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Town Gaol and House of Correction, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland

In 1828, a combined Town Gaol and House of Correction were erected on Carliol Square, Newcastle, replacing the existing Newgate, Castle Keep and Moot Hall prisons. The building was designed by John Dobson and adopted the then popular radial layout, with cell wings radiating from, though not connected to, the central governor's house,

In 1827, Eanas Mackenzie provided an account of the construction of the new prison:

At the spring assizes in 1820, Newgate gaol was presented by the grand jury of the town, "as being out of repair, and inconvenient, insufficient, and insecure." As both the common gaol and house of correction belonged to the corporation, and the inhabitants were subjected to the payment of county rates, "doubts were entertained with whom the legal liability rested of repairing and rendering the same convenient, sufficient, and secure." In order to obviate these doubts, and to avoid the delay and expense of litigating the question, application was made to parliament for "An Act for building a new Gaol and a new House of Correction in and for the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne, and for other Purposes relating thereto."

The different parishes of the town held several meetings on this subject, and at length agreed to depute Mr. William Coates, cooper and wine merchant, and Messrs. Joseph Bainbridge and Thomas Brown, solicitors, to watch over the progress of this bill, in conjunction with Nathaniel Clayton, Esq. the town's clerk. All the clauses of the bill were amicably settled; and, after passing through the several stages, it received the royal assent 24th May, 1822.

The mayor, recorder, and aldermen, with two persons nominated by each parish on behalf of the inhabitants, were appointed commissioners for carrying this act into execution. Opinions differed respecting the best scite for the intended buildings; but at length it was agreed to fix upon the south end of the Carliol Croft. As this situation is objectionable in so many points of view, it would be extremely difficult to conjecture the reasons that induced the commissioners to make such a selection. Its comparative nearness to the Town's Court has been mentioned as an advantage it possesses over other situations, apparently more eligible. The ground, which measures two acres, was purchased of James Graham Clarke, Esq. for £2000.

The plans furnished by Mr. John Dobson, architect, being approved of by the magistrates and commissioners, Mr. Robert Robson contracted to execute the masonwork, the late Mr. James Glynn to furnish the cast iron pillars, &c. Mr. Welford of Gateshead to make the iron doors, and Mr. John Scott the smaller and nicer ironwork. The digging of the foundation, and the building of large sewers underneath the intended wings of the building, were immediately commenced; and the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone took place at two o'clock in the afternoon of the 4th of June, 1823. Robert Bell, Esq. mayor, preceded by the regalia of the corporation, and accompanied by the recorder, aldermen, and sheriff, with the commissioners representing the four parishes, went in procession from the Guild-Hall to the scite of the intended prisons. A glass vase, containing all the coins struck during the reign of his present majesty, was deposited in a cavity of the stone by William Boyd, Esq. the treasurer to the commissioners; after which, a brass plate, bearing an appropriate inscription, was inserted. The following is a facsimile of the inscription:—

being the Foundation Stone of the
Was laid by the
The 4th Day of June in the 4th Year
of the Reign of his
A. D. 1823.
John Dobson, Architect.

The mayor then proceeded to lay the stone with a silver trowel, which he afterwards presented to the architect. He then addressed the spectators in a brief and energetic speech, which was received with hearty cheers, answered by a discharge of artillery from the Castle. This was succeeded by the ringing of the bells of the several churches. The mayor afterwards entertained the magistrates, commissioners, and others concerned, at the Mansion House.

The architect, in devising the plan of these buildings, has endeavoured to render them applicable to the three chief purposes of prisons, by providing, 1st, for the safe custody of the prisoners; 2dly, for their punishment; and, 3dly, for their reformation. By erecting a circular or elliptical building for the residence of the keepers, from which they can at all times unseen inspect the radiating wings of the prisons, the barbarous contrivance of dungeons and fetters become unnecessary, and misbehaviour cannot elude observation and instant correction. The committee of "the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline," recommended that such wings be built so as to contain a double row of cells; but Mr. Dobson, who has devoted much time and attention to this subject, demonstrated the danger and impropriety of this arrangement, and advised single rows, which they at last approved of. In this building, each wing contains but a single row of cells; and the windows are opposite to the blank, back wall of the next wing, so that no telegraph conversation can be held between the different classes, who will be as completely separated from each other as if they were inhabitants of different regions. It has also been a leading object to provide the cheapest accommodations to the prisoners, not imparting injury to health; for unwholesome cells, or the losing a portion of health, can never be a proper punishment; nor ought persons who are merely detained in safe custody until trial suffer any unnecessary privations.

This massive building is enclosed by a thick wall, twenty-five feet in height above the inner courts. The entrance is by a strong tower on the west side, in which is an arched gateway, fourteen feet in height. Above the outer entrance is a large stone, on which it is proposed to cut the arms of the town. Two ponderous gates are to secure this entrance. Between them is the door of the porter's lodge; but he can speak to persons wanting admittance through a window on the outside. Apartments above may be used for prisoners detained in default of bail, and other purposes. The opposite side may probably be appropriated for the reception of vagrants, &c.

On passing the inner gate, the strong and lofty centre tower opens to the view, the grand entrance to which is ascended by eighteen long steps. Above these is an arch formed of immense blocks of stone, beyond which is a circular recess, with a dome roof. The dim shadows of the figures pacing along this covered vestibule must tend to impress the minds of strangers with feelings of awe and apprehension. There are also private stairs on each side of this building, which lead to the wings behind.

On the ground-floor, and below the outer stairs, is a large arched cellar for coals, with ash-holes on each side. On the right hand side is a large, convenient washhouse, with store-rooms, &c.; and on the other side, a warm and cold bath, water closets, &c.: the whole well adapted for the convenience of a large establishment. At the extremity of the grand landing-place is the committee-room and office of the governor, which command, on one side, a view of two of the radiated wings and airing courts; and, on the other, of the gateway and approaching avenue. The apartments of the keeper of the house of correction adjoin, and afford a view of the task-rooms and yards belonging to his department, as well as of the outer gateway. On the opposite side are apartments for the matron, who can overlook the prison and grounds appropriated for female prisoners. On ringing a bell, either the matron, turnkey, or keeper of the house of correction, may be summoned, by a private passage, into the governor's office. Above is a parlour, kitchen, and back-kitchen, for the governor; and on the other side, other apartments for the keeper of the house of correction. The floor above contains the governor's bed-room, dressing room, and store-rooms. The semicircular part of the fourth story contains the chapel, which will be lighted from the sides of a dome. The prisoners will be marched from the upper gallery of their own wing, across an iron bridge, to the door of the chapel, which opens into their pew. There will be nine doors and nine pews for the different classes; and the pews being divided by partitions, extending to the roof of the chapel, the view of each class will be confined to the pulpit. The altar will stand in front of the pulpit, on one side of which will be a pew for the governor's family, and on the other one for the keeper of the house of correction. Behind this, and concealed by a screen, is space for another, which may be appropriated for female debtors. The clergyman, governor, &c. will have a clear view of all the congregation in their several boxes. One side of this story will contain a large cistern for rain water, and another which will be kept full of water raised by a force-pump. The other side will contain bed-rooms for the servants. The stairs of this building are formed entirely of stone.

The first radiating wing on the right hand side is intended to be a house of correction for male prisoners. It consists of four stories, two of which have a day, or work-room, open to the inspection of the keeper. In the lowest story are four solitary cells, without fire-places, and having but one narrow window. These are for incorrigible offenders of the worst class. The cells in the second story are for a better description; and in the third are three light sleeping cells, and a sick-chamber, with water-closet, &c. The highest story also contains a sick chamber and seven sleeping cells. Most of the cells in this row measure nine feet by five feet.

The second wing, being on higher ground, is only three stories high; and the sleeping cells do not exceed eight feet by five feet. The ground-floor contains a sick-room, with conveniences, and three sleeping cells. On the next floor are a large, airy work-room, one night-cell, and a sick-room; and on the third story are a sick-room and seven sleeping cells. This wing may be appropriated to female prisoners consigned to hard labour. The arrangements of the next two wings are nearly similar. The wing on the left hand on entering is intended to be the debtor's prison. The cells, even on the ground-floor, are light and airy; and all the stories above have accommodations necessary for health and cleanliness. The upper gallery, in bad weather, will afford an airy promenade, the ends being secured only by iron barred gates.

The roofs of the day-rooms in this prison are formed of large stone flags, supported by cast metal pillars, across which are iron joists. Thus the roof of one row of rooms becomes the floor of the one above. The highest apartments are also ceiled with stone, above which is ruble masonry supported along the top of the buildings by projecting stone cornices. The sick-rooms have no pillars, the roofs being secured by French joints. All the cells and passages are well ventilated; and, from the narrowness of the windows, and the thick, solid masonry of the walls, the temperature of the air must always be tolerably mild. When once thoroughly dried, no moisture will ever penetrate to the cells. All the water-closets are constructed on a new and improved plan, and can never emit any offensive or unhealthy smell. The two yards between each building will be divided by a wall fourteen feet in height. At the south side of the large airing court for males, a tread-mill will be erected; and should this mode of punishment continue in fashion, others may be erected in the private yard of any particular class. The large airing court on the left hand of the entrance is to be appropriated to the debtors, who perhaps may be also permitted to walk in the garden, which will adjoin the felons' gaol. It was once in contemplation to use one division of the outer tower as a watch-house and temporary night prison.

According to the original plan, these prisons were to consist of six radiating wings; but the commissioners have resolved to build only five at present. People, in comparing the old and new prisons, are struck by the disproportioned magnitude of the latter, without reflecting on the greater space requisite for the improved system of prison discipline, and the classification actually required by act of parliament. Fifty prisoners, if properly divided, may require as much room as a hundred; as a particular ward may be occupied by four or five prisoners, though capable of accommodating above twice the number. Besides, a considerable part of the buildings will be required for persons committed to the house of correction. The old "house of correction is calculated to hold thirty-two persons; yet, at one time, it has contained forty. Six or seven persons have been obliged to sleep in one bed!" Should the sixth wing not be wanted, about £3000 of the public money will be saved.

It is a remarkable fact, that this vast building has been erected without deviating, in the smallest degree, from the first plan. A small alteration was, in one instance, attempted, and, from necessity, abandoned. The whole will be covered in before next winter, and will, when finished, be the best contrived, the strongest, and the cheapest prison of similar extent ever erected in this kingdom. The total expense is limited by act of parliament to £50,000; but it will not much exceed £35,000, of which the mason-work is estimated to cost about £23,000. The stone has been mostly procured from the Church Quarry, on Gateshead Fell, from which the stone was taken to build All Saints' church and the new County Courts; only the material now consists of a lower and better quality. A great proportion of the stones are of an immense size; and many parts of the walls, when built, cost less than the same cubic measurement of small stones would be charged undressed. The designs of our old English architects were often scientific, rich, and fanciful; but they never executed works of such admirable strength and durability as this. In the present day, scientific conceptions are executed with mechanical skill.

Town Gaol and House of Correction, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, c.1827.

Town Gaol and House of Correction, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, c.1827.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons made a less than satisfactory report on the prison:

The prison of Newcastle was built about ten years ago, at a cost (including law expenses Construction, &c. interest of money borrowed, &c.) of 47,000l. Both the site and the construction appear to me to be bad; and there can be no doubt that, as in the case of Morpeth, a much better prison might have been built at little more than half the expense. The prison stands on the outskirts of the town, but it will probably be soon surrounded by others buildings. The ground moreover is clayey, and the prison has been placed in the lower instead of the upper part of it. The prison consists of a governor's house, with five oblong buildings or sections radiating from it, and a tower, in which there are a kitchen, rooms for the matron and for the porter, and several rooms which have been used for female prisoners. Three of the main sections contain each 11 cells, 2 day-rooms, and 3 sick-rooms. In the fourth section there are 13 common cells, with 2 cells for refractory prisoners; also 2 day-rooms, 4 sick-rooms, and work-room. The fifth section is appropriated to debtors, and contains 22 rooms.

There are 6 airing yards for criminals, and 2 for debtors. Part of the lower story is rather damp, but. the other part of the prison is dry. The day-rooms, sick-rooms, and debtors' rooms, are warmed by open fires; but there is no provision for warming the cells. The ventilation is generally indifferent, and in some parts bad. With the exception of some of the debtors' rooms I found all the prison clean. The prison is tolerably secure, though it never can be quite secure so long as the prisoners are allowed to associate, and are aware when they are not under inspection. The last instance of escape happened about 5 years ago, and was Escapes. effected by a prisoner getting over the boundary wall. About three years and a half ago, 3 prisoners knocked down one of the turnkeys and tried to escape; but they did not succeed. Again, about a year and a half ago, it was discovered that two of the prisoners had fabricated Keys fabricated a key which would open many of the locks in the prison. The key was made of lead, the shank being strengthened by a piece of thick iron wire running down it. The lead had been got from one of the water-closets, and had been melted on the fire of one of the sick-rooms, the artificers being there as patients. Several other keys have at different times been constructed in a similar way.

Prisoners.—There were 88 at the time of my visit; namely, 73 criminals (47 males and Prisoners. 26 females), and 15 debtors (14 males and 1 female). The average for the last two years has been 80 criminals sand about 14 debtors. The greatest number of prisoners of both kinds at any one time last year was 147; and in the preceding year, 179. The least number last year was about, 80. There has been it considerable increase in the average number of prisoners since the establishment of the present police of Newcastle, which took place about two years ago. I found all the prisoners clean with exception of one of the debtors, who was very dirty. All the criminal prisoners wash themselves once a day, and many of them twice.

Health.—Indifferent. Last year there were 242 infirmary cases, and 4 deaths. It must, however, be remarked that, in 1837, the influenza was in the prison, and that therefore this amount of sickness is probably above the average. Nevertheless, as a general rule, it appears that the prisoners fall off in health during their confinement. The ordinary complaints are constipation and laxness of the bowels, dyspepsia, catarrh, slight fever, venereal diseases, and itch.

Food.—-The dietary is as follows:—

SundayMen and boys at hard labour.4½ oz. oatmeal8oz. bread, 1lb. potatoes, and 1 pint of milk each.The same as at breakfast.
Women.2½ ditto.
Men and boys not at hard labour.3 ditto.
For every other day.Men and boys at hard labour.The same as above.8oz. bread, 1lb. potatoes, and 1 pintThe same as at breakfast.
Men and boys not at hard labour.Ditto.

The oatmeal is made into porridge; the milk is old; the potatoes are of the weight when cooked. The soup is prepared according to the following recipe (as given by the contractor) at 8d. per gallon.

For 100 gallons of soup.
100 lbs. of beef.10½ lbs of onions or leeks.
67 lbs. of barley.110¼ lbs. of salt.
53 lbs. of peas.110 oz. of pepper.

The food appears to be of good quality, and, as will be seen, is abundant in quantity. Some of the prisoners, however, remarked, and I did not at all doubt their declaration, that "they could eat more if they had it." Many of the prisoners are keel-men and pit-men; and it appears that these people are in the habit of living very well, and are blessed with a strong appetite. This circumstance was mentioned in explanation of the unusually liberal dietary. Notwithstanding the supply of food is considerably above the average (at least the average in my district), the cost is very moderate; being at the present time about 3¼d. per day, without any addition for cooking, &c., the food-being supplied ready cooked. Additional supplies from friends outside the prison are allowed to the untried, but not to the convicted.

Bedding.—The male prisoners now sleep in hammocks, and the change has been found very beneficial. The cells of these prisoners are now clear during the day, and in fair weather the bedding is exposed to the air. The governor states that by the introduction of the hammock they have got rid of vermin; and he mentioned one advantage which had not occurred to me before, namely, the disappearance of those places for concealment which an ordinary bed. and bedstead furnish. The exchange for hammocks has been made in this prison at a trifling expense; the sale of the wooden slabs on which the beds used to be placed having produced nearly the requisite sum. It is now in contemplation to provide hammocks for the females also,

Clothing.—All the convicted prisoners are clothed, and such of the unconvicted as are in want of clothes, or who have their ordinary dress taken from them that they may not disfigure it, and thereby render it difficult for witnesses to recognize them at their trial. The prison dress is of a kind that I approve, being plain and strong, and free from any distinguishing badge.

Discipline.—Neither the separate nor the silent system has hitherto been in use in this prison. The discipline appears, however, upon the whole, to have been better than that of many other prisons, although it is far from good. Cleanliness is enforced except among the debtors; and such of the prisoners as have been tried and convicted do a good deal of work, although their work is not very profitable. On the other hand, the principle of separation has scarcely been carried beyond the removal of males from females, and of the tried from the untried. Here, as at most other prisons, too much time is passed in bed. In winter, indeed, the time thus occupied is so great, that if it were cut down even to one half of its present amount it would be sufficient. At this season the prisoners do not get up till between 7 and 8, and they go to bed at sunset. One cause of this waste of time and encouragement of slothful habits, is the want of a provision for lighting the prison.

The chief employment of the male prisoners is breaking stones. Some, however, are set to work a tread-mill; and a few are occupied as shoemakers and tailors, or in picking oakum. The females are chiefly engaged in knitting, sewing, and washing.

The provision for instruction is at, present quite insufficient, but it will probably be soon increased. All that is now done is for the taskmaster and his wife to give each about 9 hours per week to teaching. There is a small library of what appear to me well-chosen books; consisting as it does chiefly of such works as travels, voyages, natural history, and other matter, which, while free from every species of immorality, is likely to create a taste for reading. The books appear to have been much used. The chaplain of the prison reads prayers every morning, and preaches on Sundays. Much has not however been hitherto done in the way of private admonition and counsel.

The ordinary prison offences are idleness and noise. The females particularly are complained of in both these respects; which may be partly attributed to the peculiarly bad construction of that part of the prison in which they are confined. The usual punishment is the privation of a meal. Solitary confinement is sometimes resorted to, and would be more frequently employed (as it is found by far the most efficient punishment) were it not that the cell set apart for this purpose, in the case of females, is rather damp. The following is a statement of the number of' cases of punishment in the last four months. There can be no doubt, however, that many more offences have been committed than those that have been followed by punishment. When the comparative smallness of the number of female prisoners is taken into consideration, their share of the punishment will indeed appear excessive.

Confinement in Solitude.Loss of a Meal.
Males.  615
Females. 4245

There is no corporal punishment.

Female Prisoners.—The females are superintended entirely by female officers. Owing to the bad construction of the prison, however, it has not hitherto been found possible to prevent the females coming occasionally into contact with the males.

Debtors.—The average number of debtors appears to have been stationary during the last 2 or 3 years, at about 14. In this prison, as in most others that I have visited, the debtors arc the most troublesome class of inmates; the next in order being generally the vagrants; then other prisoners sent in for a short time only; and lastly, and superior to all the others for docility and general propriety of conduct, prisoners who remain for long periods. Visits are allowed during 3 hours every day, and. advantage is of course occasionally taken of the opportunities thus afforded for smuggling in spirituous liquors. A case was detected about 2 months ago. Independently, however, of illicit supplies of spirituous and fermented liquors, each debtor is, by the rules of the prison, allowed to receive three pints of ale per day; and as there is nothing to prevent one debtor giving or selling to another, a quantity of liquor can be obtained, too great even for the well-practised powers of an ordinary inmate of a debtors' gaol; so that. drunkenness sometimes ensues. The want of cleanliness has been already spoken of The debtors are not required to furnish their own bedding, and few of them do so. Such of them as are considered unable to maintain themselves are allowed the ordinary prison dietary.

Miscellaneous.—Untried prisoners are allowed to receive visits once a week; but visits are not permitted to the convicted except on a special order from a magistrate. All letters are examined. Smoking and snuff-taking are allowed to debtors but not to criminals. There is no insane prisoner at present.

Officers.—-A governor, a chaplain, a surgeon, a matron, an assistant matron, a schoolmistress (one or the taskmasters' wives), 2 taskmasters, 2 turnkeys, a porter, and a barber. The governor appears to be well qualified for his office, and to discharge his duties with regularity and. zeal. He is fully impressed with the defects of the present state of the prison, and evinces a strong desire for the introduction of an improved system.—The chaplain attends daily, and remains about 3 hours. He is new to his office, but it has been observed that the prisoners are sometimes much moved by his discourses. So long as the present arrangements of the prison continue, little that is effective can be done by the chaplain in private conversation with the prisoners.—The surgeon attends daily; and twice each week he makes a point of seeing every prisoner. He has held his appointment many years, and appears to discharge his duties conscientiously and, zealously.—Of the subordinate officers, the governor speaks highly of the matron and assistant matron, the two taskmasters, the principal turnkey, and the porter.

Fees.—The governor receives 1s. for a copy of a warrant for the imprisonment of a debtor; and 1s. for every military deserter who is admitted.

Accounts.—A register of imprisonments, a governor's journal, a chaplain's journal, a sick list, a record of offences and punishments, and an account of disbursements.

Jurisdiction.—The prison is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff, magistrates, and council of the town and county of Newcastle. February, 1838.

Improvements.—The following letter to the mayor of Newcastle will explain my views as to the best steps to be taken for the improvement of this prison. The letter was laid before the town council, and, I believe, referred to a committee, but I have not been informed whether it has been determined to carry the recommendations into effect.

Newcastle, 6th February, 1838,

Dear Sir,

Having examined the prison of Newcastle with a view to consider what improvements can readily be made in it, I beg leave to report the result of my observations, and to request that you will submit the same to the consideration of the other magistrates and the town council. Allow me, in the first place, to express my satisfaction at finding that the improvement of the prison here, and the subject of prison discipline generally, have already been several times before the corporation; and that every willingness has been expressed to adopt measures of amendment. Indeed it, appears that some of the specific alterations which I shall have to propose have been already under consideration.

1 am sorry to have to state that is consider the prison of Newcastle to be badly constructed; and that it would not be possible, without a complete rebuilding, to obtain a thoroughly good prison. It nevertheless does appear to me that a very material improvement may be made at a comparatively trifling expense; and this improvement I should strongly recommend, first because I have no doubt that immediate good will follow, and secondly, because I do not think it would be wise to erect a new large prison at Newcastle, even supposing the money could be raised, seeing that this town is not a place of manufactures where profitable labour for prisoners can easily be obtained; and that, therefore, we must look to the probability, at no distant time, of prisoners for long periods of confinement being sent elsewhere.

The object, of the first and most important improvement which I should suggest is the separation of the prisoners. It. would not be possible, without incurring a large expense, to effect this object completely at all periods; but much may be done towards it ut a moderate cost. The average number of prisoners (exclusive of debtors) is about 80, though occasionally there are as many as 150 or 160. To receive these prisoners there are at present 48 cells, 8 day-rooms, and 12 sickrooms for males; and 5 rooms used partly as day-rooms and partly as sleeping rooms, and 2 small rooms, or cells, for females. The 8 day-rooms I should propose to divide into 20 cells, on a plan already suggested, and the sick-rooms I would use as ordinary cells. By this arrangement, 82 cells could be obtained, each capable of receiving a prisoner; and thus the average number of prisoners would be provided for. The surplus, when the average is exceeded, might be placed in the rooms in the tower under monitors, and subject to the silent system, which, though very inferior in my opinion to the plan of separation, is yet fur better than a system of unrestricted intercourse. To allow of the occasional reception of a considerable number of prisoners in these rooms, and of these prisoners being employed, it, would be necessary to improve the ventilation and increase the admission of light, which can easily be done Means of inspection also must be provided, and there will be no difficulty in doing so.

The cost of dividing the day-rooms has been estimated at about 300l.; no great amount, but a stun which I hope may be considerably reduced. The doors, I observe, are put down at about double the cost of those in the Glasgow bridewell, and that without any advantage, but the reverse, in my Opinion, in the mode of construction, In order, however, to have a guarantee for everything being done in the best and most economical manner, I should strongly recommend that the governor of the Glasgow bridewell (Mr. Brebner) be requested to come to Newcastle to lay down a plan of the alterations, and to superintend their execution. Mr. Brebner has already given valuable assistance of this kind at Ayr and Perth.

In order to prevent the necessity of male and female prisoners coming in contact, and with a view of concentrating the matron's attention, and of keeping the females in one division of the prison as much as possible, it is very desirable that a wash•house be built near the kitchen, and a portion of the debtors' yard cut off for a drying-ground. The cost of this erection (including some rooms for one of the turnkeys, but not including a receiving cell for female prisoners, which is wanted) is estimated at about 450l.; but this sum may, I hope, with Mr. Brebner's assistance, be cut down somewhat. For the sake of brevity of expression, I will throw my remaining proposals into the form of a memorandum of recommendations.

Lighting.—The cells to be lighted both in the morning and the evening, to enable the prisoners to remain longer occupied, partly in work and partly in instruction, and to prevent the necessity of varying the prison hours according to the different seasons. It is probable, also, that lighting will be found, in most cases, to supersede the necessity for a distinct provision for warming, especially if, in addition to there being a light burning in each of the cells, the cell be furnished with a thick mat, on which the prisoner can place his feet.

Prison hours.—The prisoners to rise at half-past five, and to go to bed at nine all the year round. 1York.—The tread-mill to be discontinued, except for raising water. The breaking of stones, however, and all other kinds of work which prove to be profitable to be continued and extended as far as possible. Untried prisoners to be encouraged to work by being allowed part of their clear earnings. Such part, however, not to be given until the prisoner leaves the gaol, and even then to be granted in such form (as in clothes, &c.),.and in such instalments, us the governor may judge best.

Instruction.—A man to be engaged to give the whole of his time to the teaching of the male prisoners, and a woman to give a portion of her time to teaching the females. The chief qualifications required, to be strict moral conduct, perfect sobriety, intelligence, zeal, good temper, kindness, mind firmness, Very moderate acquisitions, in the ordinary sense of the term, are sufficient. It is desirable that the instructors should be a married pair, and that they should live within the prison. The latter object can be readily obtained in a way which the governor will point out.—The prisoners' library to be increased; care being taken to include works which, while they are free from all immorality, are likely to prove interesting and to foster a taste for reading.

Food.—The present restrictions on the admission of food from without to continue in full force; and, in addition, no food to be admitted unless the governor be satisfied that it has been honestly obtained. The quantity of fermented liquor which a debtor is allowed to receive in a single day to be reduced from 3 pints to 1 pint.

Fees.—The only existing fee to be abolished.

I remain, dear Sir, yours truly,


Thomas Emerson Headlam, Esq., M.D.,

Mayor of Newcastle.

Considerable changes were subsequently made to the buildings. The 1862 map, shows the absence of one of the original cell wings. It is unclear whether it had since been demolished or had never been erected in the first place.

The prison site is shown on the 1862 map below.

Town Gaol and House of Correction site, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, c.1862.

The north and east cell wings were demolished and two large, new cell blocks erected, one with 71 cells for females at the north side of the debtors' ward in 1862, and one for 96 males along the eastern wall of the site in 1870-1.

The prison was closed in 1925, with the buildings being demolished and a large telephone exchange then erected on the site.


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  • Northumberland Archives, Woodhorn, Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland NE63 9YF. Holdings include: Gaol Committee minutes (1820-11); Justices' minutes (1837-99); Rules and regulations (1830s); Cash books (1820-60); Ledgers (1829-1836); Maintenance of prisoners cash book (1835-6); Gaolers returns (1828-9); Construction plans and contracts (1823, 1861-1925); H M Inspector of Prisons reports (1876-9); Particulars of prisoners (1873); Plans (1823-1925).
  • 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.



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