Ancestry UK

County Bridewell, Sherborne, Dorset

A County Bridewell, or House of Correction, was probably in existence in Sherborne (or Sherborn) by 1741, when large repairs and rebuilding were carried out by local mason Benjamin Bastard.

In 1784, John Howard described it as:

Four rooms, two for each sex, but only one day-room and one court. Keeper has a large garden: salary, £40: fees, 13s. 4d. no table. Allowance, a three-penny loaf in two days (weight in Sep. 1774, 1 lb. 15oz. now a half-quartern loaf, in Aug. 1782, 2 lb. 3oz.). No employment. The keeper formerly told me he had spoken in behalf of his sick prisoners to the clerk of the peace, who said "he thought the late act did not extend to bridewells," but now a surgeon is appointed.—There were 26 committed to this prison in 1779,—31 in 1780,—and 45 in 1781.

The justices have very judiciously provided for the relief of prisoners going to different quarter sessions. Their order, dated 12th April 1774, is as follows.

Sherborn, Dorset. The great inhumanity that frequently happens unto the several prisoners—conveyed to the different quarter sessions to be tryed by the walking loaded with heavy irons—being taken into consideration—it is the resolution and order of this court that for the future the gaol-keeper and bridewell-keeper shall provide for one prisoner only a horse, for two or more a convenient cart or carriage for the conveying them: and to be allowed the sum of three pence per mile for one person; for two or more the sum of six pence a mile &c.
1774, Sep. 22,Prisoners 9.
1779, Feb. 6,2
1782, Aug. 2,13

By 1789, the bridewell had moved into new accommodation, as again reported by John Howard:

A new prison. Passages too narrow (three feet): cells too low; some not eight feet high: the women's rooms will be very close, a high wall being only six feet distant from the front: no employment. Those committed to hard labour are locked up in solitary cells, and out only one hour in a day, which seems to be, in several places, the magistrates' mode of curing the prisoners of their habits of idleness. Allowance, a threepenny loaf every other day (weight 2lb. 3oz.). Keeper a sheriff's officer. Salary £40. 1788, July 2, Prisoners 9.

The prison was closed in 1793 and its function taken on by the county bridewell at Dorchester.


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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.