Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol and Bridewell, Barnstaple, Devon

The Barnstaple Town Gaol and Bridewell, or House of Correction, was situated on The Square, Barnstaple.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Here is only one court-yard for Debtors, Felons, and all descriptions of Male Prisoners, which is 26 feet square, with a pump to supply it with water.

The Debtors' Prison consists of one room on the ground-floor, 12 feet by 11, and 7 feet high,with a boarded floor, and an iron-grated window. No fire-place. Their sleeping room above is 15 feet by 14, and 8 feet high,with barrack bedstead, and straw only allowed. It has a glazed window, and a fire-place; but no coals are supplied. Debtors committed hither are by process issuing out of the Borough Court, which is held once a fortnight, on Mondays; and the number confined within the last four years and a half has been only seven.

The part called the Felons' Prison is one room, 14 feet by 8, and 7 feet 6 inches high, on the ground-floor; with a barrack bedstead, to which straw only is furnished for bedding. Here is a fire-place, but incapable of being used: No fuel allowed; and the iron-grating looks to the street.

The Bridewell Part consists of one room below, 14 feet by 12, and6 feet high; with boarded floor, an unglazed grated window, but no fire-place: And one room above, of the same size, with barrack bedsteads, and straw only allowed.

Females are kept separate from Male Prisoners, both day and night; but they have no court-yard.

Here is a Gaol-Delivery twice a-year, at the Session, which is held before the Mayor, Aldermen, and Recorder, who is a Barrister of this Borough. They have a Power of Charter, of trying all offences committed within it, except capital felonies: for which Prisoners are confined here only for a day or two, till fully committed to the County Gaol. The Prison is dry, airy, and well ventilated.

Gaoler, Nathaniel Blackwill. Salary, 5l. Fees, 4s. 4d.

Chaplain, none: nor any religious attentions.

Surgeon, when wanted, is sent in by the Parish.

Prisoners, 4th Dec. 1810, Debtor, 1. Petty Offender, 1. Foreigners, 2.

Allowance to Debtors, none; to Criminals, twopence half-penny per day, from the Parish.

The prison was rebuilt in 1829 at the same location. The new building had fourteen cells, and two rooms for debtors, with an airy courtyard bounded by a wall twenty feet high.

The gaol was closed following the nationalisation of the prison system in 1878.


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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.