Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire

A town prison in Newcastle-Under-Lyme was first mentioned in 1490. In 1612, it was stated to be under the hall. In 1617, it was referred to as the Stone House, which apparently stood in the High Street, at the north side of its junction with the Ironmarket — may have been so called in contrast to the brick or wooden buildings in the rest of the town. Its use had ended by 1628, but there are frequent references in the late 17th century to a common gaol in the town. In 1612 a 'Cage', presumably a temporary lock-up for misdemeanants, is mentioned.

In 1799, it was decided to erect a prison for offenders in the garden of the parish workhouse at the corner of Orme Road and Higherland. This was completed by 1802, when it was referred to as a house of correction. The gaol had two quite distinct sections, one for criminals, or felons, the other for debtors from the borough.

The felonsí prison, described in 1835 as "a small and inconvenient prison" consisted of four very small rooms. Its windows were not glazed, and there were no fire-places or means of warming the building. There was no yard for exercise and classification of different categories of inmate was not possible. The gaol was so insecure that when prisoners were confined in it, constables had to be placed outside to prevent their escape. Several instances occurred of prisoners breaking out of the roof. This prison was only used for the temporary confinement of individuals prior to their committal. Once committed for trial, prisoners were moved to the County Gaol in Stafford.

The debtorsí prison, for which the master of the workhouse acted as gaoler consisted of two rooms, one within the other, with fire-places, and glazed,windows, and a yard for exercise.

In 1838, to try and improve security, a revolving chevaux de frise (spiked barrier) was ordered to be erected around the interior of the prison yard.

From the mid-1840s, the lock-up attached to the police station in the High Street began to be used for holding offenders.

Orme School was later erected on the site, the building now converted to residential use.


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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.