Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Okehampton, Devon

The Okehampton Borough Gaol was situated on the west bank of the West Okement River, where Westbridge Close now stands.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, William Partridge; Sergeant at Mace. Salary, 3l. Prisoners, 19th Oct. 1803, None. Allowance, three-pence a day.

Remarks. This Gaol consists of two rooms, about 12 feet by 7; dark and dirty. In the lower room a privy. Each has an iron grating, that looks toward the Street. A bundle of straw, weekly, is supplied when wanted.

Formerly Debtors were kept in the upper room. Nineteen Prisoners have been confined here at a time, for a night or two. No water. No court-yard. It had been white-washed about nine years previous to my visit

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This miscalled building is a wretched house, containing, in the keeper's part, a kitchen, a workshop, and a single bed-room, in which he and his wife, his five children, and a girl are sleeping in company. For the prisoners there are two cells one opens from the workshop, and below this is the other miserable cell, unfit for use, surrounded by bare walls, and without a bed. There is one small yard for the prisoners.

The keeper is serjeant-at-mace, and receives as such £3 13s. 6d. annually, a cloak, and a hat. He also receives a shilling per night when a deserter is lodged here ; but he has no coals nor candles, nor any perquisite whatever. His wife has never been ordered to act as matron.

No prisoner was here at the time of my visit.

In 1830 there were 3 prisoners admitted.
In 1831 there was only 1.
In 1833 there were none.
In 1834 5 (all men).
In 1835 none.
In 1836 (up to July) none.

All who are placed in the lower cell must pass through the keeper's kitchen in order to enter it, and those who are transferred to the upper room must reach it by the keeper's own staircase.

Three years ago a prisoner remained here three months; the keeper has also had one for two months.

The keeper receives three-pence daily from the assistant overseer for the diet of each prisoner. He buys what the prisoners may desire. There is a little dirty bedding: if the keeper cleans it he receives no recompense. This building, in short, is a common dilapidated cottage by the road-side, totally unfit, in its present state, even for a lock-up house. The very small number of prisoners has rendered its defects probably less conspicuous and notorious. In consequence of its being a very small and inconvenient old building, it can only be used, even if much improved, as a lock-up house. The corporation have, since my visit, thought proper to order a small sum of money to be applied in making it clean and more convenient for the gaoler. The present site is very much too confined to make any additions, or for the erection of a new one, with such accommodations as would be required to put in force the rules and regulations that ought to be observed in gaols.

The prison was closed in around 1838.


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