Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

Buckingham's Borough Gaol, on Market Hill, was erected in 1748 by Richard Grenville Temple. A board over its gate carried the inscription: 'The Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple, Lord Viscount Cobham, caused this Edifice to be erected at his own Expence, For the Use of this Town and County, the Summer Assizes being restored to this Place, and fixed here by Act of Parliament, in the year 1748.' Although some distance from the site of the town's old castle, the prison was known as the Castle Gaol, reflecting is castle-like appearance.

In 1784, John Howard described the gaol as 'Two rooms below; one of which is the bridewell: the other for felons 16 feet by 12. Over these are two rooms for debtors. No water. Gaoler no salary. Keeper's salary, £2. Clauses against spirituous liquors not hung up.' On a visit in October 1779, he had found the only inmate to be a 'raving lunatic'. In April 1782, the prison had been empty.

In 1812, James Neild reported that:

Behind the Keeper's apartments is a court-yard, about 30 feet square, and two rooms which open into it, about 16 feet by 12 each, with barrack bedsteads and straw: one is the Bridewell, the other for Felons. Over these are two rooms for Debtors. No water : The Gaoler fetches it from over the way. The Prison clean : The floors had been rotten and full of holes; but at my visit in 1810, they were in good repair. Debtors for small sums are committed by process issuing out of the Borough Court. There are seldom any Criminals confined here except for one or two nights at the Assizes. It is chiefly used as a place of confinement for vagrants, night-charges, and deserters.

In 1839, cells and the round-fronted gaoler's house were added to the building, for which George Gilbert Scott was the architect.

Borough Gaol, Buckingham, 1847.

Borough Gaol, Buckingham, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The prison was closed in 1878 following the nationalisation of the prison system. The building was subsequently used as a police station, a fire station, an air-raid shelter, an ammunition store and an antiques shop. In 1984, after several threats of demolition, the building was taken over by a charitable trust and now houses a museum and tourist information office.


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