Ancestry UK

County Bridewell and Lock-up, Whitehaven, Cumberland

The Cumberland County Bridewell, at the Queen Street, Whitehaven, was erected in 1808 at the corner of Queen Street and Peter Street, Whitehaven.

In 1812, James Neild wrote:

This Prison, built in 1808, is situate in a high and healthy part of Queen-street. The Keeper's house is in front; separated from the Prison behind it by an area of 56 feet by 23 ,and solely for the Keeper's use. Out of this area are two iron-grated doors of entrance to the Prison; one for Men, the other for Women; and opening into their respective court-yards; both of which are 43 feet by 12 feet 6, with sewers conveniently placed.

On the ground-floor each have a day or mess-room, 13 feet by 12 feet 6, and 8 feet high; a work-room 17 feet by12 feet 6, and a sleeping-cell for Felons, 12 feet by 9, of the same height: the floors are flagged; a small iron-grated hole gives light and ventilation to each cell, which has a cast-iron bedstead, with wooden bottom, straw-in-sacking bed,two blankets,and a rug. The day and work-rooms have likewise flagged floors; but they are lighted and ventilated by grated and glazed casement windows, 4 feet 2 inches 2 feet 6,and have fire-places; but coals are not furnished by the County.

On the chamber-story are four sleeping-rooms, about 12 feet square, and two infirmary-rooms, 12 feet by 9, with boarded floors: four of them have fire-places; and all have grated and glazed casement windows, and are fitted up with wood bed steads, and bedding as before described The sexes are completely separated, and allowed to take the air in their court-yards during the day. The greatest number of Prisoners confined here at one time has been twelve.

In 1837, The Inspectors of Prisons wrote:

County House of Correction and Lock-Up.

This prison is situate in the most elevated part of the town of Whitehaven. It adjoins. other buildings, and, although of considerable size, is devoid of every suitable convenience. There are no means of inspection, and ventilation and light are wanting in the cells, and from the quantity of wood used in its construction, it is by no means safe from accident by fire. It comprises four airing-yards, four day-rooms, six sleeping-rooms, and four cells for prisoners, and a dwelling-house for the keeper.

Dimensions of Day-rooms and Cells.
Males.Ground floor.Day-room, 20 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 11 in.; 8 ft. 2 in. high.
Sleeping-cell, 7 ft. by 12 ft. 11 in.; 8 ft. 2 in. high.
First floor.Sleeping-room, 20 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 11 in.; 7 ft. 7 in. high.
Cell, 7ft. by 12 ft. 11 in.; 7 ft. 7 in. high.
Females.Ground floor.Day-room, 23 ft. by 13 ft.; 8 ft. 4 in. high.
Sleeping cells, 7 ft. by 13 ft.; 8 ft. 4 in. high.
First floor.The dimensions of sleeping-room and cell the same as those on the ground floor.

No. 3 and No. 4, detached buildings with yards, containing two rooms in each, 14 ft. by 16 ft., 8 ft. 4 in. high; these rooms are only made use of when the other parts of the prison are full. The keeper's dwelling consists of kitchen, parlour, two chambers, and wash-house. The privies were in a most offensive condition; many of the squares of glass broken, and the entire of the prison in a neglected state. It is chiefly used for prisoners while under examination, or for bail, and in some few cases for those under summary conviction.

Diet. —The county allowance for the subsistence of prisoners is 2s. a-week, which is paid to them in motley, and they purchase such articles of food as they desire. The smoking of tobacco is permitted.

Fuel.—No allowance of coal.

Bedding.—Palliasse, blankets, and rug; there are only four bedsteads in the prison; the male prisoners place their beds on the floor, and the single prisoner, who was there on the day of inspection, was accommodated in this way, his bedding lying strewed about the room in no very cleanly condition.

Cleanliness.—Neither soap nor towels allowed the prisoners: the prison requiring a thorough cleansing and lime-washing.

Health.—When medical assistance is wanted it is procured. Moral and Religious Instruction.—The prisoners are supplied with bibles and prayer-books. The curate of the parish attended the prison twice a-week during the last year, but has not during the present, nor is any Divine service performed. The keeper should, at least, comply with the directions of the Gaol Act, and read prayers himself, particularly as prisoners here undergo, occasionally, three months and, not unfrequently, one month's imprisonment.

Discipline.—No rules nor regulations. The yearly average number of prisoners 35.

Books and Accounts.—A register of the prisoners is kept under the following heads:—Name — age — size — eyes — hair — person — marks and remarks — date of commitment — when received — by whom committed — county allowance — front — to — when liberated — by whom liberated — observations.

Keeper. — Age 59, married; appointed 1822; non-commissioned officer eleven rare in the Dumfriesshire militia; afterwards police constable at Carlisle; salary 25l. a-year, and 9d. a mile for conveying prisoners to Carlisle.

The Inspector's report makes it clear that the bridewell was also being used as a lock-up. The prison closed in about 1849.


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  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
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