Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Ludlow, Shropshire

In 1764, Borough Gaol was re-opened at the eastern end of Tower Street, Ludlow. Designed by Farnolls Pritchard, it replaced a much older prison on the same site, part of the town walls variously known as Galdeford's Tower, Gaolford Tower and Gauvet's Tower.

In 1784, John Howard wrote:

LUDLOW Town Gaol, called Gaolford's Tower, was an ancient prison, but was rebuilt, as appears by inscription on the front, in 1764. For felons &c. two lower rooms vaulted, about 15 feet square, with chimneys. Two rooms above, more spacious and airy, for debtors. Allowance, three halfpence a day. No court: no water. A sergeant at mace keeper, each of the three in annual rotation.

1774, July 1, Prisoners 0.1779, July 27, Prisoners 2.
1779, May 16,Prisoners 0. Deserter 1.1782, Sep. 27, Prisoners 0

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler. The Corporation appoint three persons, as Sergeants at Mace; who attend them to execute Processes, and are alternate Gaolers, to whom a Salary is allowed by the Corporation. Fees, on discharge, 13s. 4d.

Surgeon, when wanted, from the Parish.

Prisoners, 3d June 1802. None.

Allowance, sixpence a day.


This Gaol stands in the street named "August Fee," and is usually called Gauvet's Tower. It consists of one room, 24 feet by 18, and three others, 18 feet square. No bedding provided. Straw was found by the then Gaoler, Joseph Scott.

The persons committed hither are chiefly for small offences, and take their Trial at the Quarter Sessions held in the Town.

In 1820, the prison was repaired and considerably improved. Adjacent land was purchased for the erection of a residence for the keeper, and for airing yards for the prisoners.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This small prison stands in a garden at the back of a House occupied by an Officer of Police. A brick paved passage on the right conducts to two Cells, each 8 feet 8 inches by 6 feet 9 inches. One of them is occupied by Men, and the other by Women. A grating between the Cells is the only mode of admitting Air to the inner Cell, in which females are confined. The Men's Cell has a Window into a Garden. There is, therefore, every facility for the conversation of prisoners in the respective Cells. We found a female in the women's Cell: it was exceedingly close and offensive, as well as damp. It had not been before unlocked that day, although it was 12 o'clock. These lower Cells are not fit to be inhabited. In a floor above are two Rooms, the windows of which look into the garden. In this garden the Prisoners are allowed to take exercise daily for an hour; the men and women alternately. On these occasions conversation goes on with the prisoners of both sexes. We found two men and two women in the upper apartments. The number of commitments to this gaol is small. In the year 1835 but nine prisoners were in confinement. An increase has taken place, as in the first six months in 1836, 14 prisoners had been committed.

The female prisoners are not attended by a female officer. There is no separate Apartment for the Sick, nor any religious instruction. One Debtor was in confinement a year and 73 days. The prison-garden can be overlooked from adjacent Buildings, and attempts are frequently detected of throwing articles over the wall to the Prisoners when walking therein.

At the period of this visit we found six persons in confinement, three men and three women. We were, however, assured that this was above the average number, which did not exceed four. We beg to recommend the erection of a sufficient number of Cells which will not admit of communication.

The Inspectors' report for the following year recorded:

Construction.—The gaol is overlooked by one building, which has in it a door and small window. It is extremely small and inconvenient.

It contains one large yard adjoining the gaoler's garden.

On the ground-floor are two cells, one of which appears to be intended for a dark cell. A small day-room communicates with these two cells, in which is a fireplace. There is a large debtor's room on the first floor, and a large criminal's cell, both of which have a fire-place in them. There is one privy.

There is no pump, and the water for the use of the prisoners is conveyed through pipes.

A station-house has been taken from the old prison, containing three cells. The window of one of these station-cells looks upon the prison-yard, and communication becomes extremely easy.

Management.—The gaoler has been here three years and a quarter; he has no trade, but is superintendant of police, for which he receives 10l. a-year; he has fifty guineas yearly, with coals and candles, as keeper of the prison. Tobacco is not allowed. It is impossible to maintain a good discipline in the present building. There are no printed rules.

Diet.—The allowance made to the prisoners is gruel every morning and evening, a 2lb. loaf of the best bread, potatoes, and a slice of meat or of bacon daily.

Account Books and Registration.—There is only one register-book kept and one account book.

Visits.—No one is allowed to visit the prisoners without an order from the mayor or magistrate.

Letters.—All letters are first read over before going out of the gaol by the gaoler, and those which enter by the mayor.

Bedding and Clothing.—There are 5 mattresses, 10 blankets, 5 rugs, and 10 sheets. There are 4 suits of clothes for the male prisoners; only 4 shifts are provided for the women. There are no shoes nor stockings found for the prisoners.

Religious and other Instruction.—None such existed at the time of my visit. There is no chapel and no chaplain.

Punishment.—If the prisoners require punishment the gaoler locks them up for a few hours in the day. He never reduces the diet.

Labour.—The prisoners are employed in breaking stones, with which the gaoler used to mend the streets. The prisoners now receive no profit from their labour.

Care of the Sick, Disease, and Mortality.—There is a surgeon appointed, to whom the gaoler applies when necessary. One prisoner has suffered from itch during the year. The prisoners occasionally have colds, but suffer from no other complaints. There was no influenza here in the last spring. During three years no death has taken place.

General Statistics.

No. I.—Expenditure.—

£.  s.  d.
Expenditure of1st quarter of 1836 was2 :  1 : 0
"2d5 :19 : 6
"3d8 : 9 :11
"4th9 : 6 : 2

The above items included all the expenses, except coals, soap, and repairs.

No. II.—Progress of the Population (including Debtors):—

No. of prisonersMichaelmas 1825 to Michaelmas 18269
"Michaelmas 1826 to Michaelmas 182714
"Michaelmas 1827 to Michaelmas 182818
"Michaelmas 1828 to Michaelmas 18298
"Michaelmas 1829 to Michaelmas 18307
"January 1831 to December 18311
"during the year 183210
I found no return for the year 1833.
No. of prisonersduring the year 18344
"during the year 18359
"during the year 183630
"during the year 183717

No. III.—Since the commencement of the register, which began at Michaelmas 1825, I find that there have been 11 debtors out of the entire number of prisoners whom I have mentioned. There was no debtor at the time of my visiting this prison. The last debtor who had been there came in the year 1835 and left in the year 1836, after an imprisonment of 16 months' duration.

No. IV.—The greatest number of prisoners in the prison at one time, during the year 1837, was 12, of whom 4 were women.

No. V.—The greatest number of prisoners at one time seldom exceeds 5; there are often only 3, exclusively of the night-charges committed to the station cells.

No. VI.—I found only one prisoner here; he was under sentence of transportation waiting the order. He had been confined here during six weeks.

Suggestions towards Improvement.

1. There is no room here set apart for the performance of Divine service, nor is there any chaplain.

2. There has been no appointment of a matron, nor has any female received instructions to execute that office when its duties are requisite.

3. It would be advantageous to relieve the keeper from the duties of superintendent of police, which interfere with his own functions; he has sufficient business to attend to within the walls of the prison.

4. To appoint a fixed diet for the prisoners, instead of allowing them to be fed by the keeper, who receives 6d. daily per head for that purpose.

5. To have separate beds and separate mattresses: at present two individuals are sleeping in the same bed.

6. To supply religious books, of which I found none.

7. The large cells (or rather rooms) may be divided into two parts, and thus a greater number of cells may be obtained. The present room for debtors may be also converted into two separate cells; and the criminal cell on the upper floor might in that case be appropriated as a debtors' cell.

8. To make rules.

The prison closed in around 1853 and converted for use as a lock-up. From that time, borough prisoners were sent to the count gaol at Shrewsbury. Most of the surviving parts of the building were demolished in about 1970 and only a fragment of its west side now remains.


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.

  • Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Virtually no records survive.
  • 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.