Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Grimsby's Old Town Hall was erected in 1780 on an open space at the angle formed by the High Street and Bethel, close to where the town's railways station is now located. The site included a small prison containing three rooms and an airing-yard. In 1832, it was reported that a total of 51 prisoners had been detained there during the previous year, with a maximum of five at any one time. Beating bricks bricks to powder was the only employment during the year, at which only three prisoners had been engaged.

In 1835, it was recorded that:

The Gaol of this borough consists of four cells and a yard. The dimensions of that for male criminals is 12 feet by 12 feet; that for male debtors, 13 feet by 8 feet; and the women's room, 10 feet by 7 feet. The yard is 42 feet by 16 feet. It is used in turn by the male and female prisoners, each for a certain number of hours. The male debtors, and the prisoners for felony and misdemeanor, all go into the yard together. Female prisoners, whether debtors or criminals, untried or convicted, live constantly together. For a long time past however not more than two women have been inmates of the gaol at the same time. There is no employment for any of the prisoners. No chaplain attends the gaol, and the prisoners have neither bibles nor prayer-books, nor do they receive any kind of religious instruction. The magistrates very seldom visit the gaol, and the gaoler expressed a doubt whether they had done so once in the last two years. The mere statement of these facts seems to render all comment superfluous. Complaints were made about eight years ago by a prisoner to the Secretary of State of the smallness of the rooms and yard, and the general state of the prison, and a Return was called for by the Home Office, but nothing has been done towards improving it. The greatest number of prisoners in the gaol at one time, in the year 1832, was 5 and 18 the greatest number committed in any of the years 1830, 1831, 1832. Debtors sent by the court of requests are a great majority of the prisoners. The plaintiffs allow them 4d. a day for subsistence, but the borough pays nothing. The weekly cost of the other prisoners per head is 3s. 2d. Confinement in this gaol does not appear to be considered a punishment.

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This prison is chiefly used for debtors from the Borough Court, and those in execution from a jurisdiction for the recovery of small debts, extending over 16 parishes. It adjoins the town hall, and its accommodation for prisoners is of the humblest description. It contains one cell for criminals on the ground floor, 14 ft. by 12 ft. and 6 ft. in height. A chain is fixed in the floor, to which violent prisoners arc ironed. The debtors' room is ascended to by a ladder staircase, through a hatch which is shut down at night. It is 12 ft. by 8 ft., and 7 ft. 3 in. high; ceiling, lath and plaster. It is furnished with wooden bedsteads, a straw palliasse, two blankets, and rug to each. As many as seven debtors have been confined together in this room. There is a small airing-yard common to all the prisoners. The room for females can only be reached by passing through the town-hall; it is 12 ft. by 5 ft, 10 in., 7 ft. 2 in. high, with fire-place, and boarded floor. The whole building is very insecure for the retention of prisoners, and liable to accidents from fire. The borough having no grant of quarter-sessions, prisoners remain here only while under examination. The accommodation for the debtors is very indifferent. The keeper states, "One debtor was here for 200 days. There were two females here at one time, and while they took the air, the other prisoners were locked up in their rooms." The prisoners are subsisted at the rate of 5d. per day; they receive for this four penny rolls daily, and a pound of meat once a week. Coals are provided in winter.

The prison was closed in about 1850.


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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.