Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Saffron Walden, Essex

A Town Gaol occupied part of Saffron Walden's new town hall and court house which was opened in the Market Place in 1761. The accommodation may originally also have served as a Bridewell, or House of Correction. After the town's High Street workhouse was enlarged in 1798, the bridewell role was transferred there.

In 1812, James Neild reported on the gaol:

Gaoler, William Mynott, Town Cryer. Salary, 4l. 4s.

Prisoners, 1805, Aug. 22d, 1807, Aug. 29th, 1810, Aug. 29th, None.

Allowance, fourpence per day, in money.

The Gaol occupies two rooms under the Court-House. The entrance is by a lobby, paved with flag-stones, and guarded by iron palisades, which separates the Prisoners from the Street. The rooms are about 13 feet each by 10, and 8 feet 6 inches high, with a fire-place, and a covered sewer in each; lighted and ventilated by an iron-bar grated window, 2 feet 2 inches square, and both looking towards the Street. They have straw for bedding, laid on the boarded floors.

No firing is supplied. Water is brought in by the Gaoler. Although the Allowance is more liberal at the Bridewell, Prisoners generally prefer being confined here, on account of such Donations as they casually receive from persons in the Street

A government report in 1818 indicated that a new gaol and bridewell were shortly to be built in the town. However, that seems not to have happened and the workhouse site appears to have taken on both of these roles.


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  • 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.