Ancestry UK

Town Bridewell, Botesdale, Suffolk

A Bridewell, or House of Correction, was opened in 1801 on what became known as Bridewell Lane, Botesdale (sometimes seen spelled as Bottesdale).

In 1812, James Neild described it as follows:

Gaoler, John Bond. Salary, 52l. 10s.

Chaplain, none; nor any religious attentions. See Remarks.

Surgeon, Mr. Thomas Reeve. Salary, none; but makes a Bill.

Number of Prisoners, 1805, Aug. 30th, 4. 1810, Sept. 16th, 3.

Allowance: The following Dietary is painted on a board, and hung up.

One pound and a half of bread daily.
Breakfast each day, oatmeal gruel.
Dinners, Sunday, half a pound of meat, and one pound of potatoes.
Monday, three-quarters of a pint of pease, with broth of the preceding day,
Tuesday, rice or oatmeal porridge, with leeks or onions.
Wednesday, two pounds of potatoes, if in season, or gruel.
Thursday, as on Sunday,
Friday, as on Monday.
Saturday, as on Tuesday.

Salt for the week.

This diet costs 1s. 6d. per week, besides the one pound and a half of bread daily.


This Prison, first inhabited in April 1801, stands in a healthy situation, about a quarter of a mile from the town. It is a new building, and surrounded by a boundary-wall, 13 feet high, 64½ yards long, and 29½ yards wide, having the house in the centre. The approach is through a handsome stone entrance, along a flag pavement, skirted on either hand with a neat grass-plat and small garden. Behind the building is an excellent kitchen-garden for vegetables. On the right hand of the entrance are the Keeper's apartments; on the left is a kitchen, fitted up with fire-place, an oven, copper, and other utensils for frugal cookery; and adjoining to it is also a small room for prison-utensils. Through the centre of the building is a passage 37 feet 6 inches in length, 5 feet 6 inches wide; and in the middle of the passage an iron-grated door divides the Prison from the Keeper's apartments. On the ground-floor are four cells, two on each side of the passage 14 feet 6 by 8 feet, with arched roofs 8 feet 6 inches high, and iron-grated and glazed windows, with casements 2 feet square. Up one pair of stairs there are also four other cells, of equal size; and on the same floor is a room in front of the Keeper's house, 21 feet by 12, and 9 feet 6 inches high; which has a fire-place, and is used occasionally as a day room or infirmary. Here is likewise a court-yard 40 feet by 37, surrounded by a wall 14 feet high, and paved with flag stones. In this yard is a pump and sewer, and each prisoner has access to it, for about one hour in the day. Every cell is furnished with an iron-frame bedstead, wooden bottoms, a sacking bed filled with straw, one blanket and a rug; and a bell is fixed in each cell for the use of the prisoners, in case of being taken ill, or wanting assistance. The Keeper informed me at my visit in 1810, that a Chaplain was to be appointed to the Prison.

The Schedule of Laws for governing Houses of Correction (22d Geo. III. c. 64.) and the Clause against Spirituous Liquors, are painted on boards and hung up; but not the Act for preserving the Health of Prisoners.

Their employment is the spinning of wool; half their earnings from which are paid them at the time of their discharge. All of them are allowed clean linen once a week; and coals, mops, brushes, brooms, soap, towels, and vinegar, are here considerately allowed, for personal comfort and prison cleanliness.

The prison closed in about 1825. Now a listed building, the property has been converted to residential use.


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.