Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire

The new Town Hall erected in 1790 on Queen Street, Kirton-in-Lindsey also included a courtroom and a County Bridewell, or House of Correction.

The bridewell was described by James Neild in 1812:

Keeper, John Parkin, now Samuel Lee. Salary, 70l. Fees, none.

Chaplain, Rev. Joseph Stockdale.
Duty, Prayers once a week. Salary, 20l.

Surgeon, Mr. George Foster. Salary, 20l.

Number of Prisoners, 1809, Sept. 6th,—29; and 3 Children.

Allowance, formerly, was four-pence a day; but now 3s. 10d. per week each, in bread, meat, oatmeal, salt, and potatoes.


The Keeper's house fronts the West; and on the right of the entrance is the

visiting Magistrates' room, the windows of which command the Men's court, of 27 feet by 22, where there are two work-rooms, each 26 feet by 12, furnished with looms, twist-mills, and spinning-machines. On the left is a court-yard, and two work-rooms, of a similar description, which are inspected by the windows of the Keeper's kitchen; and adjoining is an oven and bake-house.

Here are eight solitary courts, 16 feet by 9, with a cell in each, about 8 feet square, and a hemp-block. The cells are lighted and ventilated by a grated window, 2 feet 6 inches square; and in every door there is one inspecting-wicket. Also three other court-yards, with day-rooms and fire-places, to which coals are allowed during the six Winter months; and furnished with benches to sit upon, and shelves for putting by provisions.

On the Chamber Story are twenty eight sleeping-cells, 8 feet.6 each by 7 feet.6, and 10 feet high, furnished with wood bedsteads, straw, a blanket, and a rug each. Two large rooms, with fire-places and glazed windows, are here set apart as Infirmaries.

The bath room is nearly 16 feet square, with a cistern for water, and a copper in it. There is no water laid on to any of the courts: it is brought daily to the Prisoners by the Keeper. The sewers are conveniently placed, and not offensive.

A flagged lobby, or passage, 53 yards long and 8 feet wide, runs from the Women's court-yard, the whole length of the Prison, and separates the work-rooms from the Solitary Courts, &c. A door likewise opens into it, through which Prisoners are brought to the bar for trial, without bustle or inconvenience.

Here is no Chapel; but the Sessions House, a very handsome building, under the same roof, is appropriated for Divine Service. Prisoners are supplied with religious books, and the Surgeon has a discretionary power to order them a change of diet, in case of sickness.

The Prisoners are employed in combing and spinning wool, and the portion which they receive of their earnings varies according to their deportment. In 1803, the amount of them was 26l. 0s. 6d. of which sum the Prisoners had one third, and the County the other two. An alteration in the working system then took place. In 1804, the earnings were 22l. 16s. 6d. in 1805, 31l. 2s. 6d. in 1806, 46l. 18s. 3d. in 1807, 43l. 10s. During this period, the Prisoners received no part of their earnings, except in clothes given them occasionally by the Magistrates.

At an adjourned Session, held 8th June, 1808, it was ordered, That every well behaved Prisoner should receive one half of his earnings on discharge; and the earnings up to Epiphany Sessions, 1809, amounted to 51l. 7s. 1½d.

I could not help remarking, that though the large store-room was filled with wool, none of the Prisoners were at work upon it. The present Keeper was to quit his situation at Lady Day 1810, and to be succeeded by Samuel Lee. The Act for Preservation of Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, both hung up; and the Prison clean

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This prison and sessions-house are connected or rather incorporated with each other. The original intention was, no doubt, to make a complete separation of the sexes, by placing the females on the south, and the males on the north side of the building, the courts and offices intervening between the two. If the ordinary number of prisoners of the sexes had been equal, this arrangement would have answered, but the contrary being the case, a portion of the males of necessity occupy the female side of the prison. The ground floor consists of a number of rooms, with airing yards attached to them; the latter wholly beyond inspection, except from the windows of the story above. The sleeping cells, with the exception of the vagrants and the infirmaries, are in the first floor. They are all arched, and have iron gratings at the windows and a close shutter. The refractory cell is deficient in proper ventilation. The windows of the room occupied by the clerk of the peace look directly into the receiving yard, and, being unprotected by bars, an escape would not be very difficult to an enterprising prisoner. The rooms in which the females sleep, look directly into the airing yards occupied by male prisoners. The court where the sessions are held is made use of as a chapel. It appears insecure, and the males and females are not so completely deprived of the means of communication as they ought to be. There is a deficiency in the supply of water for the prison in dry weather, and it has to be brought from some distance. The privies are also offensive in summer time. The accommodation for the keeper consists of cellarage in the basement. Ground floor,—magistrates' room, office, parlour, and kitchen. First floor,—five chambers. The sleeping cells vary in their dimensions, but, taken on an average, are 8 ft. 0 in. by 8 ft. and 9 ft. 8 in. high.

Sunday.One pint of barley gruel.Eight ounces of meat without hone, and half a pound of potatoes and salt.One pint of oatmeal gruel.
Monday.Ditto.One pint of broth boiled from the meat of Sunday, one pound of potatoes and salt.Ditto.
Tuesday,Ditto. Six ounces of meat without bone, one pint of broth, and half a pound of potatoes to those at the tread-wheels. All prisoners not at the tread-wheels one pound of potatoes and salt.Ditto.
Wednesday.Ditto.All prisoners one pint of broth and one pound of potatoes with salt.Ditto.
Thursday.Ditto.All prisoners six ounces of meat without bone, and half a pound of potatoes with salt. Prisoners at the tread-wheel one pint of broth.Ditto.
Friday.Ditto.One pint of broth and half a pound of potatoes with salt.Ditto.
SaturdayDitto. One pint of broth from beast bead, and half a pound of potatoes with salt.Ditto.
Seven pounds of wheaten bread per week to each prisoner, in two loaves of three and four pounds each.

Prisoners before trial or debtors, if providing themselves with food, are permitted to purchase daily li lb. of meat, 1 lb. of vegetables, 1 pint of table beer, or 1 quart of milk.

Bedding.—Wooden bedsteads, palliasse, one double blanket, and rug. Clothing. — Felons, parti-coloured suit of frieze with clogs; misdemeanants, brown; vagrants, grey.

Cleanliness.—The prison clean.

Health.—The attendance of the surgeon is daily or nearly so. He sees all the prisoners before they are classed. Is present at corporal punishments. Itch, gonorrhoea, syphilis are the most common complaints. The surgeon states, "That the influenza was very prevalent in the prison during the last year, and was felt very severely; many who suffered from it are still experiencing its ill effects, manifested by attacks upon the chest, and an eruption on the skin similar to the itch, and yielding to similar treatment. There has been one case of typhus during the year. Bilious fevers have also prevailed in the prison. There is a low fever which is common among the prisoners, and which I can always tell the approach of by the tongue. I have a suspicion it is occasioned by prisoners debarring themselves provisions for a time, and selling them to each other. ——, a debtor, refused food when he came in on a Saturday, and remained without it until Tuesday, when the fever commenced with exactly the same symptoms as the other prisoners. ——, placed in solitary confinement for ill conduct, also refused to eat, and in consequence was attacked by the same fever, and was very seriously ill. The case of typhus occurred in a prisoner who had been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, and during the last weeks of his confinement one of the prisoners nursed him. When fever takes place, I always fumigate, using saltpetre and salt in equal parts; a table spoonful of each, and a couple of tea spoonsful of oil of vitriol. I have noticed the most beneficial effects from it in cases of typhus and cholera. The general state of health within the prison has improved of late years. The prisoners who remain from 8 to 12 months alter much, and occasionally require additional diet; there were two lately who would have sunk but for it. There have been no deaths during the year. The prison is seldom without some individual requiring medical attendance. The infirmaries are not so well ventilated as might be wished, particularly the one over the vagrants' yard. I have thought it right to recommend the suspension of the sentence of solitary confinement of ——; in consequence of her debility she will not, he able to undergo it." The Surgeon's Journal contains entries of the names of sick prisoners, and orders for extra diet, &c.

Moral and Religious Instruction.—The chaplain performs two full services, with two sermons, on Sundays, and catechizes the younger prisoners. Prayers are read daily, alternately morning and evening, accompanied with an explanation of the lessons for the day. The sacrament has been administered, but on very few occasions has the chaplain felt it proper to do so. No system of instruction is carried on; the chaplain encourages the prisoners to teach each other. The tracts are procured from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and all the books are inspected by the chaplain. The officers, with the exception of the matron, attend divine service. The chaplain states, "I visit the prisoners in their wards once a-day. I go into a day-room, sit down and converse with them; in the first instance, with regard to their conduct, thoughts, actions, and feelings; I then read a portion of the Scriptures to them, with such remarks and explanation as I think fit for them, and upon these occasions I address myself to individuals as I consider the circumstances of their case to require. When there are mothers and children, I endeavour to impress upon them the necessity of bringing their children up to attend divine worship. I see prisoners on their commitment and discharge. The number of boys is sometimes seven or eight, I then form them into a class for religious instruction. I have seen the prisoners in the refractory cells, which have had little or no effect. The women in this district are more ignorant than the men; they are principally sent from Gainsborough. I fear the discipline of the prison makes no very great impression, and if it does, only upon the misdemeanants: I think the appointment of a schoolmaster would be beneficial." The matron states, "She sets the females to teach one another, but there are very few who take any delight in it." The Chaplain's Journal is arranged under the following heads: — Date — Daily Service — Behaviour — Absentees — Visiting Wards — Remarks.

Visits.—No convicted prisoner is allowed to receive visits or letters during the first three months; all other prisoners, including debtors, on Tuesdays. It appears that a debtor on one occasion complained of not being able to see his friends on special business except on Tuesdays.

Offences and Punishments.—The principal offences are quarrelling and disorderly behaviour at the wheel, punished by confinement in the refractory cells. The punishment of whipping is inflicted by the keeper in the presence of the surgeon. The boys are punished with a rod.

Scourge.—Handle 14 inches long, with 9 lashes of whipcord each 14 inches in length.

Irons.—6½ lbs.

Labour.—The tread-wheels are placed in three yards; the felons, misdemeanants, and vagrants. The prisoners not on the wheel are employed in breaking flax, stones, or any work the keeper can find for them. The women also break flax, and are employed in washing. The wheels on the day of inspection were out of order, the shaft of one appearing to be broken. There are no means of properly inspecting the prisoners while at this or any oilier labour in the prison. The untried prisoners receive one-half of their earnings.

SCALE of TREAD-WHEEL LABOUR, as delivered by the Gaoler.
Months Employed Number of Working Hours per Day Number of Prisoners the Wheel will hold at one time. Height of each Step. The ordinary Velocity of the Wheels per Minute. The ordinary Proport­ion of Prisoners off the Wheel to the Total. Number of Feet in Ascent per Day as per Hours of Employ­ment. Revol­utions of the Wheel per Day. Daily Amount of Labour to be Per­formed by every Prisoner. How recorded with precision. Applic­ation of its Power.
January5308 inchesTwo revol­utions, or 48 steps.One-fourth.9,6006007,200Not recorded.A fly-wheel.

Debtors.—The debtors in this prison are sent from local courts of requests, and are subjected to precisely the same discipline as the criminals. They are searched and their money taken from them, and are classed with the misdemeanants.

General Discipline.—The keeper does not sleep in the prison, as he ought to do, but in a house a short distance from it. The matron, a very respectable person, is incapacitated by age from performing her duties, and the important one of locking and unlocking is performed by her servant; nor does she attend the chapel with the female prisoners. I recommend that the issue of bread should be daily; that the cupboards in the day-rooms be taken down, and that no unconsumed provisions be permitted to lie about; that the convicted prisoners, at least, should take their meals in some sort of order in the day-rooms, or each return to his cell for that purpose. I am satisfied that this regulation would check the bartering of provisions at present so frequent. Partitions for separate labour on the wheel are much required, and more effectual means for the enforcement of silence, and while the prisoners are engaged in that as well as other labour. The appointment of another officer, capable of instructing the prisoners as a schoolmaster, and assisting in the general duties when disengaged, would be some check upon the unrestrained association which prevails.

I found in the course of my inspection that a dumb female has been confined here since 1818. It appears she was committed at the October sessions, held at Louth, in that year, on a charge of vagrancy, and from that period to the present has been regularly re-committed from sessions to sessions. The chaplain has endeavoured in vain to trace out her relatives. She was employed in cooking the prisoners' food until her health failed. She is between 50 and 60, and likely to live some years. She is allowed to go outside the prison. The surgeon states it as his opinion that her removal would be injurious to her. I had her brought before me and interrogated her. She expressed herself as feeling happy at being there, and appeared quite agitated when asked if she would like to leave the prison, to which, by signs, she gave the most decided negative. I find by the register that similar cases have occurred in this prison, although not of late years.

— —, dumb man, was committed 13th of January 1804, and died in the prison, 8th of February 1828.

— —, a young dumb man, committed 9th of April 1818, died, in prison, August 1823.

— —, deaf man, who could only speak Welch, committed in 1818, discharged 1824.

Keeper.—Appointed 1821; salary, 400l.; two acres and half of garden ground and paddock.

Matron.—Age 77; appointed 1810; salary, 60l.; coals.

Turnkey.—Age 21; appointed 1837; salary, 54l. 12s.; resides in prison; son of the keeper.

Surgeon.—Appointed 1798; salary, 40l. for medicines and attendance.

Chaplain.—Appointed 1825; salary, 150l.; curate of Harspwell, five miles distant from Kirton, with one full service on the Sabbath; resides close to the prison.

The prison was closed in 1872 following the opening of the new Lindesy County Gaol in Lincoln.


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