Ancestry UK

Town Gaol ('The Grate'), Shaftesbury, Dorset

In 1808, it was recorded that a Town Gaol was then in use under part of the town's ancient Guildhall, located to the west of St Peter's Church and Golhill cross.

In 1818, the prison, also known as 'The Grate', was described as a Lock-up House and was 'an old prison used to lock up vagrants, and other disorderly person apprehended by the Constables, till they have been brought before the Magistrates.'

The Grate had ceased use by 1835 when it had been replaced by another small facility, perhaps in the new Town Hall on the high Street:

The court of record had a Gaol belonging to it; but it was one of very small dimensions. It was used as a lock-up house for some years after the court ceased to be resorted to, but has been wholly abandoned since another building has been constructed to answer the same purpose.


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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.