Ancestry UK

County and Town Gaol, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland

Originating in 1399, a County Gaol occupied Newcastle's Newgate, which was located on Newgate Street, at the south side of its junction with Gallowgate and Blackett Street.

Newgate, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1781.

In 1784, John Howard reported on his visits to the establishment:

GAOLER, John Craster, now Thomas Harle.

Salary, £50, and £2 gown-money.

Fees, Debtors, £0 :10: 8.

Felons,   £0 :14 : 4

Transports, only expence.

Licence, now Beer and Wine.


Allowance, Debtors, two pence a day, on petition.

Felons, two pence a day.

Garnish, cancelled.


Debtors.Felons &c.Debtors.Felons &c.
1774, Mar. 21, 6,2.1779, June 30,13,4.
1775, Jan. 8,12,4.1782, Mar. 25,12,1.
1776, Jan. 15,14,3.

CHAPLAINS, Rev. Mr. Bruxton, now Mr. Brown, and Rev. Mr. Brand.

Duty, on Sunday none; but on Wednesday and Friday prayers: and once a month sermon. The chaplains officiate alternately a month each.

Salary, £10 the corporation, and £10 Sir Walter Blackett.

SURGEON, Mr. Bacon, now Mr. Maxfield.

Salary, none: he makes a bill.

In this Newgate, which is the gate at the upper end of the town, all the rooms except the condemned room are up stairs, and airy: I always found them remarkably clean, strewed with sand &c. The corporation allow both debtors and felons firing and candles in plenty: and every prisoner has a chaff bed, two blankets, and a coveriet: debtors and felons are thus accommodated in few other prisons in England. They also allow brooms, mops, and all such necessaries. The sums generously allowed for those articles, amount to £40 :12: 8 per annum. This is one of the very few gaols that have what is called in London the rules. Part of two streets near the gaol is in the prison-liberty.

The debtors walk on the battery at the top of the gaol, which is 38 feet by 34. There is no court: but one might be made of the vacant ground that lies west of the gaol, at little expence, as the town-wall is on one side of it. The debtors beds. are in closets: if on iron bedsteads and in the wards (as in some hospitals) it would be more salutary. No prisoners here have fetters, unless they be riotous. For some years past, prisoners acquitted have been discharged in court; the corporation paid the gaoler's fees if the prisoners were poor. Gaol delivery once a year.

I was concerned to find that the humane gaoler Craster was dead. But his successor Mr. Harle seems equally worthy of the trust.

Dr. Rotheram, a physician in this town, visits the prisoners very assiduously without fee or reward. This is one of the few instances of the kind I have met with.

The act for preserving the health of prisoners was hung up, both on the debtors and felons side. Clauses against spirituous liquors not hung up.

A palisaded wall is erected at a little distance from the felons window, to prevent files, &c. being conveyed to them.

An exact Copy of the Rates and Fees to be from henceforth received by the Gaoler or Keeper of his Majesty's Gaol — called Newgate within this Town of Newcastle upon Tyne — settled — at the General Quarter Sessions held at Guild-hall in Newcastle aforesaid, on the 15 of July Anno. Domini. 1730. And approved of at the Assize following by Francis Page and John Fortescue — two of his said Majesty's Judges of Assize According to an Act of Parliament—(viz.)
£. s. d.
Every prisoner upon any civil action shall pay to the keeper at his first coming in0  3  0
Every prisoner charged by process or processes out of the court of record held before the mayor and sheriff of the said town of Newcastle upon Tyne respectively shall pay to the said keeper upon his discharge from the said process or processes only0  6  8
Every prisoner charged upon any execution or executions out of the court of conscience held within the said town hall pay to the said keeper upon his discharge from the said execution or executions0  2  0
Every prisoner on any criminal account or accounts whatsoever shall pay unto the said keeper upon his discharge only0 13  4
Every person appearing upon a recognizance at the assizes and afterwards tried upon any indictment or indictments whatsoever and shall be committed thereon shall pay to the said keeper upon his discharge0  6  8
Every prisoner shall pay to the turnkey of the said gaol or prison upon his discharge0  1  0
Confirmed by us: Henry Reay, Mayor.
John Isaacson, Recorder
Richard Ridley, Wm. Ellison, Francis Rudston, Nathanael Clayton, Stephen Coulson, Aldermen.
We do approve of this Table of Fees July 27, 1730: FRANCIS PAGE, JOHN FORTESCUE Judges.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, John Gale; now Robert Gee; who lives near the Prison. Salary, 100l.

Fees, for Debtors and Felons, 14s. 4d. each, of which one shilling is paid to the Turnkey. The Under-Sheriff demands 2s. 6d. on discharge of a Writ from the Court of King's Bench, or Common Pleas; and five shillings on a Supersedeas! No Table. For Conveyance of Transports, the expence.

Garnish, abolished.

Chaplains, Rev. Mr. Perkins, and Rev. Mr. Heartley.

Salary, 10l. from the Corporation, and 10l. from Sir Walter Blackett.

Duty, on Sundays, none; but on Wednesdays and Fridays, Prayers; and a Sermon monthly. The Chaplains officiate month and month alternately.

Surgeon, Mr. William Fife. Salary, none. He makes a Bill.

Number of Prisoners.

Debtors.Felons &c.Bastardy.
1802, Feb. 7th,13120.
1802, Sept. 6th,1210
1809, Sept. 16th, 5 6

Allowance, to Debtors, two-pence a day, on Petition to the Mayor of Newcastle. Felons, five-pence per day.


This Prison is conspicuous, being the Gate at the upper end of the Town, and in times past was a fortified Gateway. Here is no court-yard; but one might easily be made out of the vacant ground, which lies west of the Gaol, as the Town Wall stands on one side of it. It was once in contemplation to build six new rooms, and an Infirmary at the West-end of the Prison, and to enclose the open spot alluded to, for a Debtors' court-yard, which must be a great improvement.

At my visit, in 1802, the vacant space above noticed had a pig-stye in it, with swine, ducks, &c. The offence, however, was in 1806 removed; and there is now a cold bath constructed, which has a constant run of water; and where the Felons, one at a time, enjoy the fresh air, accompanied by the Turnkey.

On the right-hand of the stair-case, leading to the Debtors' Prison, is a miserable place, called "The Black-Hole," measuring 24 feet by 8; with a vaulted roof, lighted and ventilated by a small grating under the gate, loose straw to sleep on, and a coverlet.

The left-side of the gateway is the Gaol for Debtors; On the stair-case leading to whose apartments, is placed up the following Inscription, framed and glazed:

"Friends visiting the Debtors in this Prison are to take notice, that the following are the hours of admission; which cannot be departed from, except on very particular occasions, viz.

From eight to nine in the morning:
From twelve to one at noon:
From four to five in the evening.

Those who neglect to come out at the appointed hour, must remain till the next opening."

The Debtors have no court-yard, but walk on the battery at the top of the Gaol; which is a space of about 34 feet square, with a flagged floor, and a sewer in one corner; or else, on the flat leads, 40 feet square. To these two outlets for air and exercise they have access at all hours. Here is no distinction of Debtors.

The Corporation allow an iron bedstead, a ticking bed, filled with new chaff every three months, one under blanket, two upper ones, and two coverlets, (which are scoured quarterly) to Debtors, Felons, and all descriptions of Prisoners alike. The former have eight lodging-rooms assigned them, and each Debtor sleeps single, in case the Prison will admit of it. They succeed to the best rooms by seniority of confinement; and every one is required to attend Divine Service, unless prevented by illness, or professing himself to be of a different religious persuasion.

All the Prisoners are allowed as much fuel as they can expend without waste, together with mops, brooms, pails, &c. to keep the Prison clean. Any one who misbehaves is tried by a court held amongst themselves, at which the senior Debtor presides. The culprit, on conviction, is fined according to Rules laid down for preserving good behaviour in the Prison; and all communication with him is interdicted till the Fine is paid. If he conceives himself hardly judged, his appeal is to the Keeper; who examines into the matter, and settles it accordingly. This only relates to petty offences, committed against the peace of the Prison.

The present is one of those very few Gaols that have, what in London are termed "The Rules." They here extend, South of the Prison, to a running water arched over, called Execution-Dock; and on the East of the Prison down High Fryer-street, about two hundred yards, to a rivulet called Lork Burn, now arched over with stone. As the Keeper cannot find by what authority these Rules were granted, no Debtors are indulged in the use of them, but those of good character, and who are confined for small sums.

The Debtors' day-room-and in which Divine Service is performed, is 27 feet by 21: but being on the other side of the Gateway, the Felons cannot attend. Here, painted on a board, is conspicuously hung up the following exemplary advertisement:

"Be it understood, that no Debtor on his entrance into, or departure from this Prison, shall be liable to the payment of any sum of money for the purchase of beer, heretofore exacted under the title of Garnish.

No money, under any pretence whatever, can be levied on the relations and friends of Debtors visiting them in this Prison."

Every Debtor committed by process issuing out of the Mayor's or Sheriff's Court, for a Debt exceeding ten pounds, is entitled to his Sixpences in about six months; but, as he must employ an Attorney of the Court for this end, whose charge is four guineas, the benefit is seldom obtained. It is a pity, that in so respectable and opulent a town as Newcastle, there is not a Fund established for the purpose, like that at Winchester, Gloucester, &c. &c. If the Debt be under ten pounds, by serving the Plaintiff with fourteen days notice, he becomes entitled to his Sixpences at the first Sheriff's Court, which is held twice a week.

Debtors are sent hither from the Court of Conscience.

On the right side of the Gateway leading into the Gaol, opens a passage, of about 8 yards by 2½, in which there is a water-cock to supply that part of the Prison; and adjoining to this is the Condemned-Room, the only one upon the ground-floor: all the others are up stairs, and both clean and airy. This Condemned-Room is about 6 yards by 4½, having a fire-place, and an iron-grated window that looks toward the street; but, to check conversation with passengers, and prevent files, or other mischievous utensils, being conveyed to them, a wall is erected at a little distance from the Felons' window. It is also called the Cap-Room.

There are four rooms within the Felons' Gaol; and no Prisoners here have fetters, unless they prove riotous or refractory.

Over the Condemned-Room is another of the same size, which also looks to the street. Just by is a small court, of 54 feet by 17, with a bathing tub in it; but the court not being deemed secure, the Felons have not the use of it.

The Act for the preservation of Health, and the Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, are conspicuously hung up in this Prison; and the whole is kept very clean.

In 1820, the prison was reported as being "out of repair, and inconvenient, insufficient, and insecure." It was therefore agreed that a replacement should be built, which would also take over the functions of several other of the city's existing gaols: the Castle Garth prison, the New Moot Hall prison, and the Manor Place house of correction. Because of legal uncertainties over who was responsible for funding the new establishment, a local Act of Parliament was obtained in 1822 to expedite matters. Newgate was closed in 1823. During the five years it then took for the new prison to be opened, criminal prisoners were held at the New Moot Hall, while debtors were housed at Castle Garth. The new combined Gaol and House of Correction opened in 1828 on Carliol Square.


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.

  • Northumberland Archives, Woodhorn, Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland NE63 9YF. Few records survive. Holdings include: Accounts for feeding of prisoners (1812-17).
  • 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.
  • Very few records survive.


  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
  • GOV.UK - UK Government's information on sentencing, probation and support for families.