Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, St Albans, Hertfordshire

St Albans had a Borough Gaol located in the Market Place,under the Town Hall. This was separate from the Liberty Gaol that occupied part of the Abbey Gatehouse.

In 1784, John Howard wrote:

The Borough Gaol, or Compter. Debtors have sometimes the use of the town-hall in the day-time: the lodging-room of those that pay joins to it. Felons and poor debtors have two day-rooms, and two close offensive night rooms: no fire-place. Allowance to felons, a pound of bread a day. No straw: no court: no water. The late keeper's salary was £3. The present keeper pays rent to the corporation £10 a year, as appears by the mayor's receipt June 9, 1781. Fees for felons, 13s. 4d. Licence for beer. Clauses against spirituous liquors hung up: — The debtors from the court of requests (debts under 40 s.) are confined here with felons. Though the act of 25th Geo. II. clears them in forty-two days, yet as it does not specify the gaoler's fees, and here is no table, they must continue in prison till they can pay whatever the keeper demands.

1776, March 1,No prisoners. 
1776, Nov. 3,Debtors 2.Felons &c. 2. 
1779, April 24,0.0.Deserter 1.
1782, May 7,1.1. 

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, James Deayton. Salary, 2l. Fees, Debtors, none. Felons, l3s.4d.

Number of Prisoners,

1801, Aug. 15th,One.1808, Aug. 1st,One.
1804, Sept. 8th, Three.1810, Aug. 12th,None.
1807, July 31st,None. 

Allowance. To Debtors, none. To Felons, and other Criminal Prisoners, one pound of bread per day, cut from the Keeper's loaf.

Those Debtors who can pay, have very good lodging-rooms, adjoining to the Town-Hall; and, sometimes, the use of the Hall to walk in: for here is no courtyard.

Debtors from the Court of Conscience are confined in two very dirty, close, and offensive rooms below, with an iron grating towards the Street. In the same rooms Felons also are confined. These have no fire-place.

Debtors, however, fortunately remain here but a very short time. I have not met with one, at my several visits, in the course of the last six years.

The Men and Women Felons have no other day-rooms than those above described. At one of my visits, I recollect, that a shoe was suspended from the iron-grated windows to solicit charity; and the Prisoners were conversing with persons in the Street.

They have two close offensive night-rooms, or cells, separated only by an open wooden-bar partition. The largest of these is 7 feet by 6 feet 5 inches, and 8 feet 3 inches high; the other, 6 feet 8 inches by 4 feet 5 inches, and 7 feet 10 inches high. They have loose Straw on the boarded floor, and one blanket each.

When a new Town Hall was opened on St Peter's Street in 1826, the old building was demolished and the its operation was absorbed into that of the Liberty Gaol in the Abbey Gateway.


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