Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Dorchester, Dorset

In 1784, John Howard visited Dorchester's Town Gaol. It comprised:

Two rooms: the lower one called the blind-house; the other over it is for debtors, (11 feet 4 inches by 10 feet, and 7 feet 2 inches high). No chimney: no sewer: no water. Allowance 1½d. in bread. The debtor had been confined in this offensive room upwards of fourteen weeks; he had eight children, and had not earned a halfpenny.

1782, Aug. 3, Debtor 1. Felons &c. none .

The gaol's location is unclear and there are no later references to it in official reports.


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  • No individual records identified for this establishment — any information welcome.
  • The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Has a wide variety of crime and prison records going back to the 1770s, including calendars of prisoners, prison registers and criminal registers.
  • Find My Past has digitized many of the National Archives' prison records, including prisoner-of-war records, plus a variety of local records including Manchester, York and Plymouth. More information.
  • Prison-related records on Ancestry UK include Prison Commission Records, 1770-1951, and local records from London, Swansea, Gloucesterhire and West Yorkshire. More information.
  • The Genealogist also has a number of National Archives' prison records. More information.


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