Ancestry UK

County Gaol, Winchester, Hampshire

From the early 13th century, the Hampshire County Gaol occupied a site on the west side of Jewry Street, Winchester.

In 1784, John Howard reported on his visits to the prison:

GAOLER, John White.
Salary, none. Fees, Debtors, £1: 0 : 0. Felons, £1 : 7 : 4.
Transports, £5 : 5 : 0 each, and hire of waggon or other carriage.
Licence, Beer and Wine.

Allowance, Debtors, none.
Felons, a three-penny loaf each, every other day (weight in Sep. 1774, 1 lb. 1502. in Feb. 1782, 1 lb. 14 oz.) and the college allowance.
Garnish, £0 : 2 : 6.

 Debtors.Felons &c.  Debtors.Felons &c.
1773, Dec. 16,21,18.1779, Mar. 1,12,26.
1774, Sep. 24,13,21.1782, Feb. 25,30,35.
1775, Dec, 28,15,29.1782, Nov. 2,33,28.
1776, Feb. 27,15,23.

CHAPLAIN, Rev. Mr. Westcomb.
Duty, Sunday, Wednesday, Friday.
Salary, augmented from £30 to £50.

SURGEON, Mr. Lipscomb.
Salary, augmented from £30 to £ 50 for felons, common-side debtors, and bridewell prisoners.

This gaol is kept very clean; and the alterations in it are improvements. The present dungeon, 48 feet by 23, is down but 5 steps: it is lofty (12 feet), boarded, and has 3 large windows. The former destructive dungeon was darker, and down u steps: Mr. Lipscomb informed me that more than 20 prisoners had died in it of the gaol-fever in one year; and that his predecessor died of the same distemper. There are two rooms over the dungeon, for common-side debtors; three rooms with beds for felons who pay, and two rooms for women. The felons day-room is commodiously enlarged. Their straw mattresses and coverlets are brought out and aired when the weather is fine. The beds are all on crib bedsteads. They had every day a clean towel hung on a roller: the prisoner who took care of it and delivered it next day was paid a penny. If a little court, which is now shut up from the gaol, and totally useless, were cleared, and opened towards the prison, it would be very conducive to health and convenience. The chapel is very low and inconvenient.

St. Cross's hospital bread (the dole) is about a penny loaf given to each of the prisoners six times a year; viz. on the eve of the following days, 10th August, 21st October, Christmas, Easter, 3d of May, and Whitsunday.

The College allowance to felons is, once a week, an ox's head, four sheep's heads and henges, about seventeen pints of oatmeal, three pints of salt, twelve loaves the size of twopenny halfpenny ones, about twenty-four gallons of table beer, and generally three times a week the broken victuals.

The gaoler has two guineas a year for keeping a bread account, to check the baker. The justices also take care of this matter; and, in consequence, the quarterly bills, now the prisoners have three halfpence a day, amount to no more than they did in the last gaoler's and baker's time, when the allowance was but a penny a day, and there was about the same number of prisoners.

The act for preserving the health of prisoners was painted on a board, and hung in the court, by order of the justices; but, there is no bath.

A Table of Fees — settled-pursuant to an Act— the second year of his present Majesty — entitled an Act for the Relief of Debtors &c.
£.   S.   D.
At the common entrance necessaries of every felon for cleansing the gaol and finding candles and all other common necessaries0  :  2  :  0
At the discharge of every felon to the gaoler1  :  5  :  4
To him for the second and every other indictment0  : 12  :  8
At the discharge of every felon to the turnkey0  :  2  :  0
For the second and every other indictment to him0  :  1  :  0
To the gaoler for every felon for his bed on the master's fide weekly0  :  3  :  0
If two lye in the same bed he may take of each for lodging in such bed.0  :  2  :  0
At the entrance of every debtor for cleansing the gaol and finding candle and other necessaries0  :  4  :  0
Of every debtor for each week's lodging in the gaoler's bed on the master's side0  :  2  :  6
For each debtor discharged to the gaoler1  :  0  :  0
Of him for the second and every other action0  : 10  :  0
To the turnkey at the discharge of every debtor0  :  2  :  0
To him of such debtor for the second and every other action0  :  1  :  0
At the discharge of every person committed for felony and whose bills shall be brought in ignoramus and at the discharge of every person committed for not finding bail or for other misdemeanors under the degree of felony no more than0  : 13  :  4
For copy of every warrant for a debtor0  :  1  :  0
For the copy of every commitment of a felon0  :  1  :  0

And it is ordered that the gaoler shall not receive directly or indirectly any other or greater fees &c. — And for the better information of prisoners that the under-written clause in the said Act of Parliament be subscribed at the bottom of the Table of Fees to be hung up in each and every room &c.

"And be it further enacted that every sheriff, under-sheriff, gaoler &c. shall permit him or her arrested to send for any beer ale and victuals or other necessary food from what place they please and also to have such bedding linnen &c. as he she or they shall think fit &c."

In 1787-8, a new prison for felons was erected under the direction of John Howard at the rear of the old gaol. A reconstruction and enlargement of the premises took place in 1805 and the Jewry Street frontage was replaced by an impressive structure designed by George Moneypenny. In 1812, after several visits to the establishment, James Neild wrote:

Gaoler, John White. Salary, 20l.; and Two Guineas per annum, for keeping a check-account of bread delivered.
Fees, for Debtors, see Table: besides which the Under-Sheriff demands a Fee of 6s. 8d. and also one shilling to his Clerk, for his Liberate!
For Felons, no Fees. For Conveyance of Transports the Gaoler makes a Bill, and the Expence is allowed him. Garnish, abolished.

Chaplain, Rev. Nicholas Westcomb.
Duty, Prayers and Sermon on Sunday; and Prayers on Wednesday and Friday. Salary, 7l. for Gaol and Bridewell.

Surgeon, Mr. Giles Lyford. Salary, l00l. for Common-Side Debtors, Felons, and Bridewell Prisoners.

Number of Prisoners,Debtors.Felons, &c. Debtors.Felons, &c.
1800, March 30th1927.1802, March 29th,2333.
1801, Jan. 10th,4259.1803, Oct. 24th,1842.
1802, Jan. 3d,2649.1807, Sept. 23d,2318.

Allowance, Master's-Side Debtors, none. Those on the Common-Side have each seventeen ounces of bread per day, in loaves, which, though two days old, I found to be of full weight: also a pound of mutton each, on Sunday.

Felons, seventeen ounces of bread, as to the Common-Side Debtors. And from Winchester College as follows:

Every Wednesday, four Sheep's Hinges. Saturday, a Bullock's Head. Once a week twelve loaves, the same as used for the Collegians. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, a basket of broken bread and meat; with six gallons of table beer three times a week, the same as used in College.

Also two quarts of oatmeal, and one quart of salt once a week. The broken meat and bread are served out one pound per Man, or as far as it will go. Convicts, under Sentence of Transportation, have here the King's Allowance of 2s. 6d. per week,

On a Tablet over the Entrance is the following Inscription:

"This County Gaol was erected
in the Forty-fifth Year of the Reign of
His Majesty George the Third, &c.
and in the Year of our Lord,

MONEYPENNY, Architect."

To prevent encroachments, the ground recently purchased by the County extends about twelve feet beyond what is occupied by the Gaol. The Prison is enclosed on three sides by a low fence-wall, ten feet high; in the centre of which, on the East, or principal front, is the entrance. This is rendered very conspicuous by a noble and spacious gate, of the Tuscan order, constructed from a design of Fignola, at the Farnese Gardens' Gate, or entrance into the Campo Vaccini; and adorned with rustick columns and pilasters, supporting a handsome entablature.

At sixty feet distance, on each side of the gate, are rustick piers, connected with the gate by an iron railing. The principal front of this building is 220 feet in length, and is designed to form three advanced structures. The chief entrance is in the middle structure; and on each side are the publick entrances to the courtyard, with rooms for the Turnkeys adjoining.

The spaces between the advanced structures are ornamented with niches, finished in a style of chaste simplicity, and the angles are embossed with rustick quoins: The parts of which all are composed, are large, few in number, and of a bold relief, characteristick of the purpose of the building.

Over the niches are moulded square compartments, which give a simple and easy relief to the space between the crowning of the niches, and the beautiful Dorick cornice; which is a grand and striking object, imitated from the Theatre of Marcellus at Rome, excepting in the Dentil-band, which here remains uncut, and the soffit of the corona is divested of its ornaments.

The Keeper's house, a large and convenient dwelling, is in the centre of the building; and affords from each floor an entire communication, by arcades, all round the Prison, without the necessity of passing the courts. These arcades are likewise very commodious for the Debtors; giving them an easy and open avenue to their respective apartments, and a great accommodation for walking and exercise in bad weather.

The ascent to the floors of the arcades, which are paved with flag-stones, is by stone stair-cases, guarded by iron railing. Over each arcade, on the Master-Debtors' Side, are six sleeping-rooms, l6 feet square, and nearly 11 feet high; And a kitchen, or mess-room, 24 feet by 22, with a large fire-place, dining-table, shelves, and cupboards for provisions. They have also two rooms on the ground-floor, of the same size; one of which is a day-room, and the other for the Debtor to see his friends in. The bed-rooms are furnished with a wooden lath-bedstead, a straw-mattress, feather-bed, blanket, sheets, and a rug, at 2s. 6d. each per week.

The court for Common-Side Debtors is separated from that of the Master's-Side by an iron railing, and is of equal size, viz. 84 feet by 74. They have likewise three floors of arcades, that lead to their sleeping-rooms; three of which are on the ground-floor; three on the first story, with a mess-room, the same as on the Master's Side; and three on the attick-story, with an Infirmary. To these sleeping-rooms, which are similar to those on the Master's-Side, the County allows a straw-in-sacking bed, a blanket and coverlet, gratis.

In the Women-Debtors' court, which is 80 feet by 35, and situate on the South side of the Prison, are four spacious rooms, of like construction with those for the other Debtors. One of these rooms is furnished by the Keeper, at 2s. 6d. per week; and the others have a straw-in-sacking bed, blanket, and coverlet, at the County's expence. Every room has a bath-stove grate, an iron shovel and poker, and a coal-box, to hold two bushels. The recess on each side of the chimney has a shelf, 18 inches wide, for placing their provisions, &c. All the Debtors' rooms are boarded, with each a sash-window, 5 feet 6 by 3 feet 6, and a grated, unglazed aperture over the door, of 3 feet by 18 inches. This court has no arcades, but a door out of it communicates with the Chapel.

Here is a reservoir, filled by an hydraulic pump from a well of fine water adjoining; which, being judiciously placed in the centre of the Men-Debtors' courts, is both convenient and ornamental, forming an elegant arcade beneath the cistern. Within this arcade are placed two large stone-troughs, with each a pipe and cock; so that the Debtors may enjoy all the use of a constant supply of water under cover from the reservoir. Pipes are also laid on to the Keeper's house, and to the court assigned for the Women-Debtors.

The court-yard for Female-Felons is situate on the North-side of the New Buildings, and in dimension 105 feet by 45. On the ground-floor is a spacious dayroom, 24 feet by 22, and nearly 11 feet high, with iron-grated glazed windows, and paved with flag-stone. It is well supplied with water by a pipe and cock from the reservoir, which is placed in the Men-Debtors' court, and fitted up with fireplace, benches, table, and shelves J S inches wide, in each chimney recess, for provisions; and a water trough.

Within the above court are three floors of arcades, containing three cells, or night-rooms on each floor, of 15 feet by 7, and nearly 11 feet high. The ascent to the upper-rooms is by a stone stair-case, guarded by iron rails. These cells are well aired, by grated apertures over the doors, of 3 feet by 18 inches, without glass; and there is another aperture, through each partition-wall to the stair-case, whereby a free circulation of air is obtained; and which, from the spaciousness of the rooms, cannot fail, with attention, to make this part of the Prison always healthy. There is also on the upper-floor an Infirmary-room, 24 feet by 22, with two sash-windows, and proper conveniences for sick persons.

The Male-Felons' apartments in this Prison, as they stood in 1807, were erected upon a piece of ground that was purchased in the year 1788, adjoining to the old structure. A lobby, or passage, 28 feet long, and 6 feet wide, leads to the centre building; and on each side are two courts, of about 60 feet by 35. On the ground-floor in each court-yard is a day-room, 13 feet square, with fire place, table, benches, shelves, a water-cock, and stone washing-trough; and also four sleeping-cells, each 9 feet by 6, lined with oak plank, furnished with iron-grated, unglazed windows, 18 feet by 14, and inside shutters, each of which has a pane of knobbed glass.

In the centre of the building, on the ground-floor, is the Turnkey's lodge, and behind that his sitting-room. On the first story are 24 sleeping-cells, and a sleeping-room for each of the Turnkeys, which commands a view of the four court-yards.

On the second, or attick-story are 16 sleeping-cells, and four infirmary-rooms.

The total number therefore of Men-Felons' cells is 56, with four day-rooms, and four infirmary-rooms. Each cell is 9 feet by 6, and fitted up with wheat-straw-in-canvas bed, two blankets and a rug on the floor, and pewter chamber-utensils: And all, except those on the ground-floor, open into lobbies 4 feet wide.

The various sewers are placed at the end of the several wings of the Prison, on the outside of the stair-cases, the vaults of which are 60 feet deep. There are also adjoining the sewers, pens for ashes, &c. forming together little buildings, equally useful and ornamental.

The court-yards here are so extensive and open, that the paving of them entirely with flag-stones is thought unnecessary: yet, in order that Prisoners may enjoy the free use of them, spacious foot-paths of stone are laid out in various directions and the intermediate parts are covered with fine gravel.

It is to be regretted, that when this addition was made to the Prison, a New chapel also was not built. The present old one, of 28 feet by 25 only, and 12 feet high, is too low and inconvenient: And the sexes, though separated in the area of the Chapel, sit on benches, or forms, very near, and in full view of each other.

Debtors have the option of attending Divine Service: but, if they neglect, are locked up in their rooms till it is over. The Rev. John Lee, a Romish Priest, gratuitously attends those Prisoners who are of the same persuasion.

Underneath the Chapel is a large store-room, in which are deposited the fuel, &c. granted for the use of the Prisoners.

The day-rooms have coals allowed, with kettles and other utensils for cooking. Common-Side Debtors have about forty bushels of coals for winter consumption.

No Employment has hitherto been provided by the County: but Prisoners of handicraft trades are permitted to procure work from without, and have the whole of their earnings.

Saint Cross's Hospital Bread, called "The Dole," is a small loaf, given to each of the Prisoners six times a year; viz. Easter-Eve, Whitsun-Eve, May the 3d, August 10th, Oct. 31st, and Christmas-Eve. Upon sending thither the number of Prisoners in custody on each of those days, the same number of loaves is put by, and sent for the day following.

The Prisoners are obliged to wash their hands and face every morning: they have clean linen once a week, and are shaved twice weekly.

Mops, brooms, brashes, soap, and all other requisites for prison cleanliness are supplied to the whole Gaol by the considerate Magistrates; and every Prisoner must sweep his room, and wash it daily in summer, and weekly in winter.

Here is no Gaol-uniform provided; but if a prisoner be ragged or filthy in apparel, he is furnished with suitable cloathing. A large tub is ready for a bath.

No Rules and Orders. The Act for the Preservation of Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, are conspicuously fixed up,

All Prisoners are prudently discharged in a morning; and have money given them, according to the distance from their respective homes.

The Keeper is humane, intelligent, and attentive, and the Prison remarkably clean.

Through the singular exertions of that active and excellent Magistrate, the late Sir Henry St. John Mildmay, Bart. M.P. for the County, a Fund has been established here, for the relief of those poor Debtors, who are unable to sue for their Sixpences, Supersedeas, &c. and likewise for giving some pecuniary assistance, to enable them to return to their respective homes.

If similar institutions were set on foot throughout England and Wales, it would be productive of great advantage to the helpless Prisoner: in Wales, particularly, where many poor Debtors are confined for three or four pounds, and the expence of suing for their aliment is greater than the original debt.

In 1836, the Inspectors of Prisons reported on the prison:

Construction.—Large, substantially built, and imposing in form, this Gaol is probably less secure than it appears at first sight. It is overlooked by the windows of neighbouring houses in several points. There are Nine Yards; five for Male Felons, two for Debtors, and two only for the Women. In consequence of tins want of accommodation for the females, classification among them becomes impracticable to any extent. The wall of the Women's Yard is so low, that they may easily converse across. A great evil here is, that the Felons look up from their yards, and observe the Debtors in their galleries, while the Debtors look down from their galleries, and obtain an extensive view of all that passes in the Felons' yards. Thus a mutual source of amusement is established, and a sort of amphitheatre is formed for reciprocal survey. There is no Kitchen, nor Bathing-house. Some of the yards are paved; and these are in a better condition than the others in regard to neatness. Every one who enters to any part of the Gaol must pass through the Debtors' Yard. I found some of the Sleeping Cells 9 feet high, 8 feet 10 inches long, and 10 feet 8 inches wide.

Management.—Silence is not enforced here; but order and discipline are steadily maintained. Neatness and cleanliness are conspicuous. The Debtors appear to be better regulated than in some of the Gaols which contain them; but it is everywhere a matter of difficulty to preserve in their quarters a good police; and this is a general topic of complaint amongst gaolers. The practice of cooking in the Day Rooms is an evil which prevails here. There is a fire in each Day Room, and a consequent congregation of offenders, corrupting each other at leisure by the fire-side.

Irons were commonly employed before the time of the present Keeper; but they are now rarely, if ever, used.

The officers who reside in the building are, the Keeper, the Matron, two Turnkeys. There is another Turnkey, who does not dwell in the prison, or, if attached to the prison. There is also an out-of-door Messenger, for common errands.

A certain number of individuals are chosen from among the prisoners to act as monitors (or as something equivalent), in the various yards. Winchester The Male Yardmen are five, being one in each yard. County Gaol. The Female Yard women are two, being one in a yard. The principal books kept in the prison are those of the Keeper, the Chaplain, and the Surgeon. There is no clerk; and I believe that such an officer would form a useful addition to so large an establishment, the accounts of which, if carefully kept, would occupy a considerable portion of time, and which, in the absence of a clerk, must necessarily abstract the Keeper from his own duties, or must devolve upon some individual salaried by the Keeper out of his own purse.

Diet.—A pound and a half of bread are allowed daily, and three quarters of a pound of meat are given once a week, on, Saturday, for the use of Sunday; such is the provision assigned both to Untried and to Convicted Prisoners. The poor Debtors receive the same daily allowance of bread, and a larger portion of meat, which is delivered to them every Wednesday and Saturday. Every prisoner has a separate bed. The Bedding which is provided for the Untried and the Convicted Prisoners consists of a straw bed, two blankets and a rug. The Debtors have sheets in addition.

No stated allowance of Clothing exists here.

Labour.—No hard labour is practised here, nor indeed is any regular employment carried on. The washing for the whole prison is performed by the prisoners, so also is whitewashing, and trifling repairs of the premises make an occasional occupation.

Religious and other Instruction.—Divine Service is performed twice on Sundays, and Prayers are read daily. The Chaplain also pays occasional visits, and goes into the several yards. He distributes religious and other instructive works to the prisoners, and keeps a journal. There is no schoolmaster, but the prisoners occasionally learn, to read of one another.

Care of the Sick, Disease and Mortality.—The Surgeon usually makes a daily visit, and preserves a journal. The Male prisoners have four Sick rooms; but the Females have not a single apartment appropriated for an infirmary; this is a deficiency which it would be desirable to supply, however scanty may be the amount of cases. This Prison, indeed, seems to enjoy a remarkable degree of health; no death has occurred during the last year, and the number of severe ailments has been singularly small. The diseases which are most frequently recorded, arc, various forms of syphilis, eruptions, diarrhoea, piles, and debility. No epidemic disorder has occurred during the last year. The number of slight ailments recorded is not inconsiderable: prisoners often complain of such, and a medicine is ordered; but, in forming an estimate of the salubrity of a prison, we must carefully separate trivial disorders, often feigned, and easily assumed, from serious illness, which is too strongly marked to escape or deceive observation. Since the above was written, I have received a detailed account of the state of health during the year 1835. The slight indispositions were 99, but the cases of illness which were so severe as to require removal into the infirmary amounted only to three. The greatest number of sick at one time amounted to two: and to complete this most favourable physical condition, only one death occurred in the gaol during the year 1835. There is no lunatic prisoner in confinement here.

In 1849, the gaol, together with the county bridewell in Winchester, were replaced by a new combined establishment on Romsey Road. The former Governor's House on Jewry Street was subsequently used as the City Museum and Library — the first public library in the county.


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.

  • Hampshire Record Office, Sussex Street, Winchester SO23 8TH. Holdings include: Gaol committal register (1836-48); Various reports, letters and other administrative documents.
  • 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.