Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Croydon, Surrey

In 1777, prison reformer John Howard noted that Croydon had no prison. In 1784, however, he reported that when the summer assizes were held at Croydon, prisoners were then confined in two stables at the Three Tuns — an inn at 2 Surrey Street.

Writing in 1812, James Neild reported that by then the stables had been replaced by a large room, suitable for the purpose. He recorded:

Keeper, a Turnkey, who has charge of the Prisoners in Assize Time.

Prisoners, 16th June, 1806, and 23d June, 1810, none.

Allowance, none to the Debtors from the Court of Requests : But to other Prisoners, one pound and a half of bread per day.


The ground, on which the stable of the Three Tuns Inn once stood, is now occupied by a room for the confinement of Prisoners, during the time the Assizes are held here. It is a large apartment, 36 feet by 27, and 9 feet high, with six opposite. iron-grated windows, and a boarded floor; with iron staples, to which the Prisoners are chained all night, and have straw to sleep on.

Adjoining to this apartment are four cells; one for Debtors, sent from the Court of Requests, of 13 feet by 10, in which there is a wooden bedstead, spread with straw, and a rug. The next is about the same size, which is appropriated to the use of the Turnkey, and has a fire-place and glazed-window: the two other cells, 13 feet by 6 feet 4, and 9 feet high, are for male and female King's Evidence.

In all the rooms there is a sewer.

In 1839, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:


This prison was built about the year 1806 or 1807, by a Company; from whom it was rented by the churchwardens of the parish of Croydon, and the funds for its maintenance were provided out of the church-rates. It is used as a place of temporary confinement for persons charged with felony, misdemeanours, and other offences committed within the parish of Croydon, and for the safe custody of the county prisoners during the Assizes which are held at Croydon every alternate summer. But by the 10th Geo. IV. Sessions 1829, an Act for the lighting, watching, &c. of the town of Croydon, it was enacted that the Commissioners under the said Act should be authorized and empowered to hire on lease the said premises for any term or number of years, and to alter and repair, fit, and maintain the same, and to pay all charges out of the funds raised under the provisions of the said Act, entitled “The Croydon Rate for General Purposes.” The Commissioners pay a rent of £50 per annum for the prison ; and they have appointed the parish beadle, Thomas Pilbeam, keeper of the same, at the salary of 35 guineas per annum, who is also provided with a house adjoining the prison.

This prison is used for persons under charge for offences committed within the parish of Croydon, who are retained in custody until they can be examined before a magistrate; and they are occasionally recommitted for examination. When committed for trial, or summarily convicted, they are removed, in the former case, to Horsemonger-lane Gaol, and in the latter, to the County House of Correction.

From the 1st July up to the 18th August 1839, 275 prisoners were committed to this prison. The average term of imprisonment is two or three days; but cases have occurred of prisoners being confined for eight days.

There are in this prison four cells, and a large day room, of the following dimensions:—
No. 1.276by360and9 high.

There is a privy in each room. The windows of No. 3 are glazed, and there is a fire-place. This cell is generally used for female prisoners. The windows of the other rooms have open iron gratings; but there are outside shutters.

The Assizes, as we have already observed, are held at Croydon every alternate summer; upon which occasion the prisoners are brought down for trial from Horsemonger-lane Gaol, under the custody of the governor of that prison. The male prisoners occupy the large dayroom, and the female prisoners are placed in one of the cells. No female officer accompanies the female prisoners; they are under the care of the keeper of Horsemonger-lane Gaol.

The parish beadle is the only officer appointed to take charge of the prisoners who are committed from time to time to this prison; but there is an understanding with the Commissioners that his wife shall attend to the female prisoners; and she does so.

A truss of straw is provided for bedding, but no blankets or coverlets. When it is recollected that, prisoners occasionally remain as long as eight days in this prison, it will be acknowledged that the forementioned provision must be very inadequate in winter.

There is a pump in the yard; and the prisoners are let out every morning to wash, and the keeper supplies them with soap.

The Commissioners allow 9d. per day for each prisoner’s diet. This allowance is not given to the prisoners in money; but the keeper is directed to supply them with bread, tea, coffee, or other plain food, not exceeding the specified amount. No beer or spirits are ever admitted for the criminal prisoners.

There are no written regulations; nor is there any appointed medical attendant. When a prisoner is taken ill, the parish doctor is called in. There is no chaplain, no religious instruction, no prayers are read, nor are any religious books provided.

There have been no escapes from this prison for several years. The prison is clean, airy, and well ventilated; but in winter it is damp.

For prisoners who are committed from the adjoining parishes, a rent of 2s. per day is paid ; but as there are no funds for the maintenance of such prisoners, they are committed to Horsemonger-lane Gaol, unless they are able to maintain themselves. This occasions a heavy expense, in consequence of the necessity of sending the prisoners a distance of 10 miles, and afterwards bringing them back again for examination, or re-hearing, as the case may be. A great saving would be effected, and the administration of justice would be much facilitated, if county prisoners from the parts adjacent to this prison could be committed to it, and maintained there by the county, pending the hearing of the charge, and previous to their being committed for trial, summarily convicted, or discharged.

The Commissioners let one of the cells to the Court of Requests for debtors committed from their Court. The window of this cell opens upon the public street, and the prisoner confined in it communicates freely with his friends and the passers by, and receives from them whatever they choose to give him. Such prisoners are allowed 3d. per day each by the Court, for their maintenance; but they are principally supported by their friends; and the keeper states that three-fourths of the articles supplied are passed in through the window, and that he has frequently known spirits to be thus conveyed into the prisoners, and that there is nothing to prevent this from being done every hour.

The keeper keeps a register of all the prisoners committed to his custody, and records in it the following particulars:—

The Prisoner's name—Date of admission—Date of commitment for trial—Date of discharge—Before what magistrate—By whom brought—Charge—Punishment.

The prison was closed in about 1847. The Market Tavern now stands on the former Three Tuns site.


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