Ancestry UK

County Gaol and Bridewell, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

A new County Gaol for Shropshire was erected at Shrewsbury in 1705 at what is now School Gardens. An account of the prison was given in 1784 by John Howard:

GAOLER, Samuel Wilding.


Fees, Debtors, £0 : 9 : 0.

Felons, 0 : 14 : 4.

Transports, £6 : 6 : 0 each.

Licence, Beer and Wine.


Allowance, Debtors, two six-penny loaves a week each.

Felons, 1S. 4½d. in bread a week each.

Garnish, cancelled.


Debtors.Felons &c.Debtors.Felons &c.
1774, Mar.31,12.18.1779, May 15,21,18, Def. 1, Imp. 1.
1775, Nov.27,16,15.1779, Aug. 24,13,10. - 1.
1776, Sep. 12,11,24.1782, June 23,19,19.

CHAPLAIN, Rev. Mr. Humphreys, now Rev. Mr. Rowland.

Sunday and Thursday.

Salary, £35.

SURGEON, Mr. Cooper, now Mr. Wheeler.

Salary, none: he makes a bill.

APOTHECARY, Mr. James Winall.

Salary, now £10.

THIS prison was built, as by date in the debtors court, 1705.—Separate courts for debtors and felons; but the latter have no water. For this reason, and because their day-room is in the debtors court, both debtors and felons are commonly together in that court. Commodious apartments for master's-side debtors: and two large free wards for the common-side. For felons there are two night-dungeons down 11 steps: that for men was a few years ago made more airy by an additional window: and might be freshened by a hand-ventilator which is in the room over the chapel, but has not been used for many years. The women's dungeon might also be freshened by the same. The day-room for felons is small, 15 feet by 5½: a separate being together. Most of the women when moved to the bridewell are with child. The county has enclosed another court, which I thought had been designed for women, but it has not yet been used. Here are three large lamps in the court supplied at the county's expence.

No infirmary: no bath: if the proposed improvements will be some protection against the gaol-fever, which of late years has prevailed here more than once, they will not secure prisoners against the small-pox and other diseases. When the apothecary finds that a sick prisoner should have better diet, he orders the gaoler to provide it, and signs his bill for the amount; which is readily allowed by the justices at quarter sessions.

Of the 24 felons in September 1776, 14 were convicts for transportation. The county allowed transports convicted at quarter sessions as much as those convicted at assize had from the king's allowance, viz. 2s. 6d. a week. In 1779, there were several convicts, one of whom had been ordered to the Thames in the summer assize 1777. At my last visit here were 6 convicts.

Mr. Wood, who, before the appointing of a chaplain, read prayers three times a week, and had £5 a year, was employed in the same service, and received of the chaplains the same salary, till his death.—I believe the magistrates made the chaplain's salary £5 more, in favour of Mr. Wood.

The justices of this county, at the general quarter sessions 11th Jan. 1774, were so considerate and humane, as to prohibit the demanding from prisoners at their entrance into this gaol, or into the county bridewell, any money for drink, by the name of garnish, or any other name: and to require that two or more fair copies of their said order should be hung up in the most public places of the gaol, for the inspection of debtors, as well as felons; that the unfortunate might not afterwards be imposed upon.

The clauses against spirituous liquors; the prohibition of garnish; and a new table of fees; were all hung up, and very conspicuous in the debtors hall; and these tables, with the act for preserving the health of prisoners, were hung up in the chapel.

Shropshire. A TABLE of the Rates and Fees to be taken by the Gaoler for the County of Salop, settled by the Justices of the Peace for the said County — the 14th day of July 1778.
The Chamber Rent.
£. s. d.
To the gaoler for lodging and his furniture on the master's-side, each person having a bed to himself per week.0  2  0
But if two lodge in the same bed on their own election, then each to pay per week 0  1  6
To the gaoler for lodging of each person in the garrets on the gaoler's bed and furniture per week0  1  0
That no person pay any rent or money whatsoever for lodging on the common-side unless he used the gaoler's bed and furniture, in which case he is to pay per week0  1  0
Note. No person Mall be moved out of a room where he is placed by the gaoler without his own consent, or the consent of two justices of the peace for the said county, or neglect of paying chamber-rent.
Fees for the Gaoler for Debtors.
To the gaoler for the commitment of each debtor0  5  0
To the gaoler for the discharge of each debtor0  3  0
To the gaoler for entering in his books every charge upon such debtor0  1  0
For the copy of every sheriff's warrant (if demanded) 0  1  0
But the debtors to have recourse to see the book of commitment (if demanded) gratis. 
To the gaoler for every debtor if detained upon two or more actions, fifteen shillings, including the five shillings upon commitment and no more0 15  0
For receiving and entering every declaration against debtors in custody 0  1  0
For every certificate in order for a supersedeas, or in order to sue out a rule of court0  2  6
Fees for the Gaoler for Felons or other Crimes.
To the gaoler for the discharge of every prisoner found guilty of felony  If at assizes 0 13  4
To the gaoler for the discharge of every prisoner found guilty of felony  If at sessions0  9  0
To the gaoler for the discharge of every prisoner committed for a certain time, or fined and committed until paid, or bailed out of gaol, or superseded by a justice or justices of the peace 0  7  8
But if continued in gaol three months or upwards0  9  0
For the copy of every commitment (if desired)0  1  0
For every certificate of commitment, in order to sue out a habeas corpus0  2  6
The following Articles to be allowed by the County.
To the gaoler for the discharge of every person charged with felony, or other crime, or as an accessary thereto, against whom no bill of indictment shall be found by the grand jury, or who on his or her trial shall be acquitted, or who shall be discharged by proclamation for want of prosecution  If at assizes0 13  4
  If at sessions0  9  4
Chas. Baldwyn, W.Y. Davenport, Wm. Smith, Justices.
August 13th 1778. Allowed and confirmed the above Table of Fees, by us
J. SKYNNER, G. NARES, Judges of Assize

In 1784, Howard also reported on the County Bridewell, or House of Correction, which as located adjacent to the gaol.

THIS, like the county gaol, is too small: only one day-room for men and women, and a work-room. Two night-rooms above for women. In one of them I saw a poor young creature too ill to come down stairs; she was languishing on the floor in a consumption. The night-room for men is a dungeon down ten steps. There is a small court with water. By means of a door from this into one of the courts, these prisoners have a privilege (which few in bridewells enjoy) of attending public worship in the chapel on Sunday.—Keeper's salary, £50. Fees at discharge of a felon, 8s; of one guilty of a misdemeanor, 6s. 8d; of a vagrant, 3s. 6d. Allowance, to each 1s. 4½d. a week in bread, and half a Cwt. of coals weekly, from Michaelmas to the Lent assize. Little or no employment: keeper has half the profit.

1774, Mar. 31,Prisoners 4. 1779, May 15,Prisoners 6.
1775, Nov. 27,5.1779, Aug. 24,8.
1776, Sep. 12,5.1782, June 23,16.

This is the only house of correction for the county. The gaol being too small and enclosed with buildings, and the windows of the bridewell opening into the courts of the gaol, if the whole were converted into a house of correction, every convenience might be made for labour and solitary confine A new gaol might then be built that would do credit to the county. I am informed that Baron Hotham, at the assize the 24th of July, 1782, laid a fine of £2000 on the county, to oblige the justices to build a county court. I am persuaded, had the Baron known the state of the gaol, he would first have laid a fine for the purpose of rebuilding it.

By 1788, two night-rooms for women had been added to the bridewell, but there was only one day-room for both sexes. The inmates could no longer attend worship in the gaol chapel.

In 1787, construction began of a new combined county gaol and bridewell at a site on what became Howard Street, Shrewsbury. The gaol was also known as the Dana Prison, named after a local resident and magistrate, Edmund Dana, who gave his name to a footpath that ran around the nearby Shrewsbury castle. The new building, completed in 1793, was designed by John Hiram Haycock, although his design was influenced by the work of William Blackburn, the leading prison architect of the period. It adopted a courtyard layout, with cell wings forming the perimeter of a square. At the centre of the square was an octagonal block containing the keeper's quarters, with the chapel on its upper floor. The central block was linked to the east and west wings half-way along their lengths, and similarly connected by walled walkways to the north and south sides, the whole creating a cross inside a square, with courtyards formed between the four arms of the cross. Walled courts were also created on the outer side of the east, south and west wings. In all, the gaol had 110 cells and 8 courts while the house of correction had 70 cells and 5 courts.

In 1812, James Neild described the establishment as follows:

Gaoler, Richard Cartwright. Salary, 300l.

For Conveyance of Transports, 1s. per mile.

Fees, Debtors as per Table: But the Under-Sheriff demands a Fee of 7s. 6d. upon discharge of a Common Writ; and from those under execution 1s. in the pound, if under 100l.; but if above 100l. then 6d. in the pound. Felons, no Fees.

Garnish, abolished.

Chaplain, Rev. W. G. Rowland; now (1809) Rev. Chas. Powlett. Salary, 70l.

Duty, Prayers every Thursday, and a Sermon every Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas-day.

Surgeon, Mr. William Thomas. Salary, 50l. for Debtors and Felons.

Number of Prisoners,

Debtors.Felons &c.
1802, Nov. 3d,1258.
1803, Sept. 11th,1181.
1809, Nov. 20th,1245.

Allowance, Debtors, 1lb. 8 oz. of wheat bread, which is made by the Female Convicts, and baked in the Gaol. Felons have the same allowance of bread, and one penny in cheese, or butter. Transports have the King's Allowance, of 2s. 6d. per week.


This Gaol, which is likewise the House of Correction, is near the Castle, and was first inhabited in 1793. The boundary-wall encloses two acres of ground, and is 16 feet high. The entrance in front is called the Porter's Lodge, and over the gate is a bust of Mr. Howard. In the door are two apertures to receive donations, viz. "To Debtors in a state of Industry," and "To Prisoners in a state of Reformation." The ground-floor, on the left, has the Turnkey's apartments, and his sleeping-rooms are above. On the right hand is the Lazaretto, with a hot and cold bath, and an oven to fumigate and purify Prisoners' clothes; which are taken from them on admission, and the Gaol Uniform put on.

Up-stairs are two reception-rooms, a room for the Irons, and a sitting-room (with a fire-place) for the Clergyman, who there performs his last offices to persons under sentence of death. They suffer on the flat roof above.

The court in front of the Keeper's house is about 20 yards square, and the Inner Turnkey's lodge adjoins. Master's-Side Debtors have a court-yard 36 feet square; a day-room 14 feet by 12, and eleven sleeping-rooms with boarded floors: they sleep single, and pay 4s. per week for County furniture; but if they furnish their own beds, 2s. per week. Common-Side Debtors have a court-yard, 70 feet by 39, a dayroom, 20 feet by 14, and fourteen sleeping-cells, 7 feet by 6, with arched roofs and brick floors; to which the County allows: a bedstead, a hair mattress, a pair of sheets, one blanket, and a rug in Summer, and two blankets in Winter. No firing is allowed, except the Debtor be very poor; but in severe weather they have frequently coals given them, the cost of which is only 7d-per hundred weight. The name of every Prisoner who does not attend Divine Service is inserted in a book kept for that purpose. A Manufacturer, or Task-master, is employed by the County, with a Salary of 50l. per annum, who furnishes work, and deducts one-third of the Prisoners' earnings, which is paid to the County-treasurer: but if the Debtor can have the means of labour brought to him from without the Prison, he receives the whole of his earnings. Female Debtors have a court-yard, with eight sleeping-rooms, and are under the same regulations as the Men. Here are also two courts and rooms for Male and Female King's-Evidence, and two for Male and Female refractory Prisoners. Female Felons before trial have likewise a court-yard, and eight sleeping-cells: After trial they are removed to another court-yard, which has twelve sleeping-cells.

Capital Male-Felons, before and after conviction, have each a spacious court, about 71 feet by 67, with day-rooms, and forty-four sleeping-cells. Petty Male Felons, in the like circumstances, have courts of the same dimensions, and thirty-eight sleeping-cells.

Lewd Women and Vagrants have a court-yard, with nine sleeping-cells. Male and Female disorderly Servants and Apprentices, have each their separate courts, and fifteen sleeping-cells: and Male Vagrants and Deserters have likewise a separate court, with sixteen sleeping-cells.

Besides all these, there is a detached Infirmary, with separate courts, two day-rooms, and four sleeping-rooms, for Male and Female Sick Prisoners, where extra food and wine are provided, by direction of the Surgeon.

Seventy-eight of the Felons' cells have double doors, the outer one iron-grated, and the inner of wood: Each cell has a brick floor, and is of 8 feet 8 inches by 6 feet 7, and 8 feet 10 inches high: they have all arched roofs, and are fitted up with a bedstead, canvas or wadd-hair mattress filled with straw, a hempen sheet, two blankets, a rug, a leather or wooden bucket, and a stone chamber pot.

There are no sleeping-cells on the ground-floor.

The Chapel is in the centre of the building; and the several classes, who enter at different doors, are separated by partitions.

Debtors are placed in the gallery.

Table of Fees,
To be paid by the Debtors in Shrewsbury County-Gaol.
s.  d.
For entering every Action whereon each Prisoner is brought into custody, either by Process, Capias, Latitat, or Execution0  0
For discharging every Action upon Process, Capias, Latitat, or Execution2  6
For a Certificate of the want of a Declaration, &c. in order to sue out a Writ of Supersedeas2  6
N. B. The following sums to be paid by persons delivering the Declaration, or demanding the Warrant respectively.
To the Turnkey, for receiving and entering every Declaration against a Prisoner in custody1  0
For each of the three first Causes against a Prisoner1  0
And for every other0  4
Attending every Prisoner to give bail, special bail, Habeas Corpus, or other necessary attendance, out of the Gaol, as directed by the Statute, 1s. per mile.
And no greater or other Fee shall be taken by the Governor from or on account of any Prisoner."

On a level with the Chapel are six cells, for Prisoners under sentence of death, or solitary confinement. All the cells are well ventilated, and divided by lobbies or passages 6 feet wide. The whole Prison is well supplied with spring-water from a pump, and with river water thrown by a forcing engine into a large reservoir at the top. There are several work-rooms for Men and Women, with a store-house, store-rooms, bake-house, bread-room, and wash-house. A watchman goes round the Prison, and cries the hour, attended by a dog. There is a Committee-Room for the Visiting Magistrates, who are appointed at the Sessions. The Act for Preservation of Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, are conspicuously hung up.

The whole Prison is very clean, and has excellent Rules and Orders for its good government. When I attended Divine Service here, 11th Sept. 1803, all the Prisoners were present; their behaviour silent, and they were attentive to a very impressive discourse. The Employment of the Felons consists in making shoes, slippers, gloves, and bottle-stands: there are looms likewise for weavers

In 1820, it was reported that:

Alterations for the improved classification of the prisoners are as follows: three additional departments for females, and one for males. The first court appropriated for female felons before trial; second, after trial; and third, for vagrants: also one court for male vagrants: all the other courts remain as in the year 1818, as also the general plan of the prison. There are in all, nine classes for male prisoners, exclusive of debtors; viz. two yards for prisoners before trial,two for prisoners after trial,and five yards for the House of Correction prisoners,including vagrants. They are thus divided; two courts for vagrants, one for poachers, another for disorderly servants, and a third for want of surety, bastardy, &c. There are eight classes for females,two before trial, two after trial; two bastardy; one disorderly servants; and one vagrants. The number of night-cells is 152, each prisoner sleeping separately, unless they exceed the number of cells.

A mill was erected in the Gaol two years ago, for grinding corn, which employs thirty-six men, eighteen at one time, and they change three times each per day, the remaining male prisoners are employed in weaving laces,making list shoes, tobacco, and shoemakers' pegs, whitewashing, and other necessary employments in the Gaol. The female prisoners are employed in baking, washing, spinning, knitting stockings and gloves; also making the sheets and wearing apparel consumed in the Gaol. The produce of the mill is sold to a mealman who contracts for it. The amount of cash paid to the prisoners in the year 1820, is £218. 5s. 11d., which is supposed to be one-third of the estimated value of the work performed by them. Each prisoner is paid about 1s.per week, as the amount of his earnings. Solitary confinement is occasionally resorted to, with different degrees of punishment; and four solitary cells, heated by flues, with a small yard attached to each, have been just erected for this purpose. The intention is to confine the worst of characters, whose example might tend to corrupt the younger offender.

Female criminals are less in number, and that of disorderly women is about the same as formerly. The service of the Church is read, and a sermon preached on Sunday,morning prayers on Tuesday, and evening ditto on Thursday. The Chaplain attends nearly every day. There is also a schoolmaster, who attends five mornings in the week,for the purpose of instructing the prisoners. Bibles, Testaments, and religious tracts are distributed to the prisoners by the Chaplain.

The cost of each prisoner's subsistence, per head per day, is 3½d. being 2½d. for bread,and 1d.for cheese or butter delivered to each prisoner. The supposed average of re -commitals is ten per cent.

There is a subscription in the county for the relief of distressed prisoners, which amounted to £94. 18s.last year: of this, £20 or £30 is laid out in books; and sums varying from one shilling to a guinea are given to the prisoners of the best character, on their discharge. Clothes are sometimes purchased, and milk for infant children; and a dinner is given at Christmas to all the prisoners, including debtors.

A further report in 1832, noted:

Additional courts have been formed at this gaol, and the prisoners are now divided into 26 classes, viz. male felons for trial, 3 classes; convicted felons, 3 classes; transports, 1 class; deaths recorded, 1 class; debtors, 3 classes; misdemeanants for trial, disorderly servants and apprentices, bastardy cases, for want of sureties, common misdemeanants, poachers, vagrants and deserters, one class each. Female debtors, 2 classes; female felons, 2 classes; misdemeanants, disorderly servants and apprentices, vagrants, and bastardy cases, one class each.

The tread-wheel labour has not been introduced at this prison. The male prisoners are employed in grinding corn, by the capstan-lever wheel, and at various other occupations. The prisoners' earnings during the year amounted to £788. The daily hours of labour are eight and a half in summer, and four and three-quarters in winter. The dietary is 1½lb. of bread,daily; 1 pint of oatmeal gruel for breakfast; dinner, three days in the week 2½ lbs. of potatoes; on other days 1 pint of soup, and on Sunday 1 oz. of butter. Supper, soup and gruel alternately. The number of commitments has increased. It is stated that the crime of poaching is greatly on the advance, from the number of colliers, and other labouring people, who are out of employ.

There is a prison-charity established, to enable debtors to gain a livelihood while in confinement, and to provide them with the means of supporting their families on their return to society; to encourage industry and penitence in the criminal prisoners; to provide clothing for such as may receive a certificate of their good behaviour, on quitting the prison; and to furnish all who are discharged with a small sum, for immediate maintenance, to prevent a recurrence to crime. One insane prisoner, a female, has been in confinement nearly ten years. There are two other insane persons in confinement.

In 1836, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

Construction.—The outer wall of this Gaol is not high enough: there is only one wall outside the Prison, in consequence of which the prisoners may communicate from the higher windows with persons without. There has been no escape during the present Governor's time. It is fire-proof. The inspection is not very good. The windows generally open in a peculiar manner; one small portion is made to slide aside on a groove, and thus to admit air; but, the groove and the sliding part Seem often out of order, the operation becomes troublesome, and on the whole it is a clumsy and imperfect expedient; the ventilation is otherwise moderately good. There are 24 Yards. There is no mode of warming the cells as yet introduced. Every yard has both spring and rain water, and is Macadamized. There is no Dark Cell for males, but there is one for females, including a Day Cell, a Sleeping Cell, and a privy. There is a Refractory Cell for the males, which can be darkened, more or less, by sliders; this consists also: of Day and Night Cell, and of a privy. The Infirmary for males and females constitutes a separate building, the privies in which are not in good order. In some of the Sleeping Cells the windows have no glass, but are commanded by wooden shutters, which do not always open freely. Some of the windows of the Prison have broken panes, which are not mended until a Visiting Magistrate gives directions to that effect. About a sixth part of the Sleeping Cells hold two, or three beds, but are not generally larger than the Sleeping Cells for one prisoner; these, however, are only used when the Prison is crowded.

The dimensions of the single Sleeping Cells are, 8 feet 9 inches by 6 feet 8 inches; height, 8 feet 3 inches.

Management.—Silence appears to have been partially enforced here for some, years past; it is now coming into complete operation. There are Monitors in each ward (chosen from among the prisoners), whose business it is to maintain silence; and the Taskmaster enforces it at labour; but, since he is obliged to move to and fro, to be sometimes at the mill, and at other times in the workrooms, it is difficult to affirm how far it is enforced in his absence. It is probable that additional officers will be found necessary here, as in several other gaols, in order to enforce silence, not merely apparently and nominally, but in reality. The Untried prisoners associate in classes (varying in number from four to ten in each). Day Rooms are maintained for all the prisoners. The Convicted prisoners associate also in classes (containing each from four to eight). All sleep at night in separate cells. There is a paid Schoolmaster here, who seems also at present to perform the duties of Clerk in addition; but it is under the consideration of the Magistrates to appoint a separate clerk. From 12 to 36 lashes is the usual number inflicted, when whipping is ordered.

Diet.—The three following dietaries are in use for the different classes of prisoners. The bread is of wheaten thirds, at least twenty-four hours old.

Sundaypint of gruel1 oz. of butterpint of gruel.
ditto2½lbs. of boiled potatoespint of soup.
dittopint of soup.pint of gruel.
Every day1½lb. of bread to each prisoner.

Sundayhalf pint of gruelhalf ounce of butterhalf pint of gruel.
ditto1¼lbs. of boiled potatoeshalf pint of soup.
dittohalf pint of soup.half pint of gruel.
Every day1½lb. of bread to each prisoner.

Sundayhalf pint of gruelhalf pint of gruel.
dittohalf pint of soup.
dittohalf pint of gruel.
Every day1½lb. of bread to each prisoner.

Dietary No. 1 is given to all Male prisoners condemned (except for murder), or sentenced to transportation, or ordered or committed to hard labour for any period exceeding three months; to all working at their respective trades, or at any trade, occupation or employment (whether committed to hard labour or not), entirely for the benefit of the county; to Females employed in the washhouse and laundry, and those nursing their children.

Dietary No. 2 is given to Debtors, Deserters, Prisoners for Trial (except Misdemeanants and for want of sureties for the calendar), for contempt of court, for further examination, King's evidence, and to all prisoners sentenced or committed to hard labour for any period exceeding one and not exceeding three months.

Dietary No. 3 is given to all prisoners sentenced or committed to hard labour for any period not exceeding one month, and to all other prisoners who may be entitled by law to receive food from the county.

Both Untried ,and Convicted prisoners wear a prison;uniform. The women are well clothed, as well as the men. The Bedding provided consists of a straw bed, two sheets, two blankets and a rug.

Labour.—The Capstan is worked during eight hours of the winter day, and during 10 hours of the summer day. Pumping water affords another occupation; and some trades are carried on, as well as washing.

The Untried are employed in making and mending shoes, in heading pins, breaking stones, and tailoring; and they receive an extra allowance of food in consideration of their work. There are some Work Rooms solely appropriated to the trades.

My information respecting the details of this Gaol are less complete, than they might otherwise have been, on account of the absence of the Gaoler, who had gone to London for the purpose of escorting Convicts.

Religious and other Instruction.—On Sunday the Chaplain performs Divine Service twice, and delivers one Sermon. He reads select prayers front the Liturgy daily; and the prisoners remain half an hour after the daily Morning Prayers to read the Bible, and to hear the comments of the Chaplain. He visits the sick when it is requisite, and the whole Gaol every Sunday. The Bible and Prayer-book and religious tracts are well supplied. The Schoolmaster instructs the males in reading; and the Matron instructs the females. Two benevolent ladies also usually come once a week to afford religious instruction. to the females.

Care of the Sick, Disease, and Mortality.—The Surgeon attends daily, and at all times when sent for. The most common complaints are coughs and disordered bowels.

The total number of prisoners who have been attended during the year amounts to 214; but this list includes the slight ailments, as well as the severe ones.

There has been only one death in the course of the year, from Michaelmas 1834 to Michaelmas 1835. Among 660 prisoners committed, the greatest number of prisoners who have been unwell at the same time has been 14; but we are unable to separate, in this instance, the trivial cases from the more important ones.

There is one prisoner here who is deaf and dumb; but there is no insane prisoner in confinement.

Staff in 1836 comprised: Keeper (salary £400), Chaplain (£150), Surgeon (including medicines, £70); Matron (£65), Surveyor (per day, £2 12s. 6d.), Schoolmaster (acts as chapel clerk, and assists as writing clerk, £35), Three Male Turnkeys (1st, £50 per annum; 2nd, 18s. per week; 3rd, 14s. per week; £15 is divided additionally among all three); Male Taskmaster (£56), Porter or Gatekeeper (16s. per week), Watchman (14s. per week). A Physician is called in occasionally, and is remunerated for his assistance.

Following the nationalisation of the prison system in 1878, the prison became known as Her Majesty's Prison, Shrewsbury.

After an outbreak of typhus in 1882-3, the prison was rebuilt on the existing site, construction being completed in 1888.

A survey of the prison in 1910 reported that it had accommodation for 182 men and 27 women. The surveyor described the layout as follows:

Shrewsbury Prison, as seen from the railway on approaching, is a great red-brick block with a corner house (females' hospital &c), standing on a hill, on right of the station, across the River Severn, which here runs north. On nearer approach an old stone gatehouse appears (facing almost south).

Over this old gateway is a bust of Howard the Prison Reformer, and facing the entry on inside is the old office block, extending east and west from "corner house" to males' hospital. This old building with chapel over offices is dated 1787-1795, and is all that remains of the former Prison, except the gatehouse.

The shape of the Prison yard is a parallelogram with the front corners cut off, and the brick boundary wall was particularly low, being at females' exercise yard only 14' 6" in height till raised in 1907.

The main or men's Prison A (1885), runs north and south from behind the left part of the old office block, and is of the same "style" externally as Nottingham, having protruding pilasters, and sunk panels between around the cell windows. It is 22 cell spaces long, and four flats [storeys] high.

The small Females' prison (1886) is parallel to the men's on its east side, running north from the "corner house" before named.

There are only two rooms in the Gate-house, viz. Gate office on left, and sleeping-in room (with yard and w-c.) beyond. The inner iron gate has been "set-back" into the yard to obtain greater length for the wood paved part between the gates.

The Chief Warder lives in an adjoining Quarters house on the right, and the Schoolmaster in one on the left. These two comprise all the married quarters in use, except the Governor's semi-detached house at north east corner of the property, across the road.

Making a tour of the yard to the left, from the entrance gate — the General store is first seen in front of the males' reception.

Passing round the males' reception (with males' hospital over) which adjoins the west end of old office block, the males' Disinfector is seen, and then a good garden for Potatoes on west side of men's cell block.

At far end of this garden are 12 stone-breaking boxes in a row, facing west, outside the Debtors' exercise yard. There is a w-c. at the end of the boxes, and further yard closets were added in 1907. Here also is a ladder shed behind them.

The works workshop is then seen next, in workshops north west part of yard, a good high building, with Blacksmiths' and Tinsmiths' forges, Carpenters' bench, Paint store, and a good glass office for the Artisan warder.

Beyond the workshop is the new brick Van house built by the Railway Company in 1902. Behind it is the wooden execution house: this has a good new high beam and bracket, and a pit with a 7' 6" long trap, all of recent style.

Outside the north end of the men's wing (and entered therefrom) is the Oakum store; and then — beyond the Execution house, and to north east of males' prison is found the old two -floored brick hospital, filled with rope and wood, and with a closed yard beyond full of old sleepers. There are two staircases in this building, one at each end, but the dilapidated accommodation upstairs is useless. The yard had been thought to be a suitable place for erecting a Corrugated iron Isolation ward for men, but as an admirable one exists for women, which with slight alterations could be made available for either sex, the need did not appear.

This stands on east side of the men's wing, and is worked by them. There are five cooking pots of 22½ gallons each, under a good hood; one Steamer, one Range, and two short cylindrical steam Boilers. There is a good Country oven in which two heatings and two batches, on alternate days with one of each suffice. There is a women's "serving room " on south east, a wooden washup trough, and a "Steam" pit for collecting condensed water.

These are placed between the Kitchen and A, or men's wing : there are eight Cast iron painted baths, and a hot tank, steam heated from the Kitchen. It is a modern place, with good divisions, but narrow passage.

Between the Males' and females' prisons, south of the passage to kitchen from A is a small exercise yard (enclosed) used for "Trial" Prisoners. From it is seen the high chimney of the Kitchen and Laundry combined.

The detached Laundry stands east and west Laundry to north of the females' prison. It is worked by the women, and is entered from their yard. It contains two coppers, and six boxes with wooden wash-tubs, each with a window,34

HMP Shrewsbury, from the north-east, 1920s.

The establishment continued to receive female prisoners until 1922. In more recent times it was a Class B/C prison for adult males. The prison closed in 2013 and the site is now operated as a heritage attraction.


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.

  • Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Holdings include: Gaol Visiting Justices' report books (1823-78), Printed Prison reports (1836-77), Register of Officers (1890-1958), Reports on prisoners (1856-61).
  • 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.