Ancestry UK

Town Gaol, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

In 1850, Berwick-upon-Tweed's old gaol on Marygate was replaced by a new building on Wallace Green, which also included a court house.

In 1850, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

The prison, with the court-house to which it is attached, is a handsome building, well situated in the high part of the town, the prison portion of it forming the rear ofthe building.

It contains 11 good cells, 8 of which are for males and 3 forfemales, and a bath-room, for each sex.

If we read in detail the accommodation, it would seem to be very perfect, but the interior arrangements appear to have been inconsiderately carried out, for scarcely anything is found to be in its right place. It appears, in fact, to have been prepared on the principles usually applied to a first-class prison, with a full complethent of officers, whereas, in a prison such as this, where the officers are limited to three, viz., the keeper, the matron (who is usually the keepers wife), and a male turnkey, the arrangements require to be the very reverse, and, for mutual aid and assistance, they should all be provided for near the entrance to the prison, instead of which they are here intended to be isolated in a very helpless way. The keeper's house is at the furthest point of the building from the entrance to the prison, to get at which he must go ail round the outside of the court-house. There is a place called the keeper's office on the first-floor of the male prison, but it has only a borrowed light, and is placed over the heating-apparatus; so that even if he could endure the heat, he would be obliged very generally to use an artificial light.

There is a good room for the warder, and another called a storeroom; but access can only be had to the one by passing through the other.

On the upper floor much valuable space is thrown away, to give a superabundance of light.

The only alteration, without going to great expense, would be to open a door at the foot of the keeper's stair to the passage between the matronís room and the kitchen, which will enable the keeper to reach the male prison through the female corridor; for although it is objectionable, it would serve to concentrate the force of the prison; and, moreover, I conceive that the keeper should not be exposed, (in getting out of a warm bed to receive night charges,) to the necessity of going outside all round the courthouse, in tempestuous weather, for such purpose.

The prison site is shown on the 1852 map below.

Town Gaol site, Berwick-upon-Tweed, c.1852.

Following the nationalisation of the prison system in 18178, the prison was closed. The buildings were subsequently used as local council offices but have now been converted to private residential use.

Records

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.

Bibliography

  • Prison Oracle - resources those involved in present-day UK prisons.
  • GOV.UK - UK Government's information on sentencing, probation and support for families.