Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Lavenham, Suffolk

A Suffolk County Bridewell, or House of Correction, was in use at Lavenham by 1776. It occupied part of the Guildhall building on the town's Market Place, which also housed a parish workhouse.

In 1784, John Howard described the bridewell as:

A work-room below: a chamber for men; only one room for women: none of them secure. The prison is out of repair. At a former visit I heard that a prisoner had escaped, for which the keeper was fined, though the neglect lay in the magistrates. Two more, lately escaped through the plaster wall. Prisoners always kept within doors; the court not secure: no water: no straw. Keeper's salary, £15 : 14: 8. No fees. Employment, spinning wool. There is no proper separation of female prisoners. An old out-house and stable of the keeper's might be made convenient for them.—At my last visit, I found the magistrates bad sent to the keeper a number of thumb-screws for securing prisoners.

The Guildhall, Lavenham, Suffolk, 2006. © Peter Higginbotham

The Guildhall's use as a bridewell appears not to have continued into the nineteenth century. The building is now a heritage attraction cared for by the National Trust.


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.

  • 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.


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