Ancestry UK

City Gaol and Bridewell, Lincoln, Lincolnshire

In 1809, Lincoln 's existing City Gaol, previously on Guildhall Street, and City Bridewell, previously on Free School Lane, moved to new joint premises on Monks Road, Lincoln. The new buildings, including an adjoining sessions house, cost about £10,000.

In 1812, James Neild described the new institution:

Gaoler, Thomas Drewry. Salary, 40l. Fees, Debtors & Felons, 6s. 8d. on discharge.

Chaplain, none yet appointed.

Surgeon, Mr. Swan. Salary, none. Makes a Bill.

Number of Prisoners, 1809, Sept. 5th, Debtors, 0. Felons, &c. 9.

Allowance, four-pence halfpenny each per day, in money.


A handsome new-built Sessions House fronts the Road; and the Gaol, (first inhabited in 1808,) is immediately behind it. The Keeper's house is at the South West corner; and his windows command a view of the Debtors' court only, which is 27 feet by 21, and has their day-room, of 18 feet by 11, opening into it.

On the Chamber Story are two sleeping-rooms, with fire-places, and grated glazed windows. One of these rooms holds two beds, the other holds five; and they are supplied with feather-beds, bedding, and suitable furniture.

Close to the boundary wall is an inspecting walk, 5 feet wide, which encircles the whole Prison; and the several court-yards are separated from it by an open wood palisade, 12 feet high. A flagged passage, 60 feet long and 6 feet wide, runs through the centre of the Gaol, and has three iron-palisaded doors of separation.

On the Ground Floor are two day-rooms, of 18 feet by 11 each, with separate court-yards, 27 feet square, for Male and Female Felons; and two others, of the same size, for Petty Offenders.

For Vagrants here is a room of 11 feet by 8; with a court 27 feet by 9. Also one solitary cell of 11 feet by 8, to which a small court is attached, of about the same size as the former.

Felons, and other Criminal Prisoners, have nine sleeping-cells, 10 feet each by 8; and are allowed a wooden bedstead for two, with straw-in-ticking bed, two blankets, a bolster, and a rug. The windows of these cells are double-grated, and have inside shutters.

The six day-rooms, and two Infirmaries, are 17 feet 6 by 10 feet, and have fire places. The court-yards are all gravel-bottomed, and have gratings in the centre, to carry off rain and wet. Every court is supplied with spring water; and there is a reservoir provided, from which the whole Prison has soft water, laid on by pipes.

In 1824, there was a work-room containing machinery for breaking flax but that it had not been in use for the past year as it had proved a loss-mking activity.

By 1832, a tread-mill had been installed, at which the convicted prisoners, both male and female, worked in separate compartments for about six hours daily. By the same date, a chaplain had been appointed, who read prayers and preaches a sermon on Sunday. There was no matron or female officer.

In 1838, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This prison is connected with the sessions house, and stands in an open, airy situation; on ground the property of the corporation. The sessions-house is a neat brick elevation; with an open space in front separating it from the public road. The prison is placed at the back, and, besides the keeper's house, contains on the ground floor four day-rooms, four cells, and seven airing-yards and tread-wheel. The rooms are 17 ft. 6 in. by 10 ft. and the cells 10 ft. by 8 ft. In the first floor are two sleeping-rooms, each 17 ft. 6 in. by 10 ft., and eight cells, 9 ft. 9 in. by 7 ft..6 in.; two airing-yards 29 ft. by 21 ft.; two ditto 29 ft. by 18 ft.; one ditto 29 ft. by 13 ft. 6 in.; two ditto 10 ft. by 11 feet 6 inches; three refractory and sitting-room on the ground floor, and four chambers on the first floor. There is neither chapel nor infirmary. Divine service is performed to the prisoners in the court-house. The refractory cells are detached from the main buildings. The roofs of these cells are sheeted with iron, in a decayed state, and above them is a loft, very easily reached, and from which escape is easy. The roof of the tread-wheel shed being simply lath and plaster, and abutting beyond the boundary wall, is very insecure. Three of the airing-yards are only fenced at their ends with a slight stockade, offering no impediment to a prisoner's clambering over them, which not unfrequently happens. All the airing-yards are unpaved. On the convicted side the privies are most offensively placed in the centre of the yards. It is scarcely possible to conceive a building more inconvenient for its purposes than the city gaol of Lincoln.

Diet.—The town council allow 5d. per day to each prisoner for his maintenance, which they are permitted to expend as they please. The keeper says, "I go round with a slate, they give me their orders, and I cater for them; sometimes they will order at once sufficient for two or three days, and are without any thing the rest. One boy, between 10 and 11 years of age, was actually furnished in one day with the following quantities of provisions: breakfast, coffee and bread; dinner, ½ lb. of bacon, ½ peck green peas, two basins of broth; supper, coffee and bread. It takes an hour every morning to mark for them." Ho is obliged to buy and keep by him in the house a variety of articles, such as tea, coffee, onions, &c. Occasionally two or three prisoners board together, they order what they want at a time, and he settles with them once a week; sometimes they are in credit, sometimes in debt. There are a number of knives, forks, plates, &c. in the prison, for which each prisoner on coming in pays a sort of garnish, and acquires a property in them. If one comes in without money, the keeper supplies him with utensils, and stops it out of his allowance for maintenance. The females are upon the same footing as the males.

Clothing.—No prison dress. When a prisoner is without clothing secondhand clothes are purchased.

Bedding.—Wooden bedstead, palliasse, two blankets, and rug.

Fuel.—Coals allowed all the year round, two pecks to each room every third day.

Cleanliness.—The cells and passages clean; the day-rooms, from the practice of cooking in them, dirty. No bath in the prison.

Health.—The surgeon has no fixed salary. He attends when required by sickness. He states, "There is no place set apart for the sick. A case of typhus occurred which was fatal; a female who nursed the prisoner also took the disease, but recovered. The vagrants mostly come in with the itch, and have communicated it to others in the prison. His bills have averaged about £20 a-year; the principal expense has been for attending vagrants."

Moral and Religious Instruction.—The chaplain performs one full service with sermon on Sunday, and visits the prison twice a-week. He sees the prisoners at those periods, but not for the purpose of reading or instruction. He says "I believe the books generally pass through my hands; I have provided elementary books, but have found rather an aversion to instruction among the prisoners than otherwise. There is a general want of order and arrangement through the establishment. The sacrament was administered to the prisoner who died of typhus. Many of the prisoners can read, but have no knowledge of religion. The boy now in solitary confinement has some vague ideas of religion: somebody told him previously he would go to the devil, and he asked me whether there really was a devil?" The chaplain keeps no journal.

Labour.—The male prisoners sentenced to hard labour are placed upon the tread-wheel, or employed in shoe-making, &c.; the women do the prison washing. The untried have latterly been taught to knit. There is none except upon the tread-wheel, they go on at nine, come off at twelve, on again at half-past one until dark.

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 on Wheels to the total number employed. Number of Feet in Ascent per Day as per Hours of Employ­ment. Revolutions of the Wheel per Day. The Daily Amount of Labour to be performed by every Prisoner. How recorded with precision. Application of its Power.
7 Hours from Michaelmas to Lady-day; 9 hours from Lady-day to Michaelmas. 12 8 Inches. One. Equal. From Michaelmas to Lady-day 6720; Lady-day to Michaelmas 8640. From Michaelmas to Lady-day 420; Lady-day to Michaelmas 540. From Michaelmas to Lady-day 7 hours; Lady-day to Michaelmas 9 hours. The Turnkey attends to see that the Prisoners work the Wheel: there is no way of answering this otherwise. None.

Irons.—Weight 9 lbs.

Visits.—To the untried on any day, and on Monday to the convicted by order from a magistrate. Visits to the debtors are not permitted to be longer than half an hour for each visitor.

Discipline.—Indifferent as the state of this prison is at present, it is greatly improved since the inspector's visit in May 1835. Its filthy and disorderly stale at that period is hardly to be credited. Another and more active keeper has been appointed, but what with the inconvenient construction, limited assistance, and wretched system of management here pursued, it is impossible to expect any other result but that its inmates must leave it morally worse than they entered. I cannot too strongly reprobate the practice of allowing prisoners a daily sum of money, with permission to purchase whatever articles they please. The debtors from a local court for the recovery of debts under 40s., if they do not receive the 4d. a-day, may have what quantity of beer they please. The keeper states, The prisoners care nothing for the confinement nor for the labour on the wheel. He has detected the men and women in communication with each other." The only turnkey states his duty to he as follows: "To sweep the passages and crossing, wash the steps, remove the ashes, bring the coals, overlook the tread-wheel, assist at locking up and unlocking, and to act as clerk to the chaplain on Sundays, an accumulation of offices quite impossible to satisfactorily be performed by an individual. The prisoners will not be quiet on the wheel; at times they pay no attention to what I say." The turnkey further states, "They talk at night, and frequently throw articles over the walls of the airing-yards to each other. The yards not being paved, they throw stones and break the windows." Upon my going through the prison, I found the prisoners were sleeping two in a bed contrary to law. In the day-rooms were books, newspapers, and other articles lying promiscuously about. One prisoner had kept a regular diary in the following form:—

"July 4th. Election polling day." "Peg Ley come back for three days," Others had in their possession a bill of Wombwell's menagerie, a printed election squib under the title of "Entry for Lincoln Races." "Account of Mrs. Pallister, and of the wonderful appearances which rested upon the surface." "Report of the trial of John Dempsey for murder, 1836." " Marmontel's Moral Tales." "Miscellaneous Poems." "Lord Byron's Woman." On others were found money amounting to several shillings; one man had sold his coat to another for 2s. The forms and benches were covered with the marks of gambling.

There is no responsible paid female officer to attend upon the women, the keeper's wife doing the duty gratuitously. Much improvement may be effected in this prison notwithstanding its faulty construction, which seems almost irremediable. A suitable diet, the enforcement of regularity at meals, the appointment of a matron and an additional turnkey, a gaol dress, at least for the convicted prisoners, and a restriction upon the quantity of clothes and other articles improperly brought into the prison, the providing a bath, some attention to the moral and religious instruction of the prisoners, all would be beneficial.

Officers.—Keeper, age 36; appointed 1837; salary 80l.

Turnkey.—Age 27; appointed 1837; salary 40l.

Chaplain.—Appointed 1828; salary 25l. Has the curacy of Nettlesham, and is master of the Lincoln Grammar-school."

NOTE.—Since the Inspector's visit, a regular diet has been established salaries awarded to the surgeon and matron, and a set of rules for the government of the prison been drawn up, and received the sanction of the Secretary of State.

The establishment was closed following the nationalisation of the prison system in 1878. The buildings were subsequently demolished and a new School of Science and Art was erected on the site.


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