Ancestry UK

City Gaol and Bridewell, Winchester, Hampshire

In 1788, after the county bridewell in Winchester moved out of its premises on the lower part of the High Street, the site was taken over for use as the City Gaol and Bridewell.

The prison was rebuilt in 1800 and was described by James Neild in 1812:

This Prison is a neat brick building, erected in 1800, during the Mayoralty of Joseph Barker, Esq. Debtors, arrested on process issuing out of the Borough Court, may be here confined for any sums great or small: but at my several visits I have not found any in custody.

A court-yard, paved with flag-stone, of about 20 feet by 14, and two rooms, about 13 feet square and 9 feet high, were at first set apart for Debtors. They are now however chiefly appropriated, the one to Petty Offenders, and the other to Female Criminals, or to Deserters.

The Felons have also two rooms, on the opposite side of the building, and below stairs, opening into their two paved court-yards, and of the same dimensions as those before mentioned. The four rooms, which have all of them boarded floors, with glazed windows and fire-places, are ventilated by iron-gratings over each door, and a small aperture in the doors, of 9 inches by 7. To each room the City allows a straw-in-sacking bed, without bedstead; a bolster, blanket, and rug. A bushel of coals also, per week, is granted in winter, for the common use of all.

At my visit in l802, there being only one fire allowed, the two Prisoners, a Man and a Woman, were locked up together during the day time.

No Employment. No Rules and Orders. The Act and Clauses not hung up. The court-yards well supplied with water, and the Prison clean.

Gaoler, William Foster. No Salary.
Fees, for Debtors, 1l. 2s. 0d.; for Felons, 6s. 8d. No Table.

Surgeon, Mr. Giles Lyford. Makes a Bill.

Number of Criminal Prisoners,
1802, March  19th, Two. 1803, Oct. 24th, Three. 1807, Sept. 23d, One.

Allowance, to Felons, a quart loaf of bread every other day, which, in 1802, weighed two pounds four ounces.

In 1836, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

Construction.—This building appears not an insecure one, but quite inadequate to its destination; it is so small as to contain only two yards, one of which is appropriated to the men, and the other is reserved for the females. In consequence of this, the Debtors are obliged to associate in the same yard with the Felons, in order that a yard may be left for the women. A new yard for the Debtors, and a Refractory Cell, are pressing wants. The whole appeared moderately clean. Whatever may be the deficiencies of this Gaol, they are the less felt on account of the very small number of inmates. The usual number varies from two to three.

Management.—This Prison is under the care of a single individual, whose humble remuneration will be seen under the head of Salaries. It is true that this is increased by the emoluments of a small office held under the Corporation; but that very office is an occasional plea for absence from the Gaol.

When the City Magistrates wish to send a person to hard labour, they commit him to the County Bridewell, at which they pay at present 6s. a week for his support (formerly 8s.) They-have occasionally entertained an idea of the practicability of establishing a small tread-mill in the City Gaol.

In the absence of the Gaoler, the Prison is under the charge of the Matron, who is his wife; but, although she enjoys the title of Matron, no salary is attached to the office.

Diet.—One pound and three quarters of bread are allowed daily to each prisoner, and three quarters of a pound of meat are provided for each once in the week, with vegetables and oatmeal.

No clothing is given, except when the prisoner is in a state of absolute destitution.

The bedding consists of a coverlid, two blankets, and a straw palliasse.

Labour.—No labour nor employment are carried on here, except that which consists in washing.-Want of room is assigned as a reason for not affording more occupation to the prisoners.

Religious and other Instruction.—There is no Chaplain; but the prisoners are supplied with religious books: it is unnecessary to add, that no kind of instruction is in activity here.

Care of the Sick, Disease and Mortality.—Ten cases of slight illness have occurred during the year, from January 1834 to January 1835. The highest number of sick at one time was two. There has been no death during the above period. There is no room for the sick. The Surgeon attends when his aid is required.

The itch, the venereal disorders, and eruptions, are described as the most common complaints. There is no insane prisoner here.


Keeper, 7 l. 10s.
Surgeon. Only sends in a bill for Medicines, &c.


Population during the last Year.

Number of Prisoners,admitted from January 1834 to January 1835.

Above 17 years of age,18 males and 6 females; under 17 years of age, 3 males. Total, 21 males and 0 females.

The greatest number of prisoners at one time in the course of the year was three males and two females.


In three years this punishment has been only inflicted once. The sufferer was a boy, who received 10 lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails. The Gaoler and Beadle were the only spectators, as the Prison happened at that time to contain no other prisoners.


The Gaoler keeps two books, one of expenses, the other relating to the entry of prisoners.

Diminished Population.

The Gaoler thinks that the establishment of the New Police at Winchester has tended to reduce the number of his inmate

The following year, the Inspectors recommended that all prisoners after being fully committed for trial should be sent to the County Gaol, and that the Borough Prison be retained merely as a lock-up house for the separate confinement of Prisoners under examination. Provision should, however, be made for the separate confinement of the sexes. In 1838, the prison was closed and converted for use as a police station.


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