Ancestry UK

City Gaol, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

Lincoln's City Gaol was in existence by at least 1549 and occupied parts of the Guildhall buildings at the city's Stonebow gate, on what is now Guildhall Street. The gaol included dungeons for felons, and a small debtor's prison at street level.

Stonebow Gate and Guildhall, Lincoln, 2022. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1784, John Howard wrote an account of the establishment:

GAOLER, Francis Toyn.
Salary, £20.
Fees, Debtors and Felons, £0 : 6 : 8.
Transports, £10 each.
Licence, Beer.

Allowance, Debtors, none.
Felons, one shilling a week.
Garnish, one shilling:

Debtors.Felons &c.Debtors.Felons &c.
1774, Jan. 27,3,2.1779, May 6,1,0.
1776, Jan. 31,0,1.1782, Feb. 1,1,1.
1776, Sep. 23,0,2. 


SURGEON, none.

This gaol, at the Stonebow gate, has one large room for men-debtors, one smaller for women, both up stairs: in each a fire-place. The rooms for criminals are two dungeons down three steps; damp earth floors. In one of them (13 feet 4 inches by 12 feet 2 inches) is a cage in which the sickly criminal I saw at my last visit, was locked up at night. No court: no water accessible to prisoners: no straw. The act for preserving the health of prisoners not hung up. Clauses against spirituous liquors, fairly written on parchment, were framed and hung up.

A Table of—Rates and Fees—settled by the Justices—at a General Quarter Sessions—held at the Guild-Hall—within the first whole week next after the Translation of St. Thomas the Martyr to wit, on the 14th day of July in the 33d—of George II— 1759 pursuant to—an Act for Relief of Debtors &
£  s.  D. 
Every debtor that lies in a bed belonging to the keeper is to pay one shilling weekly and no more0  :  1  :  0
Any debtor that finds a bed and places it in the common room is to pay nothing for his lodging0  :  0  :  0
Every prisoner for debt is to pay one fee to the keeper for his discharge out of prison though he stands committed in several actions and that fee no more than six shillings and eight pence0  :  6  :  8
Every felon is to pay to the gaoler for his discharge out of prison fix shillings and eight pence and no more0  :  6  :  8
If not continued in prison above a week then to pay only three shillings and four pence0  :  3  :  4
Every prisoner that will eat with the gaoler is to pay for his lodging and diet weekly four shillings and six pence having three meals a day0  :  4  :  6
Every prisoner committed from the bar by the judge of assize or sessions is to pay the gaoler for his discharge three shillings and four pence and no more 0  :  3  :  4
We the Judges of Assize for the city of Lincoln and County of the same City have reviewed this Table of Fees and do hereby confirm the same, Given under our Hands this 9th day of August 1759. T PARKER  JA HEWITT

In 1808, James Neild recorded his visits to the establishment:

Gaoler, Samuel Tuke; Salary, 40l.
Fees, on discharge, 6s. 8d.
Garnish. Abolished.

Surgeon, when wanted: makes a bill.

Number of Debtors: 1802, Aug. 12th, 1; 1804, Aug. 13th, 1.

Allowance. To poor debtors 1s.6d. per week.

This Gaol, at the Stone Bow-Gate, has one large room, 10 yards by 5, for men debtors; and one smaller, for women; both upstairs,with iron grated windows towards the street; in each a fire place, a wood bedstead with straw, two blankets and a rug. These rooms are occasionally used for criminal prisoners. No Court yard. They have now (1806) good water accessible, and a sewer. The Clauses against Spirituous Liquors hung up, but not the Act for Preservation of Health*. The whole prison dirty and dilapidated in the extreme. A new prison is nearly finished, which will render this wretched Gaol unnecessary.

* The Gaoler told me,that in July 1801 he had nearly lost his life by four intoxicated felons, to whom a soldier's musket had been conveyed through the grating; and observed, How is it possible for us to prevent liquors being handed in at the street-windows?

In 1809, the prison moved to new premises on Monks Road, Lincoln, which it shared with the City Bridewell, formerly on Free School Lane.


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.


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