Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Tiverton, Devon

The Tiverton Town Gaol was originally located under the town's old Guildhall, erected in around 1615 on St Andrew's Street, Tiverton.

In 1784, John Howard wrote that it comprised:

Two rooms under the town-hall, with a window in each towards the street. Keeper no salary. Fees, 3s. 4d. Licence for beer. 1782, Aug. 1, No prisoners.

In 1812, James Neild gave a slightly fuller description (based on a visit made in 1806):

Here are two rooms under the Town-Hall. One for Debtors, 18 feet by 17 ,and 9 feet high,supplied with two wooden bedsteads, straw, and two blankets. No fire-place: an iron-grated window opens from it into a small court-yard, but of which the Prisoners have no use.

The other room is called "The Back Gaol," of about half the size of the Debtors apartment; and where the Felons are confined. Here is one bedstead, with straw and two blankets; and the iron-grated window looks into an useless court, like the former.

Debtors are sent hither for sums exceeding ten pounds, up to any amount, by process issuing out of the Borough Court; and after the holding of five Courts, a Debtor is entitled to receive his Sixpences. A Court is held every fortnight. Both rooms are supplied with sewers and water. The two little court-yards are angular, of about 18 feet in the widest part.

Gaoler, John Needes, the Town Sergeant.
Salary, as Gaoler, none. Fees, 3s. 4d .

Prisoners, 1803, Oct. 20th, None. 1806, Sept. 26th, Two.

Allowance, none to Debtors, except certificated as Paupers; But Felons have 6d. a day.

In 1829, the gaol moved from the Guildhall to the nearby Town Bridewell premises.


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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.