Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Cockermouth, Cumberland

The Cumberland County Bridewell, or House of Correction, at Cockermouth was in existence by at least the 1670s. It occupied premises on St Helen's Street, Cockermouth,.

In 1784, John Howard wrote that the prison:

is behind the keeper's house, and part of it his freehold. A room on the ground-floor, the strong room. Up stairs another room; and a closet called the lunatic room. All out of repair, and insecure: and so is the court, which I suppose is the reason that many for small offences are sent to the county gaol: this being the only county bridewell. No allowance: no straw. Keeper's salary or rent, £20: no fees.

1776, Sep. 18, 1779, May 10, No prisoners.

In 1812, James Neild noted:

Keeper, Joseph Bowman. Salary, 20l. Surgeon, Mr. Bell, who makes a Bill. It has a small court-yard, 21 feet by 12, and two sleeping-cells, one 18 feet by 10, the other 10 feet by 5: one of these is called The Strong Room. No bedding allowed, but loose straw upon the floor. No water accessible. Allowance, 2s. per week. At my visits in 1802 and 1809, no Prisoners.

In 1837, The Inspectors of Prisons wrote:

This prison consists of a modern house with the apartments for the keeper on the second floor, and those for prisoners below. There are two rooms for male prisoners; one 11 ft. by 12 ft., and 9 ft. high; the second, 12 ft. 9 in. by 6 ft., 7 ft. 11 in. high. This cell has no window, and is very deficient in ventilation. Cell for females, 12 ft. by 10 ft., and 9 ft. high. The cells are arched. The airing-yard for males is 24 ft. by 15 ft.; for females, 14 ft. 8 in. by 11 ft. 9 in.: privies in each yard. Exterior walls 15 feet high. The prison is completely overlooked by other buildings at the distance of only a few feet.

Bedding.— The bedsteads are slabs of stone, laid in an inclined position; with a palliasse of chaff, two blankets, and rug to each.

Cleanliness.— The prison clean.

Dietary.— li lbs. of bread a-day and 1 lb. of cheese a-week; coals allowed: 2s. a week is allowed by the county to the keeper for the subsistence of each prisoner, which is not paid if they support themselves. The admission of tobacco or beer is prohibited.

Irons.— Belts used to take prisoners to Carlisle, 2½1bs.; for refractory prisoners, 4lbs.

Books.— A register of prisoners is kept under the following heads: — Prisoner's name — age — size —eyes — hair — person — marks and remarks — date of commitment — when received in prison — by whom committed — cause of commitment — county allowances — from — to — by whom liberated — observations.

Keeper.— Age 44; appointed 1823; stone-mason; does not reside in the prison; salary 25l. a-year; 9d. a mile for conducting prisoners to Carlisle. The keeper built the prison on the present site, his own property, and leased it to the county for 21 years, at a rent of 14l. 14s. His cousin, a married man, resides in the dwelling-house above the prison, which was originally and appropriately intended for the residence of the keeper. Prisoners are occasionally detained here for considerable periods. In case of their being committed within three weeks or a month of the sessions, which are held twice a-year at Cockermouth, they are not sent to the county gaol at Carlisle, but remain until tried. A man, for want of sureties, has now been confined for three weeks. The magistrates visit weekly.

The prison closed in about 1854.


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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.