Ancestry UK

Borough Gaol, Sudbury, Suffolk

Sudbury had a Borough Gaol by 1692 and occupied a site on Friars Street — then also known as Gaol Street.

In 1784, John Howard reported on the prison:

Has for debtors a day-room with a fire place; and two little rooms for them to lodge in, about 7 feet by 5 each. A room for men-criminals, with a fire-place and a loom: another for women; this also has a fire-place. A court, not secure; and the water not accessible to prisoners. They have no allowance. Keeper, no salary: fees, 4s. no table. Clauses against spirituous liquors not hung up.

1776, Dec. 6, Prisoners 0.
1779, Sep. 25, 0.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, Richard Wright; a Baker. Salary, none. Fees, 4s. No Table.

Prisoners, 1801, Oct. 17th, and 1810, Sept. 24th, none.

Allowance, Sixpence per day.


This is a miserable place, for the imprisonment of inferior delinquents, or for their confinement until fully committed for Trial.

It consists of two rooms on the ground floor, about 13 feet square, fronting the Street; having each a fire-place, and iron gratings, through which to breathe, and beg the casual charity of passengers.

Of these rooms, one, called "The Toll," has a wooden bedstead, raised about 12 inches from the floor, with loose straw to sleep on. The other, which has also an iron grating towards the Street, contains two sleeping-cells, of about 9 feet by 6, with straw only on the floor; and, as a glaring instance of filthy negligence, a bar of wood laid across one corner of each room, with a little straw underneath it, is the vile substitute for a privy!

For Women, here is one wretched room, above stairs, equally destitute of furniture, and in a very dilapidated state. They are sometimes, however, indulged by the Keeper with the use of a small court-yard, leading toward his bake-house.

The decaying building was demolished in 1828, its site now occupied by the property at 25 Friars Street. Its function as a lock-up was replaced by an adjunct to the new town hall then erected on Gaol Lane.

In 1836, The Inspectors of Prisons recorded:

This prison was built about six years ago, and forms a suitable appendage to the Town Hall, where the magistratesí business is carried on, and in the rear of which it is situated. It is detached from other buildings, consists of two cells on the ground-floor, and two above of the same dimensions, 7 feet high, 5½ feet wide, and 10 feet long, and an adjoining airing-yard, 33 feet long and 19 feet wide, and apartments for the Keeper.

The borough of Sudbury paying its proportion to the county rate, prisoners are only retained here during examination, and are then sent to Bury St. Edmunds. Fourteen prisoners have been confined here during the year 1835.

Diet.—There is no regular food directed to be supplied by the Magistrates; the Keeper gives it according to circumstances, and at his own discretion.

Keeper.—Aged 56; constable, and Keeper of the Town Hall and prison. Salary, 10. a year.

Observations:—This prison was very clean, and a very proper register is kept by the Keeper, at his own suggestion; it is divided into columns, with the prisonersí names, age, height, trade, parish, county, date of commitment, for what committed, by whom, sentence, date of discharge.

This place of temporary confinement fully answers the purpose for which it was intended.

The prison's entrance archway survives, forming the entrance to >Sudbury Heritage Centre.


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