Ancestry UK

City Gaol, Carlisle, Cumberland

The Carlisle Town Gaol was situated over the city's Scotch Gate, at the north end of Scotch Street.

Carlisle Scotch Gate, c.1791.

Inmates of the prison took advantage of its location and were able to demand tolls from those bringing peat into the city. Those who refused were pelted with "sundry stones which, from the decomposed effect of time, were ever ready at hand for such a purpose."

In 1777, John Howard reported on the prison:

It was only one ruinous room about twenty feet square; but it has been repaired lately and made more convenient. The window 4 feet by 4. No allowance, but a very small quantity of peat taken as a toll upon that commodity, and water brought twice a day.

I was told that many a poor traveller from the north, who by some calamity had contracted an unavoidable debt of forty shillings, has been confined at a distance from his friends in this prison, where there is no provision, nor any means of procuring it.

1776, Jan. 20Debtors 3
1776, Sep. 19,1
1779, May 103, two Men, one Woman
1779, Sep. 10

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

It stands over the Scotch Gate; and is only one ruinous room, about 20 feet square, with a fire -place, and a window of 4feet by 18 inches.

Prisoners from the City are kept in the County-Gaol, by agreement between the Corporation and the Gaoler. No Town-Debtor can now be imprisoned for less than ten pounds. They have seldom exceeded two or three in a year, and those were only detained for a short time.

The Gaol room was filled with lumber when I was there, and no Prisoner had been confined in it for several years. No allowance: No court yard: No water.

The prison was demolished in 1815 as part of a scheme to remove the city's old walls. The existing prisoners transferred to the County Gaol.


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.


  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
  • GOV.UK - UK Government's information on sentencing, probation and support for families.