Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Deal, Kent

Prior to 1803, Deal's Town Gaol was in the basement of the town's old Court Hall (or town hall), located on the east side of the High Street, between Market Street and King Street.

In 1784, John Howard wrote that it was:

A room under the court only 8½ feet by 6½, with a barrack bedstead. Keeper, town-sergeant, lives distant. I did not wonder that a felon had made his escape the night before my visit.

1782, Dec. 5, No prisoners,

The building is now used as retail premises.

In 1803, a new Court Hall was erected on the west side of the High Street. The new building was described by James Neild:

This Gaol is a new building, at the back of the market-place. Adjoining to it is a small court-yard; but, as being insecure, the Prisoners have not the use of it. Here is one large room, 24 feet by 12, very lofty, light, and well-ventilated, with double doors, a pump, stone sink, and a sewer. Also two sleeping-cells, 7 feet by 4, which have dwarf partitions, and wood-grated roofs; straw, on crib-bedsteads, with two blankets: and one dark room, 17 feet by 8, with an iron-grated window. The only Debtors sent hither are from the Court of Conscience.

Gaoler, Thomas Langley, Sergeant at Mace. Fees, 2s.

Prisoners, 24th Sept. 1804, One Woman, for shop-lifting; the first who had been committed here.
 10th Aug. 1806, None.

Allowance, Sixpence a day.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

There are four Rooms in this Prison:—No. 1.—23 feet by 12 feet 8 inches, and 14 feet in Deal. height; in which are four bedsteads 4 feet 5 inches wide. This room is ventilated by a window about 2 feet square over the door. No. 2.—16 feet 6 inches by 8 feet 4 inches, and 10 feet in height. No. 3.—12 feet 8 inches by 12 feet, and 7 feet 3 inches in height. No. 4, is over the room last described, and of the same size.

The rooms numbered 1 and 2 are used for Male Prisoners; the other Apartments for Women.

A Contract has been made by the Town-Council for sending Prisoners to Sandwich Gaol; but it is at present the practice to commit to the Deal Gaol all persons committed for trial, and others sentenced to imprisonment without labour.

There have been but two Debtors within the last two years. In 1836, the total number committed was 14, one only of whom was a woman. A period of seven months has elapsed since the commitment of a female prisoner.

At the period of our Visit there was no Prisoner in confinement. These facts are highly creditable to the moral character of a Population consisting of 7000 souls, and among a part of whom there has for some time prevailed considerable distress.

We beg to recommend that the arrangement which has been made to send to Sandwich certain descriptions of Prisoners only, be extended to all others who may be fully committed for trial, or summarily convicted, and that the present Gaol at Deal be retained only as a lock-up house for the separate confinement of such as may be committed to it.

The prison closed in around 1850. The Court Hall building is still used as a meting place for Deal Town Council, and is also a venue for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.


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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.