Ancestry UK

Tower Hamlets Gaol, Whitechapel, London

The Whitechapel Town Gaol (not to be confused with Whitechapel Prison) occupied a site on Neptune Street, at the south of Wellclose (or Well Close) Square, Whitechapel — hence its alternative names of Wellclose Prison and Neptune Street Prison.

In 1791, John Howard wrote:

This prison is at a public house, kept by an honest Swede, who is gaoler. There is a court-room in the house for the Tower Hamlets. The prison-yard was 116 feet by 18, latticed over head. At one end, were two large rooms; in which French prisoners were confined some years ago. The prison-rooms were towards the other end of the court: on the ground-floor a day-room or closet about 5½ feet by 3½, with a chimney. Up stairs three night-rooms. Debtors from the court of conscience are sent to Clerkenwell bridewell. Fees, 9s. 1d. No table. Allowance, from a penny to two pence a day. No straw. At my last visit the prison was almost in ruins.

1774, April 29Prisoners 1
1776, March 90
1776, May 171
1779, Aug. 100
1782, Dec. 130

In 1812, James Neild reported:

This Prison is at the King's Arms publick house, kept by William Morris, who is the Gaoler. There is a court-room, in the House where the Quarter Sessions for the Tower Hamlets are held. The Prison consists of two rooms, 16 feet by 10: one of them has a barrack bedstead in it; both are in a very ruinous state, and filled with straw and lumber.

The last Prisoner here was one Fletcher, committed under the Hair-Powder Act in l801. Since that time Prisoners have been sent to the House of Correction in Cold Bath Fields.


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.