Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Penrith, Cumberland

The Cumberland County Bridewell, or House of Correction, was in existence by the late sixteenth century. It was situated on Scotland Road, Penrith.

In 1836, a new building was erected, perhaps on the same site, at a cost of £400.

In 1837, The Inspectors of Prisons wrote:

This prison is used for the confinement of disorderlies, and for prisoners while under examination by the magistrates. It stands at the northern extremity of the town of Penrith, and is a modern elevation, built with red freestone; it consists of two floors, the lower one containing a parlour and kitchen for the keeper, and two cells with adjoining airing-yards for prisoners; the upper floor contains two rooms for prisoners, and two chambers for the keeper.

Dimensions of Cells.
Ground floorNo. 1.—11 ft. 2 in. by 7 ft. 2 in.; 9 ft. 4 in. high.
"No. 2.—11 ft. by 11 ft. ; 9 ft. 4 in. high.
Airing-yards              26 ft. by 14 ft.
First floorNo. 1.—15 ft. by 13 ft.
"No. 2.—11 ft. by 13 ft.

The ceilings of the cells in the upper story are only lath and plaster, and attempts at escape are frequent.

Bedding.— Straw mattress, two blankets, sheets, and rug.

Food.— The keeper is allowed 4d. a day for the victualling of each prisoner, and he permits them to purchase any description of food to that amount. Tobacco smoking is allowed.

Cleanliness.— The privies, cells and airing-yards in a dirty and neglected state. The keeper has appropriated one of the cells on the ground floor, and one of the airing-yards, to his private use, for domestic purposes.

Irons.— Double irons for refractory prisoners 5 lbs. 10 oz.

Books.— A register of prisoners is kept; the annual average number is 30.

Keeper.— Appointed 1831; formerly police constable at Carlisle; married. One shilling a mile is allowed to him for taking prisoners to Carlisle.

A very considerable number of vagrants, chiefly Irish, pass through Penrith; they are furnished by the keeper, after examination, with a ticket, or billet, upon a lodging-house, where they are lodged and fed. The parish pays 2d. a meal for an adult, and ld. for a child. The vagrants are registered in a book under the following heads:— Date — name of parish — county — trade — where born — where from — where going — what reason for travelling — age — height — eyes — hair — complexion — wife and number of children — remarks as to dress, &c. Prisoners are occasionally detained here a day or two after committal, in consequence of the keeper not being able, from other avocations, to set off at once with them for the county prison at Carlisle.

By the late 1830s, the prison had become used just as a short-term lock-up. It closed in about 1860.


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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.