Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Ipswich, Suffolk

A Suffolk County Bridewell, or House of Correction, was in existence by 1774. Its location is unclear but may have been located on Rope Walk, Ipswich.

In 1784, John Howard described it as follows:

On the ground-floor is a work-shop; and a night-room for men: up stairs a night-room for women. None of them, nor the court secure. Clauses against spirituous liquors not hung up. Keeper, a worsted manufacturer: salary, £17. No fees. Prisoners, no allowance. Employment, spinning worsted, and turning a twisting-mill.

The above was the state of the prison in 1776, but at my visit in 1779, I found it greatly improved. The two work-rooms and chambers now are 20 feet by 14.

The court 40 feet by 34.

1774, Dec. 8,Prisoners 1.1779, April 5,Prisoners 0.
1776, Feb. 7,3.1782, July 9,2.
1776, Nov. 18,2.

In 1802, the Bridewell moved to new premises on Rope Walk. In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Keeper, George Clubbe. Salary, 421. and coals, candles, soap, mops, brooms, and pails, for the use of the Prison.

Fees, none.

Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Tunney. Salary, 20l. Duty, Sunday and Wednesday.

Surgeon, Mr. Stebbing. Salary, see County-Gaol.

Prisoners, 1805, 14th Sep. Three. 1808, 20th Nov. Five. 1810, 21st Sep. Nine.

Allowance, one pound and half of bread per day, sent in loaves of that weight from the Baker's; which, upon weighing, I found to be just. They have also what they can earn by spinning.


This Prison stands near the County Gaol, in an airy situation, and is surrounded by a boundary wall, 17 feet high, with an inside sunk fence, 2 feet 6 inches deep, and 7 feet wide.

On the ground-floor of the Keeper's house are the visiting Magistrates' room, the Keeper's parlour and kitchen, which command a view of the three different court yards, each 60 feet by 30, and enclosed by open palisades. Here is a forcing pump, for supplying the Prison; and soft water also is laid on from the main to the Keeper's kitchen.

On the left side of the ground floor is a day-room, 18 feet by 10, with fire-place, and glazed windows; and five cells for the Women, which open into a lobby, 24 feet by 5, well ventilated.

Above these are five other cells, of the same size, with a lobby; and three Infirmary-rooms, 14 feet by 11, with glazed windows, fire-places, and boarded floors. Near the Infirmary-rooms is a lead flat, assigned to the convalescents, for the benefit of air and exercise.

On the right hand of the ground floor is another day-room for the Men, with cells and lobbies, sick-rooms, and other accommodations, of the same size and nature as those on the Women's side.

In the first floor of the Keeper's house is the Chapel, 20 feet by 16; into which the respective lobbies open, and all the classes are seated on benches, in sight of each other.

The court-yards are all on an inclined plane, with brick gutters. Water is judiciously conveyed through the sewers, and the Courts are always clean.

Each cell in this Prison is 10 feet by 7, and 9 feet 6 inches high, with arched roofs, and ventilated by an iron-grated and glazed window, 3 feet 3 inches by 3 feet. They have iron bedsteads, straw beds in sacking, two blankets, and a coverlet; and are furnished with spinning-wheels.

The ventilation of the cells might be improved by a circular aperture over the door, of 6 inches diameter; or one in any other suitable situation, of 10 inches by 2. Each door has now an opening of 6 inches by 4.

Clean linen once a week is provided by the County. Here are no Rules and Orders hung up, nor the Act for Preserving Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors. The Prison is kept very clean.

In 1820, the function of the prison was absorbed into the nearby County Gaol. The Rope Walk site then became home to the Ipswich Borough Gaol.

In 1821, it was recorded that:

This prison is very near to the Gaol; it is built to accommodate the small number of twenty prisoners; the present number in confinement is fourteen men and three women. It is surrounded by a boundary wall, but the space inclosed by it is so small,that the voices of the prisoners of both sexes are easily heard from yard to yard. It it understood that a communication will be made from the mill, about to be erected in the County Gaol adjoining, by means of a shaft into this Bridewell, so that the prisoners here may be also employed for some hours in the day in grinding corn.

The male prisoners were very quietly occupied in making straw plat hats,baskets, &c.; some few were looking on, or assisting; several of them were at work in their night-cells. The practice here is to lock them up (under the idea of extra punishment ) from eleven to three o'clock in the middle of the day in these cells, as if to allow them the indulgence of a little sleep, which the Governor, in reply to an observation to that effect, said, "You may depend on it some do, sir, and sleep half the time." The cells, in consequence of being thus used, were mostly in bad order and close. The prison is in most particulars well constructed, but the evil of an establishment of this kind, for so small a number, is the most prominent feature in going over the Bridewell.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.


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