillars to allow butchers' stalls to operate underneath.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Keeper, Thomas Allen. Salary, 5l. Fees, 6s. 8d. No Table.

Surgeon, when wanted, sent by the Parish.

Prisoners, 1801, Dec. 14th, none. 1806, Oct. 16th, one. Allowance, 5d. a day.

This Prison consists properly of two rooms, in a Public-house, the Town-Arms, kept by John Townsend, a Sergeant at Mace. The Keeper informed me that he had had thirty Prisoners in them at one time. The first is 13 feet by 9, and 8 feet high; lighted by two iron-grated windows, with a chaff-bed on the floor, a blanket over it, a piece of old sacking, two blankets and a rug, supplied by the County: The second room, 15 feet square, 10 feet high, with 3 iron-bar grated windows, and a fireplace, but no grate. Adjoining to this is a small room opening in it, which has a good sized bedstead, with sacking bottom, a feather bed, two blankets, and a rug.

In 1828, the Guildhall was demolished and the gaol transferred to join the Newbury Town Bridewell, part of the former workhouse premises on St Mary Hill (now the south end of Cheap Street).

In 1835, the gaol was described as 'small and insecure, is used only for the safe custody of prisoners before commitment, and for the confinement of persons sentenced by the borough magistrates upon summary convictions to short periods of imprisonment.'

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons gave a critical account of 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.


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  • 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.