Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol and Bridewell, Orford, Suffolk

By 1805, a Borough Gaol and Bridewell, or House of Correction, were in operation beneath the town hall on Market Hill, Orford.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Keeper, Joseph Lewcock, Sergeant at Mace. Salary, 20s. per annum.

Allowance, a two penny loaf of bread, and a pint of small beer each per day.

Sept. 13th, 1805, no Prisoners.

Remarks. The Borough Gaol is a room under the Town-Hall, of 11 feet 4 inches by 9 feet 5, and 8 feet high. The door-way only 4 feet 6 inches high, and 2 feet 3 inches wide. Here is a fire-place, a wooden bedstead, loose straw, and one iron-grated window, 3 feet by 2 feet 9, opening towards the Street.

The Bridewell is also under the Town-Hall, 16 feet by 9 feet 10, and 7 feet 9 inches high; with fire-place, and two iron-grated windows, of 3 feet by2 feet 6, next the Street. Firing allowed by the Borough. No court. No sewer, nor water!

A New Bridewell is building, with two cells 10 feet by 8 feet each, having fire places. Also two small courts, 10 feet by 7 feet each, and supplied with sewers.

The location of the new bridewell mentioned by by Neild is unclear. A newspaper item in May 1837 indicates that Orford then still had a separate gaol and bridewell, though the latter was not mentioned by the Inspectors of Prisons in their 1836 report on what was referred to as Orford's "prison":

The prison in this borough is under the jurisdiction of the Bailiffs. It is situate in. the lower part of the town, and is detached. It is a modern erection, built about the year 1813. It consists of two cells, each 10 feet by 8, and 11 feet in height, with fire-places, and two airing-yards, 7 feet square. The whole building is but 36 feet in front, and 12 feet deep.

Diet.—Half quartern loaf a day, ½lb. of cheese, and two pints of small beer a week.

Keeper.—Salary, 1l. 1s. a year. He purchases the food required by the prisoners, and charges it to the corporation. He states, that a prisoner was once confined here for a month, for a misdemeanor.

Observations:—No prisoner had been in confinement for a long period. The prison, upon inspection, appeared dirty and neglected. No person resides in it. Prisoners under serious charges are sent to Ipswich or Woodbridge, and only cases, of slight misdemeanors are disposed of in the borough. A man was however convicted and transported at the Borough Sessions three years ago, the parish paying the expense of his conviction.

This place is sufficient for prisoners under examination, when, in all cases, it would be much better they were removed to the County Gaol.

The prison ceased operation in about 1843. A new town hall was built on the site in 1902.


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.