Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Truro, Cornwall

The Truro Town Gaol was erected in about 1773 on Pydar Street, Truro, Cornwall.

In 1784, John Howard described it as follows:

Two houses in front, for the two sergeants at mace who are the keepers. In the back court is the prison; which consists of four convenient rooms; the two upper ones are vaulted, and have chimneys : no water.

1775, Dec. 18, No prisoners. 1783, Feb. 4, One prisoner.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

In front of the Street here are two houses for the two Sergeants at Mace, who are the Keepers, at a Salary of Forty Shillings each. No Fees. Prisoners, 1803, Oct. 10th, One. 1806, Oct. 2d, One. Allowance, sixpence a day.

The Gaol is at the bottom part of the Keeper's garden, and consists of four convenient rooms; the largest 14 feet by 10 feet; the three others about 10 feet square. The two rooms now more constantly in use, are vaulted; one of them has a chimney, and to each there is a large iron-grated window. The two lower rooms are damp, with loose straw on the floors, and a half tub in each, as a sewer.

No water. The Keepers fetch it, even for their own use, from a quarter of a mile off No court-yard; though one might be made out of the Keeper's garden; and a well also sunk, to supply the Prison and house.

Prisoners are brought hither from Bodmin; the Easter Sessions being held here.

In 1835, it was reported that:

The Gaol is well situated, clean, and sufficiently commodious. It consists of three cells on the ground-floor, and three above: the latter are boarded. None of the windows of the cells are glazed, but there are fire-places in two of them. The gaol is occasionally visited by the magistrates. It is now only used os a lock-up house, except when the county quarter sessions are held here, which occurs once a year.

An inspection report in 1849 noted:

This building holds a very respectable rank among the minor Cornish prisons, although. now only used as a lock-up house. The borough having no recorder or quarter sessions, all prisoners for trial are necessarily sent to Bodmin; and all the vagrants are likewise committed to that gaol.

The prison contains three separate rooms for male prisoners, and the like number for those of the other sex. Two of these measure 18 feet by 12 feet, two are 16 feet by 10, and the remaining two are 10 feet square. Two of the rooms are warmed by fire-places, and contain iron-bedsteads, and bedding. There are three airing-yards, well separated from each other. One of these measures 30 feet by 10, another 30 feet by 10, and the third 17 feet by 16.

In former times, when the sessions were held here, the number of prisoners in confinement here has occasionally amounted to 45, and the period of detention of prisoners has sometimes reached 30 days, The longest time for which any are now detained, is only a few days when they are remanded for further evidence. No escape has been effected from this prison for very many years.

The care of the prison is entrusted to Richard Bartlett, who also holds the situation of serjeant-at-mace. He is allowed good accommodation for himself and family.

When the prison finally ceased use as a lock-up is uncertain.


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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.