Ancestry UK

New Bailey, Salford, Lancashire

A new County Gaol was opened in March 1790 on New Bailey Street, Salford. It was designed by William Blackburn. An entrance block lay at the south-east of the site, behind which was the main cell block, comprising four short, three-storey wings, radiating from a central hub containing the Governor's quarters, with the chapel above.

An early account of the new prison appeared in the Leeds intelligencer:

The building is spacious and handsome, formed upon Mr. Howard's plan of solitary confinement, for which purpose there are upwards of one hundred cells, so distinctly separate, that the large iron window, unglazed, with a wooden shutter, which the prisoner can put up and let down at pleasure; there is a wooden floor within, and an iron one without the cell; and what must be a great comfort in winter, there are stoves so constructed, that the pipes are conveyed under most of the cells, and a provision made for the heat to enter through small gratings. On the admission of a prisoner, he will be immediately washed in a bath for the purpose, and his cloaths scoured, to prevent any infectious communication. There are working shops provided for those who can be employed — for the refractory there are dark cells — and for the sick there are hospital rooms. The Governor's apartments are commodiously placed in the centre of the building, above which is the chapel, with proper conveniences for the prisoners to attend the service. There is a most excellent contrivance for a thorough circulation of pure and fresh air in every part of the prison. In the highest story there ate two very large cisterns, into which water is to be thrown by a machine, for a full and regular supply of that necessary article. Over the entrance into the yard is the court house, with proper offices for business. Here all the prisoners will be tried; and on a very conspicuous part of the flat roof of the prison, a stage will be erected for the whipping such upon it as are sentenced to that punishment, and also a pillory for offenders. The space round the prison is capacious, the walls which inclose it are very high; and they are guarded at the top by large iron spikes, so contrived, that on being taken hold of they turn round, and become an offensive weapon, as well as the means of preventing an escape. With respect to the internal economy, and domestic purposes of the prison, there seems to be every provision for effect and conveniency, and the whole arrangement appears not only sufficient for the confinement of offenders, but well calculated for the benevolent purposes of reclaiming them, and stopping the progress of vice.

Entrance to New Bailey Prison, Salford, Lancashire, c.1829.

The prison site was subsequently enlarged to the north-west, where a large additional cells and workshops were constructed in the shape of a semi-circle. In 1812, James Neild reported on his visits to the prison:

Gaoler, William Dunstan. Salary, 300l. with coals and candles.

Task-Master, Thomas Hutton. Salary, 50l. and a-sixth of the Prisoners' earnings.

Turnkeys, three; at one guinea each per week.
These Salaries to the different Officers are paid by the Hundred of Salford.

Chaplain, Rev. Mr, Cheek; now Rev. Mr. Dallis. Salary, 30l.
Duty, Prayers and a Lecture on Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Surgeon, Mr. Richard Nanfan. Salary, 40l. and Medicines provided by the Hundred of Salford.

Number of Prisoners,
1802, Oct. 4th, 164. 1805, Oct. 25th, 71. 1809, Nov. 9th, 79. And One Lunatick.

Allowance, Every day. Breakfast and Supper, a quart of oatmeal porridge, and half a pound of bread each at meal to every Prisoner.

Sunday, Dinner, half a pound of boiled beef, half a pound of bread, and one pound of potatoes, or other vegetables.

Monday, Ditto, a quart of vegetable, or pease soup, from the beef of Sunday.

Tuesday, four ounces of cheese, and half a pound of bread.

Wednesday, a quart of rice and oatmeal porridge, and half a pound of bread.

Thursday, the same as Sunday.

Friday, the same as Monday.

Saturday, ox-head, and shin-bones, made into a stew.


The New-Bailey Prison was first inhabited in the year 1788. It is properly surrounded by a boundary wall, 100 yards square; which stands at such a distance, as to afford a convenient Kitchen Garden, to supply the Prison with vegetables.

The Turnkey's lodge, in front, has four reception-rooms for Prisoners, and another room, with a warm and cold bath; in which they are washed, the County clothing put on, and their own clothes purified, ticketed, and hung up. Over this lodge in front, is the Examining-Magistrates' room, which opens into a very neat Sessions-house, or New-Bailey Court-house; in the front pannel of which is "The Magistrates' Oath," painted in golden letters.

The Reverend W. R. Hay is the appointed Chairman of the Quarter Sessions, with a Salary of 400l. per annum.

In the centre of the Prison is the Gaoler's house. There are nine airy courtyards: viz. two for Men Felons before their Trial; two for Men Felons after Trial; two for Male Bridewell Prisoners; one for Women Felons; one for Female Bridewell Prisoners; and one for convicted Female Felons.

On the ground-floor are fourteen solitary cells, 8 feet by 6, and 7 feet 10 inches high; each having a small aperture over the door, for the admission of a glimmering light, and air. At each end, and down 10 steps, is a Dungeon, 8 feet by 6 feet 8, and 7 feet 10 inches high: These have each an iron-grating over the door, of 21 inches by 14; and double doors, the outer one iron-grated, the inner of wood. This range of cells is separated from the court-yard by a lobby 4 feet wide, and they have a warming flue running through them.

In the different court-yards are sixty-six workshops; where all the Prisoners are employed in weaving, batting of cotton, carding, &c. &c.

On the first story of the building, the Chapel is in the centre: into which four Wards respectively open; so that the sexes are completely separated, and out of sight of each other.

In each ward are eleven sleeping-cells, 8 feet by 6, well ventilated, and divided each from the others by a passage or lobby 5 feet wide: at the end of which there is a plentiful supply of water, with soap and towels for the use of the Prisoners, who are required to wash themselves before each meal; and, if they come dirty, are sent away without it.

On the second story are four wards, with eleven cells in each, the same as those below them, already noticed. Three rooms also are set apart for the sick, of 24 feet by 18, with three beds in each, and a Dispensary furnished with Medicines. Each Prisoner has a separate bed; the frame of which is iron, with a wooden frame upon it, a hair mattress, a sheet, (changed every other week,) two or three blankets, and a rug.

On a detached part of the New Bailey there are fourteen work-cells, added since the Prison was first built. The total number of sleeping-cells is one hundred and thirty.

The hours of work are from six in the morning to six in the evening, during the Summer, and from eight to eight in the Winter; allowing half an hour to breakfast, and one hour for dinner. Each Prisoner has one-third of the earnings gained, upon producing a certificate of his or her good behaviour to the Magistrates, signed by the Keeper and Chaplain: and some of them have received from ten to fifteen pounds each; part of which is laid out in purchasing such articles of wearing apparel as the Prisoner stands in need of.

The amount of earnings is, upon an average, nine pence per day: their diet stands in about six pence halfpenny a day, and the overplus is accounted for to the Treasurer.

Here is an excellent kitchen, fitted up and furnished with every article for simple frugal cookery. A Man Cook dresses the provisions, and serves out each Prisoner's allowance. There is water over the three boilers, and in each court-yard, to which every Prisoner has access. The sewers communicate with the common drain.

The Act for the Preservation of Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, are conspicuously hung up. The whole Prison is white-washed twice a year, or oftener, if required; and the Gaoler seems very attentive to promote cleanliness, industry, and good order.

In 1821, the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline reported on the establishment, by which date a separate chapel had been added at the centre of the site and a hospital at the north:

The old part(as it is called) was built about thirty years ago. It contains four regular wards, and one compartment has been since added, by way of bridewell, for females. From the chapel, which is in the centre, the visitor enters the Surety-ward, containing twenty-nine sleeping cells; and when this report was made, occupied by fifty-four untried prisoners committed for misdemeanors and petty offences; and to which belong a yard, in which there is a pump and a privy.

A day-room, and six shops for work, are attached to this ward, in a small court, where weaving is chiefly carried on, but only two of the shops were in use.

Adjoining is the Bastardy-wing, or ward, containing twenty nine cells, with forty-seven prisoners: all here were employed in weaving. In the workshops adjoining to this class there are two yards and a day-room.

Next to this is the centre yard, in which there is a forcing pump to supply all the old part of the prison with water. About twenty prisoners are selected for this labour, who work two at a time. At one side, or end of this yard are fourteen solitary cells, and two dungeons, which are now filled up with rubbish. From this you proceed to the Old Bridewell wing, which contained at this time seventy-seven prisoners, in twenty-nine cells: here are misdemeanants, tried and untried, together: forty-seven were employed in weaving. To this class a yard and a day-room are appropriated.

The women's wing contains the tried and untried felons together, distinguished only by dress: twenty-one were employed in weaving, sixteen in winding. These have twenty-nine cells, one yard,and two day-rooms; one of which is small, and was intensely close: it measures fifteen feet by twelve. Female prisoners, who have children, inhabit this room.

Near to this ward is the additional building for misdemeanant women, containing twenty-two cells,and forty eight-prisoners; ten of whom were employed in weaving and winding. In the centre of the new part of the prison is a circular building, containing on the ground floor a chapel, and above it is an office for the Governor, the windows of which are so placed as to give him inspection into the surrounding yards; but this office does not appear to be in use.

The Hospital contains two rooms for the sick, male and female, and two airing yards; also a kitchen. It is upon a very small scale for so large a prison, and perfectly inadequate in case of any epidemic disorder.

In the centre, or rather the front part of the court, are nine wards. The two end wards contain thirty-two sleeping cells, all the others twenty-three, except the centre, twenty nine-. Each ward has a day-room, a pump,and privy. The four wards first visited contained felons for trial.

1st Class, boys, twenty-one in number, all in gaol dresses; eight employed in weaving; all under seventeen years of age the youngest thirteen.

2d Class, felons for trial, first offence, twenty-two prisoners; eight at work.

3d Class, felons, old offenders, sixteen prisoners; eight at work.

4th Class, first offence, twenty-two prisoners; all employed.

Centre yard — first of the five wards for convicts — twenty-nine cells, forty-nine prisoners; forty-five at work. These prisoners are sentenced to the longest term of imprisonment.

Next ward, (2d), similar, only contained twenty-three cells, and forty-six prisoners, confined for a shorter period; forty-four of whom were at work.

Next ward, (3d)similar,containing prisoners committed for one year only, forty-four in number; all at work usually.

In the next ward, being the 4th, and similar to the preceding, were forty six-prisoners; forty at work. In the next ward, 5th, were the juvenile convicts (boys), sixty one in number; all employed, except one, who was sick; three of them only ten years of age, two only above seventeen.

Behind the last described building is a range of workshops, in two tiers, ninety in number. Weaving and winding are almost the only work. A few prisoners were employed opening hair for upholsterers, and there were two tailors; two shoemakers were also employed in the warehouse, but they could not be trusted with tools in the workshops where they were not under inspection.

The amount of earnings, up to July 1820, for one year,was £2056. 6s. 10d. All prisoners, tried and untried, alike have a sixth of their earnings at the time of their discharge.

The bedding throughout the prison consists of a straw mattress (straw changed every three months), two blankets, and a coverlid.

The diet — a quart of gruel daily for breakfast; three days in the week, 5 oz. of boiled beef, without bone; 1 lb. of potatoes, and about 7 oz. of brown bread. On Saturdays a stew with onions; and the other days a quart of pease-soup and bread.

In every ward through the prison, a prisoner (generally a convict) is selected to officiate as servant, and is paid for cleaning out the cells, and doing the work of the ward. He is called constable: at times he has an assistant. The same regulation obtains in the female as in the male wards.

No irons are used, except in case of refractory conduct.

Whipping prisoners is commonly practised — a beadle, from the town police, usually inflicts the punishment. A boy, then confined among the convicts, in the fifth class of prisoners, (new part) was sentenced to a few months imprisonment, and two whippings, for stealing some linen from a drying ground: he was to receive his last whipping on the day of his discharge. The old chapel is seldom used. In the new chapel the prisoners are divided into six classes. The chaplain visits the prison once or twice in a week,and talks occasionally to the prisoners in their yards. He performs the service on a Sunday once to each part of the prison, to the old part and the new separately. He does the duty therefore twice over in the same chapel. The prison is said to be well supplied with Bibles and Prayer books; but there is no school.

The surgeon attends every day, and keeps a journal, which is presented to the Court of Quarter Sessions when required. Only four prisoners were sick at the time the prison was visited.

As many as 753 prisoners have been confined at one time. In 1789,the having so many as eleven prisoners at one time was thought an extraordinary circumstance.

Soap and towels are allowed to the prisoners regularly.

The prison site is shown on the 1850 map below.

New Bailey site, Salford, c.1850.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons gave their assessment of the prison:

The building of this prison was commenced under the direction of Mr. Howard, who laid the first stone of the part now appropriated to females. Alterations and extensions have been made from time to time to meet successive exigencies, and it therefore cannot be expected that this overgrown establishment can possess the advantages of well connected parts or conveniently adapted details. It is situate in the township of Salford, and is erected upon a foundation of rock-sand, close to the banks of a navigable river. The enclosure is an oblong surrounded by a wall of brick, with iron chevaux-de-frise, and flanking towers at intervals, loopholed for musketry. The keeper's house, offices, sessions-house, and lock-ups are in the principal front towards the river, in a line with the boundary wall, and abutting into the area of the prison. The house for the keeper consists of basement, with cellarage and two kitchens; first floor, three rooms; second floor, five chambers. The principal entry into the prison is, most inconveniently, the public one to the sessions-house, police-office, and lock-ups. In these lock-ups are daily assembled the whole of the prisoners from the neighbouring townships, for examination before the stipendiary magistrate. They look directly upon the female wards of the prison, where the noises and shoutings made by the drunken and disorderly inmates may be distinctly heard.

The Cells.

The cells for refractory prisoners are apart from the other buildings. They are dark, and not being supplied with heat, are found to be so damp and cold as to be only habitable during the day. The prisoners return to their cells at night. Conversation between men thus confined in adjoining cells can be carried on with ease. The chapel standing in the centre of the area, the prisoners, male and female, have to traverse the open yard to reach it; it is divided into six compartments, of a fan-like shape, with a gallery containing two divisions, for males and females. The separation between the males and females in the gallery appears to me imperfect. While attending Divine service, a female prisoner went into fits, and had to be passed through the portion of the gallery occupied by the males. It would be a much better arrangement if the females were exclusively confined to their own part of the prison, and Divine service performed to them in the neat chapel attached to it, and which almost seems to invite the adoption of this beneficial regulation. In the laundry the mode of drying is well contrived, the heat being obtained from hot water, the intensity of which is quite sufficient for the purpose, and void of all danger from fire. The hospital for females stands very inconveniently in the midst of the buildings appropriated to male prisoners, and the women have to pass by them to get there. A double range of separate work-rooms for hand-loom weavers stands at the back of the men's sleeping-cells, with small yards in their front. They approach rather close to the boundary wall, and are subject to having articles thrown into them from the exterior. The privies belonging to these workshops were in an uncleanly and offensive condition. The buildings for The male and female prisoners in one part almost contiguous, and communication is constantly taking place between them. I cannot but remark that the parts of this establishment appropriated to the females is far too public; they face the principal gateway, without any screen to protect them from observation. I have scarcely ever entered the prison without seeing a female prisoner either in front of the matron's apartments or traversing the yard. The workshop, where so many men are employed together in picking cotton and oakum, is very inconvenient, both in size and ventilation, for its purpose. The crowded numbers and the impurity of the air make it almost intolerable. The security of the prison will be much impaired by the Bolton Railway, now in progress, passing within a few feet of the exterior wall, and commanding, by its elevation, a view of the interior.

Diet.—Male prisoners, 10 ounces of bread and half an ounce of salt; and at breakfast and supper, one quart of oatmeal gruel made from ounces of oatmeal to each quart; for dinner, ½ lb. of beef, and 1 lb. of potatoes two days a-week; 1 quart of pea-soup two days a-week, 1½ lb. of potatoes two days, and 1 quart of stew the seventh day. For females, 16 oz. bread, ½ an ounce of salt, 1 quart of gruel morning and evening, and 1 pint of stew, with 1 pound of potatoes, boiled, for dinner each day. The stew for males is made with one cow's head for every 20, seasoned with pepper and salt; the stew for the women is made with one cow's head to every 40.

Clothing.—All prisoners under charge of felony are clothed upon being received into the prison. Males, jacket, waistcoat, trowsers, and cap, of woollen cloth, shirt, and clogs; drab colour before trial. Convicted misdemeanants, blue; felons, parti-coloured blue and yellow. The females, wrapper, petticoat of woollen, body-linen, and clogs.

Bedding.—Bedstead consists of a canvass stretcher with wooden frame, straw paillasses, two blankets, and rug.

Heat—The day-rooms for males are warmed by hot air from stoves beneath; the sleeping-cells are not, with the exception of a few on the female side of the building, where the heat is but indifferently conveyed, from the imperfect state of the apparatus.

Cleanliness.—The prison, and persons of the prisoners, clean. The prisoners' clothing, upon their coming in, is placed in a disinfecting apparatus, which seems perfectly to answer its intention. It is the invention of the late lamented Dr. Henry, and consists of a steam-engine of two-horse power, for the generating of hot air, which, on the clothes being placed in the receiver, is applied to them at a heat from 206° to 210°. A pipe, from the receiver, conveys the foul air to the exterior. It requires to be superintended by a person well acquainted with the process, and, from the difficulty of finding a prisoner sufficiently worthy of trust, a man has been hired to attend when required.

Health.—The surgeon attends the prison daily and oftener when required. The infirmaries are detached from the other buildings, and though, perhaps, sufficient in ordinary cases, may be said to be circumscribed, considering the magnitude of this establishment. They are not well ventilated, and afford little convenience in the case of epidemic. A female superintendent, or nurse, is employed, who is not a prisoner. The attendant upon the sick in the men's hospital is a prisoner. The latter office is stated to be filled most imperfectly: the prisoners being constantly discharged for irregularities. The prison is extremely healthy; chronic diseases are the most prevalent; low fevers, scorbutic affections, itch, and venereal, constipated bowels are of common occurrence. The most trifling medicine is always administered by the direction of the surgeon. He states—"That cases of simulated disease are frequent: he has noticed that the injuries inflicted By prisoners upon their legs and eyes are, generally from the greater facility of doing so, produced on the right side of the body. Soldiers furnish the most frequent cases one of the 17th Lancers taught the manner of ulcerating legs to two or three younger prisoners. Epilepsy, spitting blood from pressure upon the gums, itch from pricking the fingers with pins, dysentery from mingling the evacuations with blood, and various other artifices have been detected. He considers the diet as excellent, but that it would be improper to lower it even with regard to short imprisonments: he thinks the entire absence of epidemic diarrhoea is a proof of the propriety of the diet. He visits the cook-houses frequently, and sees that the food is wholesome, and properly cooked. The cooks have strict orders to report to the surgeon any variation in the quality of the food. The soldiers care less for solitary confinement than other prisoners, but seem particularly to dislike the tread-wheel. He is present at all corporal punishments. There are no reception cells for the male prisoners, nor does he see them in every case before they are classed." He keeps a journal and hospital-book; the former contains a register of his attendance at the hospital, and of punishments and occurrences. The hospital-book contains the name, age, class, case, daily treatment, and discharge of every patient.

Moral and Religious Instruction.—The chaplain performs two full services on Sunday, and reads a selection of prayers to the males daily, excepting on Tuesdays and Fridays, which he devotes to the females. He visits the hospital daily; sees those prisoners privately who may desire to do so, and those to whom he is informed he may be of use. He administers the Sacrament four times a-year, and examines, previously, every individual who offers to communicate, and does not administer it unless satisfied of the propriety. A man, who was formerly a Catholic priest, having avowed himself a Protestant, applied, while in prison, to be admitted to the communion table; the chaplain exercised his discretion in not receiving him. He is now, a second time, in prison, and after deceiving many of the Protestant clergy, professes to be again a Catholic. No books are admitted into the prison but such as are examined by him. The tracts distributed are those of the Tract Society, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. A very extraordinary practice prevails in this prison, of discontinuing the daily performance of Divine service during the sessions; and as from the short adjournments they are sitting for a period of two months of the year, the interruption is a very serious one; nor do the reasons adduced, of the confusion in the prison, and the attendance of the keeper upon the courts, sufficiently satisfy me of the necessity. The school is under the chaplain's superintendence. Boys under sixteen attend the school daily, including Sundays, unless old offenders. No writing is taught. The upper class is instructed from the New Testament; the lower, from the usual elementary books. The chaplain states—"Many of the prisoners, probably two-thirds, can read, but are mostly very deficient in religious knowledge; many of them when asked of what persuasion they are, say, 'I ought to belong to such a church,' and cannot even tell why the commonest festivals were appointed. There is no attempt made to teach adults. The females, who have been prostitutes, are less reclaimable than male offenders. One of the most beautiful women I ever beheld, a prostitute, was repeatedly convicted of theft, and at last was transported. She told me on her departure that all the young women whom she had known, in the same line as herself, had been transported, and that she had long expected it. I think that the criminal population here are more impressed with the terror of transportation now than formerly. I should not think the present discipline of the prison has generally a deterring effect; it may, in some few isolated cases, upon women. Boys come in much younger than females. The most depraved women we have are from Liverpool. One female has been here 200 times within the last six years; she comes here, generally, to recruit her health: another has been here fifty times, and cried when she was last discharged. I have visited prisoners in solitary confinement; none for longer than fourteen days. The sentence of the Court generally directs it to take place the first and last week of imprisonment. I saw a lad here the other day who had been twice in solitary confinement without the least good effect. In some cases I think whipping does good: I recollect an instance of an apprentice who had run away from his master, and behaved very ill, who was sent here, received a slight flogging, and has behaved remarkably well ever since. The schoolmaster makes use of the stick upon the boys; I think it would be impossible for him to carry on the business of the school, with such characters, without it. The school has been beneficial, particularly to females."

The number of female committals is greatly on the increase. On the 13th May, 1836, there were 109 female misdemeanants; of this number 70 admitted drunkenness as the cause of their being in prison; 5 declared themselves prostitutes, but not drunkards; and 5 others for illicit distillation (an increasing practice among the low Irish in Manchester), who denied being addicted to the intemperate use of liquor. The whole of the prisoners attend Divine service, with the exception of 5 males and 3 females, employed as cooks. The chaplain keeps no private journal. Upon attending the chapel I observed scarcely any of the prisoners in the possession of either bibles or prayer books. They did not join in any of the responses, nor follow the chaplain in any prayer, with the exception of the Creed. The school is divided into classes of old offenders and first convictions. The schoolmaster permits the wardsman, a prisoner, to punish the boys slightly, a very objectionable liberty. On Tuesdays and Fridays he goes to the females and teaches them; when thus employed neither matron nor other female officer of the prison is present, which is also, I consider, an impropriety. The schoolmaster states—"I have met with many who could read, and have forgotten it; some who could not read had never entered the doors of a church, chapel, nor Sunday school; more than half the boys express a desire to learn, and this increases as they progress. I have observed some of the larger boys, above seventeen years of age, who are not permitted to attend the school, occasionally try to mix with the other boys, in order to escape the mill. The boys generally treat me with respect; I use the cane, and could not carry on the business of the school without it. There are many of the boys whom I think it would be of more service to give a day or two solitary confinement and a whipping, than a longer sentence of imprisonment. When a boy once comes in it is a great chance but that he comes back again. Their offences at first are of a childish nature, such as stealing of apples, and after having been in prison they get on from little to much. I believe many of them are better pleased to be here than at home. The women do not come into prison at so early an age as the boys: I consider drunkenness the cause of the great increase of crime among the females."

Classification.—The prisoners are classed in accordance with the provisions of the Gaol Act; the strict adherence to which involves the consequence that the felons are sleeping singly, while the more numerous misdemeanants sleep three and four in a cell. The felons take their meals together, other classes in their respective day-rooms.

Labour.—The tread-wheel and sand-mill. The tread-wheels are placed in four double stories of semicircular shape, with a turnkey's lodge and gallery in the centre for inspection.

Months Employed Number of Working Hours per Day Number of Prisoners the Wheel will hold at one time. Height of each Step. The ordinary Velocity of the Wheels per Minute. The ordinary Proportion of Prisoners on Wheels to the Total Number employed. Number of Feet in Ascent per Day as per Hours of Employ­ment. Revolutions of the Wheel per Day. The Daily Amount of Labour to be performed by every Prisoner. How recorded with precision. Application of its Power.
12 Months. 10 Hours from March to October, and 7½ hours the remainder of the year. In Summer 80, and in Winter 96 8 Inch and a fraction. 2 Revol­utions per Minute. In Summer one-half, in Winter three-fourths are constantly treading. 19,400 in Summer, 14,550 in Winter. In Summer 1200, in Winter 900. In Summer 9700 Feet, in Winter 10,912½ Feet. Multiply 16 feet 2 in. circum­ference of the wheel, by 120 revolutions in the hour, by the number of hours each prisoner works. Grinding dye-wood.

The mill for crushing stone into sand, used in cleaning the floors of the cells and galleries,, is worked in the same way as a capstan, with bars manned by the prisoners. As "hard labour" it is little cared for, it being suspended at intervals, to remove the sand and supply it with stone. The turnkey over the men at the mill states—"That silence is pretty well observed, but not entirely; the boys are more apt to talk on the wheel than the men, and are much more difficult to manage. It would take two monitors to keep the same number of boys quiet when it would only require one for men. The soldiers are worse than any other prisoners, they continually refuse to work, and would much rather be in solitary confinement than on the wheel." Another turnkey says—"The mill is very unequal; I have seen heavy stout people suffer dreadfully from it, while others have not felt it at all: I have frequently been asked by the soldiers at the wheel, who have been sentenced in part to solitary confinement, whether the time for that portion of their punishment was not come, they appearing quite anxious for its arrival. The trades and employments in which the prisoners are engaged are most numerous; they consist of weaving, winding, wool-picking, hair-picking, rope-making, pin-heading, clogging, shoemaking, tailoring, cabinet-making, painting, gardening, &c.: all the repairs within and without the prison are done by the prisoners. Those before trial are allowed one-third of their earnings, and upon conviction one-sixth. In consequence of the scarcity of hand-loom weavers, their small profits having driven many from this to other occupations, and discouraged them also from bringing their children up to it, the taskmaster has introduced a new kind of work with every prospect of permanent advantage to the establishment. It consists of weaving light check cottons for the African market. This can only be done with two or three shuttles, an operation to which the power-loom has not been applied. The taskmaster, a practical and intelligent manufacturer, says—"This description of work cannot be manufactured by the power-loom, and I consider the prisoners will shortly do a great deal of it; what we only received 3s. 6d. a cut for six months ago we now receive 5s. 6d., and if things go on as they do now, I have every reason to believe the price will rise to 8s. Several manufacturers have been to offer this kind of emplovment. The prisoners are not put to learn to weave unless their sentences extend to three months; it would not be profitable to the county in consequence of the work they would spoil in learning: I have seven or eight, who have begun to learn to weave within the last three months, who are getting on very well in the practice. When a prisoner comes in, I go and ask him about his connexions, trade, &c.; one man, who had been very ill, told me he had neither father nor mother, had never learned any business, and was too weak in constitution for any hard labour. One of the turnkeys said I had better put him to winding. The prisoner said, 'I would rather remain in the prison twelve months than go out; I cannot earn a livelihood.' I put him to the loom, which he had never seen before; in ten weeks' time he was earning 10s. weekly for the county, and one-sixth of this sum for himself. Upon his leaving prison I recommended him to the master manufacturer who sends work into the prison, who employed him, and he is now earning from 12s. to 14s. a-week. He was convicted of felony. Winding bobbins is felt as the greatest punishment; they would rather go to the tread-wheel: they are kept hard to it. We have had more trouble to get the prisoner to wind than any other kind of work. They have been punished repeatedly for neglect. The misdemeanants, sentenced to hard labour, prefer the tread-wheel. We have lost, I may say, some weeks as much as 5l. by not being able to get the prisoners to wind. This is done by machinery in the factories." The taskmaster has charge of the stock, and keeps all accounts relating to the work carried on in the prison. His books are kept by single entry, he receives an advance from the treasurer to pay prisoners the amounts of their several earnings upon their discharge; the manufacturers settle their bills for work performed once a quarter. In making up the accounts, all labour done by carpenters, painters, and bricklayers, for repairs in the prison, is made a nominal debit against the county, at 2s. a-day. The officers of the prison are allowed and frequently do employ the prisoners to work for them at one-half the amount of wages for which the same work would be done outside. I find that cabinet-makers have been employed in making wardrobes and polishing tables for the deputy-governor, bookcases for the chaplain, and other works. I cannot but think this practice highly improper, and liable to great abuse. The amount of earnings credited to the county is here, as,in other establishments, quite fallacious, as neither the salaries of the overlookers, nor the current expenses and wear-and-tear of machinery, are taken into the account.

Offences and Punishments.—The usual offences are jumping off the wheel, quarrelling, and bartering food, introducing tobacco, &c., punished by confinement in the refractory cells, and stoppage of food.

Scourge.—Handle of hard wood 18 inches, 9 lashes of large whipcord, 7 knots in each lash. The whipping is inflicted by the turnkeys in the presence of the surgeon; the number of lashes is considerable, but upon looking at the back of a boy who had been punished ten days before, it did not appear to be beyond the necessary severity. The following are extracts from the surgeon's journal in reference thereto:—"Attended and saw Thomas Kershaw flogged; he received nine dozen lashes, October 30,1835." "Attended and saw John Worthington flogged; he received five dozen lashes, 5th November, 1835. Saw two boys flogged; they received ten and fourteen dozen lashes each, January 5,1836. James Watson, boy, a misdemeanant, received ten dozen lashes, January 5, 1836."

Irons.—Used upon transports 9 lbs., refractory prisoners 14 lbs., ditto ditto 27 lbs. Upon revisiting this prison twenty-one prisoners, under sentence of transportation, were in irons, without any written authority from the magistrates; this practice has since been discontinued.

Visits and Letters.—The untried receive visits by an order from a magistrate until the week before the sessions, when it is not required; the convicted, once in three months, by an order from the keeper or the magistrates.

Discipline.—A partial application of the silent system has taken place in this prison, but with little, or at least no observable good result, as in similar cases where only half measures are resorted to, or limited means afforded for their execution. From the variety of employments carried on in various parts of the prison, and their want of concentration, it is quite impossible that any effectual supervision can take place. During the day prisoners of both sexes are continually traversing the yards. The men are carrying coals or bringing bobbins from the women's side; the women are fetching provisions, or passing to and from the hospital on the men's side; gardeners are digging by themselves in the keeper's garden. The matron states—"I have found a great inconvenience in the number of the male prisoners who come to the female side. They bring work, such as shoes to bind, wool to pick, cotton to wind, and every morning coals into the cookhouse, where they see the female cooks. They bring these articles generally without the attendance of a turnkey. I am very much troubled by the males of the vagrant class calling to the females after they are locked up of a night. 1 hear the voices of the males frequently after they are locked up. The two female prisoners who act as servants at the lodge I have frequently observed talking to the male prisoners employed there in the kitchen." Neither the cells nor galleries are ever visited by the turnkeys after locking up, and although the felons have each a separate sleeping cell, conversation still takes place. In the misdemeanants' class three and four prisoners occasionally sleep in one cell, making the enjoinment of silence an absurdity, by undoing at night what has beep endeavouring to be done during the day. The workshop where the men are employed picking cotton is much too small for the number usually at this work. The felons only eat their meals under proper inspection, the rest of the prisoners in their day-rooms. The women at work are most imperfectly overlooked, from the inconvenient arrangement of the workshops. While I was visiting them a male prisoner was engaged painting the exterior window-sashes, women being at work within, without an overlooker. Tobacco in large quantities is thrown over the walls, and from the facility of intercourse must find its way to the prisoners. In the midst of one of the most crowded thoroughfares of Manchester prisoners, under the charge of an old man of seventy, were painting the outside wood-work of the prison. Two female prisoners are allowed to act as servants to the turnkey at the lodge, and while thus engaged they frequently hold conversation with the male prisoners, who also are employed daily in cleaning the lock-ups. These female prisoners clean the sessions-house, and are often there by themselves: they remain in the house of the keeper of the lock-ups, engaged in washing, and the usual domestic offices, until seven o'clock in the evening, and during the session until eleven or twelve at night. Prisoners are employed every morning cleaning the boots and shoes and knives and forks of the keeper, and several of the turnkeys. An objectionable custom, liable to great abuse, also prevails, of permitting the officers to employ the prisoners upon work for themselves, paying for it at half the rate of the labour wages without the prison. Thus the keeper has employed cabinet-makers to make wardrobes; the chaplain, bookcases; and, indeed, all the officers occasionally avail themselves of this privilege. The keeper of the lock-ups likewise makes an illegal profit of from 14l. to 20l. annually, out of the food furnished by him for prisoners under temporary detention. Independently of the prisoners working at trades and receiving portions of their earnings, and besides extra food to monitors and singers, it appears by the following return that no less a number than 103 sentenced to hard labour were receiving weekly allowances in money:—

It is quite apparent that the effect produced by the established system has nothing of a deterring influence upon the fast increasing criminal population of this neighbourhood; but can it possibly be otherwise so long as it admits the principle of bestowing temporary advantages upon prisoners for duties which are in themselves relaxations of the pains and penalties of justice. The punishment of confinement in the refractory cells is merely nominal; prisoners talk from one cell to another, and do not remain in them during the night. The concentration and simplification of work, the abolition of temporal advantages, the extension of moral and religious instruction to those of maturer years, an increase in the number, and more precise arrangement of the duties of the paid servants, a decrease in the number of prisoners made use of as assistants in the discipline (the large class of misdemeanants, I consider, from the shortness of their terms, ought to be wholly under the charge and supervision of officers); the refractory cells made tenantable during the night by the application of warmth when required, a restriction of the females to their side of the prison, the institution of a night watch in the passages of the cells;—in fact, the enforcement of the silent system in its full integrity, with zeal and confidence in the officers, would, I am perfectly satisfied, bring this establishment closer to the real purposes of a house of correction than it can justly be said to be at present.

The prison closed in 1868.


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.

  • Greater Manchester County Record Office (with Manchester Archives), Archives+, Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD. Holdings include: General Registers (male)(1859-69); Nominal Register, small debts (male and female) (1863-68); Register, misdemeanants (male and female) (1847-72); Female Register (1862-67); Felony Register (probably relating to New Bailey Prison and Strangeways Prison) (1863-76); List of prisoners under different avocations (1823); Female Description Books (1859-67).
  • Manchester Prison Registers (1847-1881) can be viewed on Find My Past (subscription required).
  • 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.