Ancestry UK

County Gaol, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

The Lincolnshire County Gaol, dating from around the mid 12th century, was located within the walls of Lincoln Castle, on Castle Hill, Lincoln.

Castle Entrance, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1784, John Howard reported on the prison:

GAOLER, Isaac Wood.

Salary, none. But £154 a year to supply prisoners as below; and to pay land-tax, &c.

Debtors and Felons, £0 : 14 : 4.

Transports, £8 : 8 : 0 for each: and 13s. 4d. He paid the clerk of assize a guinea for each.

Licence, Beer: which the gaoler brews. He lets the Tap.


Allowance, Debtors, if certified as in Remarks, same as felons.

Felons, each weekly 8 lb. of bread, and 2d. for beef: in common yearly £2, for coals: £2, straw: £2, oatmeal.

Garnish, £0 : 2 : 6.


Debtors. Felons & c. Debtors. Felons & c.
1774, Jan. 27,22,11.1779, May 6,,22,14.
1774, Oct. 29,23,9.1782, Feb. 1,30,3.
1776, Jan. 31,12,18.Dutch prisoners of war 7.
1776, Sep. 23,3. 

CHAPLAINS, Rev. Mr. Simpson; and Dr. Waldgrave by his curate the Rev. Mr. Welling, now Mr. Bennet.

Duty, Mr. Simpson, Wednesday and Friday; Mr. Bennet, Sunday.

Salary, Mr. Simpson £5, &c.; Dr. Waldgrave about £35 per legacy of Rebecca Hussey.

SURGEON, Mr. Parnell.

Salary, £20.


The castle belongs to the duchy of Lancaster. The county pays ten shillings a year. The gaoler, per contract, to keep it in repair. A spacious area of near seven acres. (6 A. 3 R. 27 P.) On the ground-floor are the gaoler's apartments, the tap-room, &c.

For master's-side debtors, six sizeable rooms on the first story; and as many garrets. The floors of both stories are tarras, and cannot be kept clean: the passages six feet wide, with windows close glazed.

The free ward for debtors is only a room at the end of the building, down 2 steps. It is paved with small stones, and is a thorough-fare to sundry places. First, by a trap-door in the said pavement there is a descent of 10 steps to two vaulted dungeons for criminals, 8 feet high; one, the Pit, 14 feet by 21, window 2 feet by 14 inches; the other, within it, the condemned cell, 14 feet by 7; window about 9 inches by 18: a little short straw on the floors: both dungeons offensive. It is also a passage to the women-felons ward (which is 11 feet by 8); —and to the felons court (43 feet by 26), and their sizeable day-room (15 feet by 19): no water: no sewer ;— and to a room for the closer confinement of debtors who do not behave well. There are two rooms with beds for felons who can pay for them; to which there is another way.

No chapel: service is performed in the Shire-hall. No infirmary: no bath. The act for preserving the health of prisoners not hung up. The whole prison is out of repair; and never white-washed.

Mr. Wood, besides the forementioned articles of his contract, is to furnish his prisoners with pails, and other utensils, to the amount of £3 a year; and to pay yearly to prisoners in the King's Bench and Marshalsea, two guineas; all out of his salary of £154.

An order of the justices is hung up, that for a debtor's being admitted to county allowance, it is required that he produce a certificate of his poverty signed by the minister, churchwardens and overseers of his parish. The debtors make considerable quantities of garters, purses, & c. of a very good sort; most of which they weave in a cheap, but convenient hand-frame.

Mr. Simpson's salary, £5, is from a legacy of Thomas Hesleden; and for attending condemned criminals he has five guineas from the sheriff. Mr. Thomas Hesleden left also £3 a year, for the better maintenance of the poor prisoners in the castle. For the payment of these two legacies, he bound an estate called Works Chantry at Lincoln.

Thomas Robert Jenkinson, by will (proved February 13, 1772,) left the interest of £120 to the debtors in this prison, to be equally divided among them annually on Easter Monday; with this proviso, that if the whole interest for one year is sufficient to discharge any one debtor, within fourteen days of the time of payment, the said sum shall be applied for that purpose, at the discretion of his trustees.

Rebecca Hussey, by her will, proved in London 10th May 1715, bequeathed the interest of £1000 to release poor debtors from this castle: but no debtors have received the benefit for many years past.

A Table of Fees to be taken by the Gaoler or Keeper of the Gaol for the County of Lincoln and Rules for Government — settled pursuant to a late Act for Relief of Debtors, &c.
£. S. D.
Every prisoner fall pay to the gaoler at his first coming into gaol six shillings and eight-pence0 : 6 : 8
Every prisoner that will lodge in any chamber in the house shall pay to the gaoler for his bed weekly0 : 1 : 3
If he will have the whole bed to himself, to pay weekly0 : 2 : 6
But if two or more debtors lie in the same bed then to be paid amongst them weekly0 : 2 : 6
And that the four chambers on the first floor shall be held and kept for such only as board in the house 
Every prisoner for debt to pay but one fee to the gaoler for his discharge out of the prison though he stands committed in several actions, and the fee to be no more than six shillings and eight-pence0 : 6 : 8
To the turnkey on the said discharge, one shilling0 : 1 : 0
Every felon to pay to the gaoler upon his discharge out of prison thirteen shillings and four-pence0 :13 : 4
To the turnkey on the said discharge, one filling0 : 1 : 0
The gaoler having the care of the felons condemned for transportation, sometimes three months, sometimes six months, and often longer, to be paid for each felon by the treasurer out of the county-money when he is taken out of gaol thirteen shillings and four-pence0 :13 : 4
Every prisoner committed from the bar, by the judge of assize or sessions to pay to the gaoler for his discharge thirteen shillings and four-pence0 :13 : 4
Every prisoner that will eat at the first table to pay five shillings a week to the gaoler for his lodging and diet having three meals a day0 : 5 : 0
If he eats at the second table then he shall pay but four shillings a week for his diet and lodging0 : 4 : 0
Every debtor that lies in the common grate may provide himself with a bed, bedding and sheets and pursuant to the act have necessaries of life from any place — between six in the morning and six at night from Lady-day to Michaelmas — between eight and four from Michaelmas to Lady-day — no more than one quart of ale a day — brought in to one prisoner, to prevent disturbance, &c.
Every debtor—whom two justices — adjudge necessitous — and every felon shall have 8 lb. weight of wholesome household bread, and 1 lb. weight of beef delivered to them weekly.
Every debtor hall quietly—go to his chamber, between Lady-day and Michaelmas at nine in the evening — and between Michaelmas and Lady-day at eight and no later; whosoever shall refuse shall on proof be deprived of his beef and bread by a justice for a time at discretion.
If any gaoler, turnkey or other officer, or any prisoner require any money from a new-come prisoner — either for garnish money, chamber-money — cards — seeing Lusey Tower — or any other account whatsoever, shall — if a prisoner lose his allowance for a time at the discretion of a justice — if the gaoler, &c. be punished as an extortioner according to law.
If the gaoler or any of his sub-officers shall at any time from hence think it safe to take off any felon's irons, if a common felon he shall pay the sum of two shillings and sixpence a week and no more — If a gentleman or better sort of criminal then he shall take the sum of five shillings per week and no more.
Any person removed by habeas corpus to pay the same fees as other prisoners when discharged.
A prisoner making water — so as to annoy — or washing hands in the bucket — to lose his allowance for
We his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the Division of Lindsey, in the County of Lincoln, Assembled at Spilsby have examined the above Table of Fees with the Rules and Orders and do allow and confirm the same — the 2th day of April 1768.

In 1789, a new prison was erected at the site. The three-storey building, constructed in red brick, included accommodation for felons and for debtors, both male and female, together with a chapel, infirmaries, and the gaoler's quarters.

Castle Gaol 1789 block from the east, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1812, James Neild reported on his visits to the prison:

Gaoler, John Merryweather.

Salary, 300l. out of which he provides three Turnkeys; and a Caterer, who attends daily at nine o'clock, and three, to purchase in the City whatever the Prisoners may want, liquors excepted. He also supplies eight chaldrons of coals yearly, together with straw, mops, tubs, buckets, &c. for the use of the Prison; and is allowed one shilling a mile for the removal of Trans ports, and other Convicts.

Fees, abolished. But the Under Sheriff demands 6s. 8d. for his Liberate, from every Debtor, except those discharged by Proclamation, or under the Lord's Act; who pay no Fee.

Garnish, also abolished.

Chaplain, Rev. George Davies Kent. Salary, 50l.

Duty, Prayers and Sermon on Sundays; Prayers twice a week; and to attend those daily, who are under Sentence of Death.

Surgeon, Mr. Charles Franklyn; who is required to attend all the Felons and certificated Debtors.

Salary, 30l. for both Debtors and Felons.

Number of Prisoners,

1800, March 26th,1412
1801, Nov. 20th,1613
1802, Aug. 12th,119
1805, Jan. 17th3619
1809, Sept. 5th,248

Allowance. Debtors, obtaining a Certificate of their having no visible estate or effects (given under the hands of the Minister, Church-Wardens, and Over seers of the Parish in which they last lived,) are allowed by the County a pound and half of good household bread per day, and one pound of good beef, without bone, per week. The bread is delivered three times in the week, in loaves of three pounds and a half each; the whole furnished by contract. Also four chaldrons of coals every year, which are distributed half-quarterly.

Those Debtors who receive their sixpences, have no County Allowance of food. To Felons, the same Allowance as to Certificated Debtors, and an equal quantity of coals. In cases of illness, the Surgeon, when it is necessary, takes off the County Allowance; and orders, at the charge of the County, such diet and nursing as he thinks proper.


This excellent Gaol, for the County of Lincoln, is situate in the Castle-Yard, which contains about seven acres of land, enclosed by a high wall.

Of the Castle of Lincoln, which was built by the Conqueror, little now survives the devastations of Time. The few remaining vestiges convey a similar idea of original Norman Architecture to that of York Castle, erected nearly at the same period.

The entrance to it is on the Eastern side, through an arched gateway, under a large square Tower. In the North-East angle of the wall is a curious small edifice, appearing from without the walls like a round Tower. It is called Cobb's Hall, and is believed to have been originally used as a Chapel; having a fine old vaulted roof, richly ornamented, and supported by pillars, with a crypt underneath, and adjoining to it a small Chapel. The pillars are so placed against the loop-holes, that they are said to have proved a defence against missile weapons.

Before the erection of The New Prison, this building was occasionally made use of by the Military, for the confinement of Deserters; but since that time, has very properly been discontinued. The first part of it is now, with the leave of the Gaoler, used by such joiners, cabinet-makers, &c. as can procure work from the Town; and this has proved a very considerable aid to many poor families. A Debtor of that description was working here, at my last visit, in 1809.

Near the North-Western angle are the reliques of an elevated turret, erected over the ancient arch of the Sally-Port, which has a groove adapted for a Portcullis. This part, being within the line of an old Roman wall, might have belonged to a still more ancient building, or been occupied as a gateway to the old Roman City, which lay on that side of the Castle.

About the middle of the South wall is the large Keep, or Tower, raised on a very high mound of earth, and standing half within, and half without the Castle walls, which ascend up the sides of the Hill, and join to the Great Tower. The form of the Keep is nearly circular; covering the summit of the Mount, and thereby rendered tenable with or without the Castle.

At the South-Eastern angle there is a lesser Keep, or Tower, placed also upon an artificial Mount; and thus a communication was kept up between the two Towers, by a covered-way on the wall; a part of which yet remains.

The Well, for supplying the Great Tower with water, stands on the top of the wall adjoining to it; but is now nearly filled up with rubbish. The whole of the walls, upon an average, are 10 feet thick at the top, about 14 feet at the bottom, and 25 feet high. The premises here attempted to be described, are held by lease from the Dutchy Court of Lancaster, for a term of thirty years, at the annual rent of Ten Shillings.

The New Gaol has been erected about two and twenty years, and is a good brick building, with stone facings. The front of it, containing the Gaoler's and the Debtors' apartments, is about 46 yards long; having nearly two acres of grass-plat lying before it, fenced off for the use of the Debtors, who enjoy the happy privilege of walking there during the day-time. It is supplied with a well of good water.

One half of the building is occupied by the Male Debtors, and has three day rooms for those of the Master's-side, of the average size 20 feet by 15 feet 6, and 12 feet 9 inches high: also one room for Common-side Debtors, 21 feet by 16, and of the same height as the former.

On the first floor are five lodging-rooms, of about 17 feet by 15 feet 6, and 11 feet high; with an airy passage communicating to them. On the second floor five other lodging-rooms, of the same dimensions, with a similar passage; and one of them is set apart for the Common-side Debtors.

N.B. In this Prison no communication whatever is at any time permitted be tween Debtors and Felons; and the Sexes are completely separated both by day and night.

The other half of this building is occupied by the Gaoler's house, excepting two attick rooms for Female Debtors; one a day-room, the other a night-room, in size 16 feet 9 inches by 16 feet, and each 10 feet high. In this story are also two large Infirmary-rooms, 20 feet each by 10, and 12 feet high.

The Chapel, 31 feet by 28, is neatly pewed. The Debtors and Felons are properly separated by a high framing, and the Women, during Divine Service, placed out of view of the Men. All the Prisoners, Debtors or Felons, are obliged to attend Chapel; and one Prisoner from time to time officiates there as Clerk; of which he receives a double allowance of provisions.

The Common Prison is so built, from the centre of the whole edifice on the South side, as to enjoy the benefit of sun and air in the court-yards. The passage down it lies in a line with the front-entrance door; and is arched above, 10 feet high by 5 feet wide. The lower end of it is laid open, with an iron grating; by which means the ventilation can never be obstructed.

This Common Prison comprizes, on the ground-floor, first, a "Strong Room," for refractory Debtors; another room opposite, containing a bath and oven; and next to these, three night-cells, of 10 feet by 8 feet 6, and 11 feet high, each set apart for two Prisoners, with wooden bedsteads, fastened to the floors.

Four day-rooms, with fire-places, are here also assigned to Prisoners of different descriptions; viz. No. 1, of 20 feet by 11, and 11 feet high, for Male Prisoners before Trial. No. 2, of in feet by 10, and 11 feet high, for Females in the same circumstance. No. 3, of 17 feet by 9, and 11 feet high, has Male Convicts under Sentence of Transportation: and No. 4, of 12 feet by 10, and the same height, is for those who are convicted for smaller offences. These day-rooms have each a court-yard, 45 feet by 30, communicating to them; and are all private with respect to each other; being separated by walls twenty-four feet high. The court yard of No. 2 has pumps, from which a supply of excellent water, both hard and soft, is at all times accessible to the Prisoners. And in the centre of the yard is a wash-house, with copper, tubs, &c.

Next to the above rooms are six night-cells, for single men, each 9 feet by 5 feet 9, and 11 feet high; with bedsteads as mentioned before. The night-cells on the ground floor are arched above, with strong oak boarding to the walls and floors; and the windows, looking into the court-yards, and double barred, have wooden shutters, to keep them close and warm at night. Every Felon in this Prison has straw-in ticking for his bed, with three blankets, and a rug.

The upper story contains seven other night-cells, and also the Turnkey's sleeping room; the average size of them 10 feet square, and 12 feet high. Here are likewise two larger apartments, of 20 feet each by 10 feet, and the same height as the former, for Male and Female Infirmaries. All the cells above stairs have glass windows, and arched roofs.

Adjoining to the building already described there have since been added four other solitary cells; two on each side of the passage, with fire-places and glass windows. Each cell is 13 feet 8 inches by 8 feet 9, and 11 feet high, and communicates respectively with separate court-yards, of 23 feet by 12. Over these four cells is the Chapel, before-mentioned.

The worthy Magistrates of this County are not only in a very humane degree, but also very religiously attentive to the comforts of the Prisoners. They have accordingly directed, that any sum, not exceeding Five Pounds per annum, shall be laid out, at the discretion of the Chaplain, in the purchase of Religious Tracts, for the common use of all. These, carefully numbered, and entered into a book as delivered out, are called in once a week, and then re-delivered in the same manner: by which means they have a change of readers; and their being lost or destroyed is prevented, by the regularity with which it is done.

The County does not allow bedding to the poor, or certificated Debtors; but two large apartments, a day and a night-room, are set apart, free of rent, or any charge whatever, for the use of those Debtors who choose to find their own bedding.

Master's-side Debtors, or such as can afford it, may go into rooms furnished by the Gaoler; for which, if two sleep together, they pay 1s. 6d. per week each. But if a Debtor has a bed to himself, it is 2s. 6d. weekly.

The Number of Debtors committed to Lincoln Castle in the last ten years, up to the 31st of December, 1809, was 518. The Number of Actions against them was 577; of which 212 were for Sums from Ten to Twenty pounds; 197 from Twenty to Fifty Pounds; and 168 for Fifty Pounds and upwards. Strange as it may appear, out of the whole number so imprisoned, two hundred and sixty two Debtor's were absolutely discharged, without their Plaintiff's obtaining one Farthing, either of Debt or Costs; a proof of the extreme folly of being so stimulated by their passions, as to go to Lay with fellow Creatures, too poor and miserable to afford them any prospect of payment; for such, surely, those must be, who are certificated as Paupers! Of the remaining 256 otherwise variously discharged, here, as in every Prison for Debt, a very great proportion obtain their Liberty from Plaintiffs, not by paying them the Debt, but by giving new undertakings for discharging it and Costs, by Instalments; from which, very seldom, if ever, is any thing obtained. Second Actions thereon are very rarely brought; the Plaintiffs having suffered sufficiently by the first experiment, from the immense addition of Costs, so frequently transcending the original Debt.

The County, as yet, furnishes no Employment within the Gaol; but Prisoners of handicraft trades have permission to obtain it on their own account, and gene rally procure work by an application to the Town.

Several houses of Correction where work is furnished, are to be found in each District and Division of the County of Lincoln. That established at Kirton for the Division of Lindsay (comprizing half the County) is a newly-erected and convenient building, under good Regulation, and the employment there is in the woollen line. Another House of Correction is also begun at Louth, for the same Division of Lindsay; but I understand it is undergoing many alterations and additions. The rest are at Folkingham, for the Parts of Kesteven; at Spalding, for the Holland Division, &c.

The Male Convicts of this Gaol wear a County Uniform, of blue and drab-coloured cloth. Assize Convicts, under sentence of Transportation, have the King's allowance of 2s.6d. per week, instead of the usual County Allowance.

From hence, two Guineas are annually paid by the Clerk of the Peace to poor Prisoners, both in the King's Bench and Marshalsea.

This Prison is perfectly dry. The whole is white-washed twice a year, and the day-rooms oftener, as they may happen to require it.

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

The gaol for the county, an unpretending brick elevation, together with the assize courts, Lincoln Castle, designed by Sir Robert Smirke in the castellated style, occupy but a small part of the County Gaol, extensive site of the ancient castle of Lincoln. The enclosure within the walls contains 6A. 3R. 37r. The castle, as it is still termed, although little of the old structure remains, is entered by a double gateway; in the intermediate space between the gates is a porter's lodge and offices for the clerk of the indictments and county surveyor. Considerable sums have, from lime to time, been expended in preserving and restoring the ancient walls with which the area is still begirt, and it is to be regretted that a former keeper was permitted the liberty of interfering with these interesting relics, and erecting, among other incongruous objects, the gazebo or summer-house in the angle near the gate. The open space in the castle-yard is laid out in garden and shrubbery. The ancient keep is appropriated as a place of interment for such prisoners as die within the walls or suffer the extreme sentence of the law. The gaol buildings were erected in 1789: they consist of a centre and two small pavilions or wings of three stories. The keeper's apartments comprise, in the basement, kitchen and cellerage; ground floor, magistrate's room and two parlours; first floor, six chambers; second floor, three chambers. The day-rooms, still made use of by the prisoners, are very ill situated for inspection. The infirmary is not detached, and consists, but of a small room on the first floor, the window most inconveniently looking into one of the airing-yards. The chapel, from some defect in the foundation, appears in a dangerous state, and is only preserved from falling by props.

Diet.—Breakfast, 1 pint of oatmeal gruel; dinner, four days, ½ lb. of boiled beef without bone; the other days, soup made from the liquor in which the meat was boiled, thickened with oatmeal; supper, 1 pint of oatmeal gruel; 1½ lb. of the best-wheaten bread daily. The county allowance to debtors, the same. Convicted prisoners, who do not work, receive meat only two days a-week.

Clothing.—Convicted prisoners are dressed in a coarse brown and drab cloth suit; prisoners for trial in a brown suit, or a twilled drab cotton frock and trowsers.

Bedding.—Straw palliasse, 3 blankets. The cells for criminals have each 3 berths or sleeping-places, rising from the floor on a slightly inclined plane, and divided by strong planking; they are each 6 ft. 1 in. long, and 1 ft. 10 in. wide.

Debtors, upon paying 1s. 6d. weekly to the county, are provided with feather bed, bolster, blankets, and 2 sheets.

Cleanliness.—The prison and persons of the prisoners clean.

Health.—The surgeon sees every prisoner twice a-week, attends also when required, and inspects the prisoners before they are classed. The prisoners are generally very healthy. He says, "The infirmary consists but of one small room, overlooking the airing yard No. 1, and with which communication is constantly carried on, so much so that I have discharged prisoners much earlier than I could have wished. There are but two beds in the infirmary, and space for no more. Upon one occasion, during the prevalence of the influenza, I had 13 prisoners on the sick list in bed, and should have moved them if there had been room. There is no foul ward: the itch is treated by placing the infected prisoner in one of the refractory cells, which, of course, has to be purified after every patient. There is no airing yard for the female debtors, and he is obliged, for the preservation of health, to order them to walk in the castle-yard. The prisoners generally improve in health after committal. They often say they are sorry to leave the place where they have been so well treated." The surgeon keeps the following books: Journal containing dates of visits, names of patients and diseases; order book; directions for extra food to prisoners. Number of sick, see Table.

Moral and Religions Instruction.—The chaplain performs one full service on the Sabbath, with prayers in the afternoon. Prayers every day in the week. The Sacrament is administered three times a-year. The average time spent by him daily in the prison he states to be from three-quarters of an hour to an hour. He says, "I see the prisoners occasionally: there are no fixed days for my visits. One of the turnkeys is appointed to instruct the male prisoners, and the matron does the same for the females: they seem to desire instruction. They are taught to write as well as read. The books are procured from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and I see them before distribution. The officers of the prison attend divine service regularly. I have found a wonderful difference in the conduct of men who have been sentenced to death, and then respited. In the latter case they seem to have forgotten many of the professions previously made." The turnkey, who is employed as an assistant in the instruction of the prisoners, states, "They are provided with Bibles, and slates and pencils. It generally happens that some of the prisoners can read: they instruct each other, and I superintend. They seem to like to be taught. The chaplain does not hear them read in the cells, and has not selected any portions of Scripture for them. The four prisoner now here, with sentence of death recorded, can read the Scriptures very well. The chaplain has not heard them read. He has not been into the day-rooms to them."

Upon visiting these prisoners, two, who stated they could scarcely read when they were committed, I found, upon examination, to do so fluently. Another was making progress in reading and writing; and the fourth, who had never been at any school, was able to read a little. The turnkey and chapel-clerk states, "In the winter evenings when they are locked in the day-rooms, previous to going to bed, I go into the rooms to hear them read, and teach them to write. Some of them delight in learning, to others it seems quite a bore. I generally find the older they are, the less inclined they are to learn, and the more difficult to teach. They are all more anxious to learn to write, and manifest it by wishing to begin, when they only read but very imperfectly. When they show a disposition for instruction or employment, they are allowed a candle, and are not locked up till seven in the winter. The chaplain is not present at the time the instruction is going on." The matron states, "Many of the females express a wish to be instructed. I have taught some of them to write. Those who wished to learn, always could do it. I have never had a refractory prisoner. The chaplain has heard the females once or twice during the last month. He is not in the habit of frequently visiting them." The magistrates have formed a library for the use of the prisoners; it is on the plan and under the same regulations as the Parochial Lending Libraries of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

The prisoners receive a catalogue, and make choice of any book they think proper. A book is kept in which is entered the title, date when lent, to whom lent, and date when returned. The transports under sentence generally read Robinson Crusoe; and the books most in request are Gay's Fables, The History of the Plague, Tales of a Grandfather, Life of Captain Cook, Duke of Marlborough and Wellington, Beauties of History, and Book of Trades. The religious books are very seldom asked for. The following is a list of books in the library:—

A Catalogue of the Books in the Library for the use of the Prisoners in Lincoln Castle.

  1. Pious Christian's Daily Preparation.
  2. Companion to the Altar.
  3. Nelson's Festivals and Fasts of the Church of England.
  4. Nelson's Practice of True Devotion.
  5. Whole Duty of Man.
  6. Law's Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.
  7. Trimmer's Prayers and Meditations.
  8. Trimmer's Pious Country Parishioner Instructed.
  9. Trimmer's Instructive Tales.
  10. Trimmer's Help to the Unlearned, vol. i., vol. ii.
  11. Horne on the Psalms.
  12. Horne's Consideration on the Life and Death of Abel, Enoch, Noah, and John the Baptist.
  13. Scougall's Life of God in the Soul of Man.
  14. Sellon's Abridgment of the Scriptures.
  15. Wilson's Maxims of Piety and Christianity.
  16. Wilson's Private Meditations and Prayers.
  17. Young's Manual of "Devotion and Instruction for the Use of Prisoners.
  18. Devotions of Bishop Andrews.
  19. Green's Four Last Things — Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
  20. Death Bed Scenes.
  21. Gilpin's Four Dialogues.
  22. Davys's Village Conversation on the Liturgy.
  23. On the Principal Offices of the Church—Baptism, Catechism, Confirmation, Matrimony, &c., &c.
  24. Cheap Repository Tracts: vol. i. contains The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, Two Shoemakers, Black Giles the Poacher, The Good Mother's Legacy, Happy Waterman, &c.
  25. Cheap Repository Tracts: vol. ii., containing Noah's Flood, Joseph and his Brethren, &c., Daniel in the Lions' Den, Look at Home, Death of Christ, &c., &c.
  26. Burnet's Life of Sir Matthew Hale.
  27. Bonnell, Life and Exemplary Character of.
  28. Burnet's Life of Rochester.
  29. Lives of Hooker, Herbert,.and Sanderson.
  30. Lives of the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Nelson, and the Duke of Wellington.,
  31. Beauties of History; or. Pictures of Virtue and Vice, drawn from Real Life.
  32. Book of Trades.
  33. Robinson Crusoe.
  34. History of the Plague and Fire of London.
  35. Trimmer's Fabulous Histories.
  36. Gay's Fables.
  37. Lives of John Truman and Richard Atkins.
  38. Tales of a Grandfather.
  39. Entertaining Medley.
  40. The Miscellany, or Evening Occupation.
  41. Miscellaneous Reading Book.
  42. Jones's Book of Nature.
  43. Life of Captain Cook.
  44. Bible Lesson Book.
  45. Crossman's Introduction to the Knowledge of the Christian Religion.
  46. Syneg's Answers to all Excuses and Pretences for not coming to the Holy Communion.

Offences and Punishments.—The ordinary offences are writing on and defacing the floors of the yards, communicating and throwing provisions from one airing yard to another, and attempts at escape; punished by confinement in the refractory cells and irons.

Weight of Irons.—6¾lbs. for refractory prisoners; 7¾lbs. for convicts.

Visits.—The prisoners are permitted to receive visits by an order from a magistrate. One day in the week is allowed for writing letters. The debtors see visitors from 10 to 12, and from 2 till 4. A large room is appropriated exclusively for debtors to see their friends, who are thereby most properly excluded from the interior, and no articles for them are admitted without being first examined by the officers.

Benefactions.—Robert Parkinson bequeathed, by will, dated 23d October 1770, 170l., to be invested in public securities, the interest arising therefrom to be paid, on Easter Monday, to such prisoners for debt who shall be willing to accept of their proportion of the same. Two pounds are anonymously sent to the keeper at Christmas, and distributed by him among the debtors.

Accounts, Expenditure, Books.—The county of Lincoln being in three divisions, with separate county-rates for each, the general business of the gaol is transacted at the sessions, hold quarterly for the purpose. The provisions are contracted for by public advertisement. The bills are sent in to the keeper, who checks them by the quantities: they are afterwards examined and passed at the sessions. The clerk draws an order upon the treasurer for the amount. The keeper pays the bills, and transmits the receipts to the clerk.

Debtors.—The management of the debtors, who are described as generally well-behaved, appears superior in this gaol to most other prisons. The establishment of a visiting-room, and the preventing strangers from entering into the interior of the prison, appears a very excellent regulation. The letting of bedding to the debtors on the part of the county is a great improvement over the usual practice of allowing the keeper to do so. The sum thus accruing to the county is about 30l. per annum.

Discipline.—The prisoners in this gaol are ordinarily those for trial, and under sentence of death and transportation. They are together in the day-rooms and airing yards during the day. From a species of observatory or tower on the top of the prison one of the turnkeys overlooks the yards, but in the day-rooms the prisoners are quite out of view. The turnkeys, as far as their various duties will admit, occupy themselves in instructing the prisoners, but I think much more might be done in the shape of moral and religious instruction than at present. I consider that the chaplain's labours might be very beneficially increased by more direct and frequent individual intercourse with the prisoners, superintending the school, selecting appropriate portions of Scripture for reading, and examining the progress of those under tuition. The appointment of a schoolmaster to be constantly among them I consider to be very desirable. The keeper says, "I am quite sure that a schoolmaster would have a very beneficial effect; the turnkeys are so occupied with other duties as to be unable to give themselves up to it entirely." The payment to the prisoners in money for employment while in the prison I think highly objectionable, and, particularly so, the permission given them to purchase tobacco. Among other practical lessons taught in a prison, should be that of convincing men addicted to this expensive and idle habit that they can do without it. The prohibition of the luxury of tobacco to all classes of prisoners, debtors or criminals, should, I think, be rigidly insisted upon. I consider the practice of serving out two days' allowance of bread at a time a very bad one: it tends to irregularity in meals, and to the bartering of provisions. Prisoners should invariably take their meals under the superintendence of the officers, and with the most scrupulous regularity. The inconvenient locality of the infirmary is further confirmed by one of the turnkey's, who says, "I have detected the prisoners talking and throwing bread and worsted from the infirmary to the airing yards below." The keeper states that "he has frequently asked the more respectable prisoners whether they would prefer being apart from the others, and they have always replied in the negative." There is a prisoner now confined hereof the better class, a native of the North of Ireland, who can read, write, and is otherwise well informed. He found even the reception cell so irksome as to complain of it, and requested to be placed with the other prisoners. One of the turnkeys likewise says, "They always wish for company: we always keep them apart till it is ascertained whether they are infected with any disease: they always wish the time over." The visiting magistrates go through the prison and see every prisoner once a-month.

Keeper.—Age 61; appointed 1830; salary 350l.; garden, coals, and candles.

Matron.—Age 51; appointed 1829; salary 40l.; coals and candles; resides in the prison.

Turnkey.—Age 33; appointed 1827; salary 70l.; coals and candles; resides in prison; read and write.

Turnkey.—Age 33; labourer; appointed 1836; salary 50l.; coals and candles; resides in prison; read and write.

Turnkey and Chapel Clerk.—Age 31; butcher by trade; appointed 1835; salary 40l.; coals and candles; resides in prison; read and write.

Porter.—Salary 60l.; coals and oil; resides in prison lodge.

Chaplain.—Appointed 1800; salary 200l.; vicar of St. Martin's in Lincoln; two services on Sundays; no curate; resides near to the prison.

Surgeon.—Appointed 1810; salary 50l.; 25l. for attendance, 25l. for medicine.

Between 1845 and 1848, a three-storey cell block and a new chapel were added to the site to allow it to implement the 'separate' regime. The cell block contained a short, female wing which included accommodation for the matron. The male wing comprised one short section and one long section separated section by an area which resembled the centre of a radial prison — this may have been making provision for later additions to the buildings. The chapel was placed at the centre rear of the 1789 block and had partitioned seats to prevent communication between the inmates.

Castle Gaol from the south-east, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Castle Gaol chapel interior, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Lincoln Castle Gaol from the west, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Lincoln Castle Gaol female section, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Lincoln Castle Gaol cell interior, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Lincoln Castle Gaol male section, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

Towards the end of 1848, there was increasing sickness among the inmates being housed in the new block. It was described as "a low bilious fever (or more technically gastric hepatic fever, of a low typhoid kind), attended with violent affections of the head." The outbreak reached its height in February 1849. A subsequent report suggested that the problem had been caused:

1st, by the want of water effectually to cleanse the water-closets in the cells (a want which has now been remedied); 2ndly, by the ventilation having at one time been both feeble and very irregular; 3rdly, by the stench arising from the large open vault which was under the debtors' old privy, as noticed in one of the extracts from my journal; 4thly, by the bad smell which arose, and still arises, from the privy and ash-pit in the debtors' airing-yard, arid by the damp air in the low passage from this privy and ash-pit to the prison; 5thly, by foul air which appeared to force its way from the great cesspool up the pipes into the cells and day-rooms; 6thly, as respects the males' division, by the crowded state of the prison.

Following the nationalisation of the prison system in 1878, the prison closed. The well-preserved building, whose partitioned chapel is a unique survivor of its type, is now the centre-piece of the Lincoln Castle heritage attraction.


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.

  • Lincolnshire Archives, St. Rumbold Street, Lincoln LN2 5AB. Register of convicts (1838-1874); List of felons and other offenders, Lincoln County Gaol (1791-1878); List of debtors received into the Gaol since 1 January 1791 (1809); Shrievalty papers, including list of prisoners of the Gaol in the Castle of Lincoln (1813, 1819); Convict returns for Lincoln Castle Gaol, containing detailed personal information (1855-72); Particulars of prisoners. Each form has a photograph of the prisoner on the back (1877-8); Record of weights of named prisoners on entry and monthly during confinement (1865-78); Session rolls, including various returns of prisoners in Lincoln Gaol (1809, 1813, 1815, 1817, 1819, 1820, 1824).
  • The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Register of prisoners (1808-42); Register of debtors (1810-22); Register of felons (1820-46).
  • 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.