Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Windsor, Berkshire

Windsor's former Town Hall was at the east side of Church Street, near the foot of Castle Hill. After it was demolished in around the 1740s, part of the site was used for the construction of a new town gaol.

In 1792, the town gaol was described by John Howard as 'two rooms on the first floor; a chimney in one: no court[yard]: no water, though laid in to the adjoining house. Keeper the cryer; sells beer: no salary: fees, 6s. 8d. no table. Allowance, three pence a day.' The number of prisoners on his visit in March 1776 had been three, in March 1779 one, and in November 1782, none.

A new gaol was erected in 1806 on George Street (now Goswell Hill). A report on the borough in 1835 recorded that:

The present gaol is secure and sufficiently capacious for a classification of the prisoners and a separation of males from females. It contains, however, no sufficient means for inflicting hard labour upon prisoners in execution, and is too confined for long imprisonments. It is principally used for the confinement of prisoners before trial, and for the punishment of offenders on summary conviction. Prisoners sentenced to a longer imprisonment than a few weeks, are sent to the county gaol at Reading, for which a stipulated diet is paid to the gaoler there.

In 1837, a rather more severe appraisal was give by the Inspectors of Prisons:

The magistrates of this Borough contract with the County Justices for the maintenance of Debtors and Prisoners sentenced to hard labour in the County Gaol at Reading.

The Borough Magistrates, therefore, reserve their Gaol for Prisoners committed for trial, prisoners convicted, but not sentenced to hard labour, and Vagrants.

The part of the Gaol appropriated to male Prisoners consists of a floor containing four Cells (the doors of which are constantly open during the day), 8 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 3 inches. Here all classes of male prisoners are placed together. The floor above is allotted to female prisoners, and consists of two Cells of the same size, and a Day-room.

The situation of the prison is low and damp. It is in a bad Neighbourhood. The windows of some of the cells communicate with the street, and the prisoners can therefore converse with persons from without. Spirits, and other objectionable articles, may be introduced without difficulty.

The greatest number of prisoners at one time in confinement in this Borough Gaol, in the last three years, is stated to have been sixteen.

The very contracted space in which the Gaol now stands renders it impossible materially to enlarge it, and the present Site is so highly objectionable, that a new Gaol is indispensable. Should this be determined upon, it will be for the magistrates to say whether, under these circumstances, they will not make provision for all their prisoners, rather than continue to incur the expense of conveying any part of them to Reading, a distance of 17 miles.

Following a typhus outbreak, the gaol was closed in 1842 and replaced by a new prison on Sheet Street, which continued in use until around 1854.


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.