Ancestry UK

County Gaol, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

From around 1375, Nottinghamshire's County Gaol occupied a site on High Pavement, Nottingham, adjacent to the county's Shire Hall. In 1769-70, James Gandon designed replacements for both establishments and construction was carried out in 1770-72 by Joseph Pickford of Derby.

In 1784, John Howard reported on the gaol:

GAOLER, Richard Bonington.

Salary, £20.

Fees, Debtors, Felons, £0 : 14 : 8

Transports, £7: 17: 6 each.

Licence, Beer.


Allowance, Debtors, three-halfpennyworth of bread a day.

Felons, three-halfpennyworth of bread and a halfpenny in money every day (weight of three-penny loaf in Jan. 1775 1lb. 14½ oz. in Sep. 1779, 2lb. 3oz.).

Garnish, prohibited.


Debtors.Felons &c.Debtors.Felons &c.
1773, Nov. 17, 4,12.1776, Sep. 25, 4,10.
1774, April 3,12, 2.1779, Sep. 19,12, 5.
1775, Jan. 4,10, 1.1782, Jan. 21,11, 6.
1775, Nov. 12, 4,11.

CHAPLAIN, Rev. Mr. Anderson.

Duty, Sunday and Wednesday.

Salary, £50.

SURGEON, Mr. Bettejon, now Mr. Patridge.

Salary, £20, now £30, for debtors and felons.

THE GAOL is on the side of a hill. For master's-side debtors only three rooms. Down 28 steps are two rooms for criminals who can pay, and a condemned room. Down 12 steps more are deep dungeons, cut in the sandy rock, very damp: one of which is 23 feet by 13, and 7 feet high: another, nearly circular, is about 12 feet diameter: the straw on barrack-beds.

At my last visit, the felons court was more airy, the wall being palisaded; they had both well and river water; and there was an entire separation of debtors and felons. — The women have one bed, in a room in the turnkey's lodge. When there are more than two women, they are at night in one of the dungeons.

For bathing here is (not, as in most other county gaols, an inconvenient and almost useless tub — but) a large and commodious bath, supplied with river water; and copper just by, to warm it when necessary. The infirmary is near it, which has two rooms. The act for preserving the health of prisoners is neatly painted over the keeper's door. The justices have allowed the gaoler to supply the sick with better nourishment, &c. to the amount of seven shillings a week. Gentlemen so remarkably considerate and humane will, I hope, abolish the unwholesome dungeons. The prisoners have the choice of wheaten or household bread; the weight of the former, three fourths of the latter.

Transports condemned at assizes had, with the king's allowance of two shillings and six pence a week, the county-bread.

Here (as at Derby) a man goes round the county about Christmas, and begs at gentlemen's houses for the debtors. He carries a book, and gentlemen write in it their names, and donations. The amount, about £30 a year; in 1781 it was £34. No chapel. Service is performed in a parlour, which is too small.

Prisoners are tried in clothes provided for that purpose by the county.

In the account sent up to London of transports in this gaol in 1776, was one William Berks. This man obtained his majesty's pardon. Mr. Francis Waters, clerk of assize, in his letter sent with the pardon, charges state office fees £1 : 7 : 6, my fees £1 : 7 : 8. For these, and the gaol fees, the pardoned criminal was detained in prison.

Nottinghamshire. At the Quarter Sessions held at the Shire-Hall 14th January 1760.
£   S.  D.
For lodging by the week and board of each prisoner when he lodges and diets with the gaoler,0  : 7 : 0
For each when he hath a room and bed of the gaoler and diets himself, by the week0  : 2 : 0
For each when he hath a room of the gaoler, and finds his own bed and diet per week0  : 0 : 6
For the discharge of each prisoner0  :13: 4
And to the turnkey for the same0  : 1 : 4

The gaoler is to take notice if he takes more than the above sums he is liable to forfeit to the party aggrieved for each offence the sum of fifty pounds (exclusive of the penalties inflicted by former acts).

We direct the Deputy Clerk of the Peace betwixt now and the next Sessions to put Copies of this Table in the respective Courts within this County where the General Quarter Sessions are held, and also in some conspicuous open place within the said Gaol, in order that the same may be inspected as occasions may require and be preserved in the said Gaol, to be resorted to at all seasonable times in the day time without paying any thing for the same.

M. Musters  W. Bilbie  H. Sherbrooke
J. White  Wm. Kirke  Geo. Mason.

In 1791, John Howard added:

At the entrance is this inscription on a board, "No ale, nor any sort of liquor sold within the prison." Gaoler's salary now £140. The prison too small. The debtors, in three rooms, pay 2s. a-week each, though two in abed. They who can pay only 6d. are in two rooms below, confined with such felons as pay 2s. a-week. The other felons lie in two dark, offensive dungeons, down thirty-six steps, called pits, which are never white washed. Another dungeon in 1787 was occupied by a man sentenced to two years solitary confinement. The town transports and criminals are here confined with the county felons, which it may be hoped. the magistrates will soon rectify. The room used for a chapel was too close, though when I was there, only one debtor attended the service. Allowance to felons now 1½d. in bread and a halfpenny in money. Five of the felons were county, and five town convicts .

1787, Oct. 23,Debtors 9.Felons &c. 21.
1788, Aug. 6,12.9.

In 1812, James Neild recorded:

Gaoler, John Holt; now Thomas Wright. Salary, 140l.

Fees, for Debtors, 13s. 4d.; and to the Turnkey, 1s. 4d. The Under-Sheriff has generally demanded four shillings for his Liberate! But Mr. William

Willson Kent, the present worthy Under-Sheriff, takes no such Fee.

For Felons, &c. none; and for Conveyance of Transports he is allowed the expence. Garnish prohibited.

Chaplain, Rev. William Gill; now Rev. Dr. Wood.

Duty, Prayers every Thursday; and Prayers and Sermon every Sunday, Christmas-Day, and Good Friday. Salary, 50l.

Surgeon, Mr. Partridge; now Mr. Bigsby.

Salary, 30l. for Debtors and Felons, &c.

Number of Prisoners.

Debtors.Felons &c.Bastardy.
1803, Aug. 24th,780.
1805, Sept. 29th,850.
1809, Aug. 26th,863.

Allowance, Debtors, 16 ounces of bread per day. Felons have the same Allowance in bread, with one penny per day each in money, and one penny per week for soap. I am informed by the Gaoler that Assize Convicts, under Sentence of Transportation, have the County allotment of bread, in addition to the allowance of 2s. 6d. per week for their maintenance.


This Gaol adjoins to, and stands on the South-side of the County, or Shire-Hall. It is situate on the declivity of a hill. The entrance to it is down a passage from the street, leading to the Turnkey's Lodge; and close to this is the Debtors court yard, of 100 feet by 41, with a flagged terrace, and handsome iron palisades, commanding a view of three Counties.

On the East-side of the Debtors' court is their day apartment, or common mess-room, 17 feet by 10; which has three tables in it, chairs, shelves, and cupboards, to secure their provisions; with a glazed window, fire-place, and side oven. Here are also three good-sized sleeping-rooms.

On the North-side are three other sleeping-rooms; one of which has been lately converted to its proper use out of the Keeper's stable, now disused. The average size 22 feet. 8 inches by 11 feet.

Women-Debtors have a room 20 feet square, which has a flagged floor, with arched roof, a fire-place, and a large window, that very improperly looked into the Men's court. This window, however, has been made of ground-glass, by way of prevention; and the Women-Debtors have now a separate court-yard of their own, about 11 feet square, which is supplied with water by a pipe laid on.

To all the above-mentioned rooms the Keeper furnishes beds and bedding, at 3s. per week for a single person; or at 2s. per week, if two sleep together. Such Debtors as provide their own bedsteads and bedding, pay 6d. each per week.

Over the mess-room is a small Chapel, 23 feet by 20 feet 6 inches; which has four glazed casement windows. The sexes are placed separate, and all attended Divine Service when I was here. The Chapel is too scanty for the number of Prisoners; and the casement construction of its windows must at times render it uncomfortably close.

The poor Debtors, who cannot afford to pay for a bed, are most unpleasantly provided for in this County-Prison. Their descent is, by twenty-eight steps, to three miserable sleeping-rooms, called "Free Wards." The two largest, about 12 feet by 9, have fire-places; the third, which formerly was the Condemned-Room, or place for Convicts under Sentence of Death, is about 9 feet square, with a wooden bedstead in it; and all have a small iron-grated and glazed window. The Debtors here confined are obliged to furnish their own beds; which yet necessity only, in the extreme, can induce, or rather compel them to occupy. I feel a pleasure in being enabled to add, that these wretched and deep-sunk dormitories have not been used since the appointment of Mr. Wright, the present Gaoler.

A considerable part of the North-side of the Debtors' court-yard was once sadly encumbered by a large dust-hole and dung-hill, leading to arcades, under which were a capacious and convenient bath, with a copper to warm it when necessary; But, singular as it may appear, they were seldom used. At present, however, a decent covered dust-bin has succeeded to the hole, which was worse than unsightly; and within the former dung-plot, is now constructed an excellent stove, for purifying infected or filthy clothes.

There is no spring-water supplied or belonging to this Gaol: But, as the large bath became almost wholly useless for the purpose originally intended, it is now made to serve as an additional reservoir; which, as well as the Gaoler's house, and the whole Prison, are furnished, by means of two pumps and three cisterns, with soft water from the river Leen. It is sometimes muddy, and, at other times, must be fetched from the bath reservoir, as the best resource.

In the Felons' old court-yard, near the Keeper's parlour, there is a well, which, if a pump were substituted, would amply supply the Prison with excellent spring But the well, I am told, was covered over in the year 1799; for which the only reason I could hear assigned was, that some of the Prisoners at that time had thrown improper things into it!

The arcades before mentioned, built under the County-Hall, are now made a repository for coals, wood, &c. but would afford good room for work-shops, and comfortable free-wards for the poor Common-Side Debtors.

For Felons, at a descent of forty steps! here are two dark and damp dungeons, called "The Pits," cut out of the friable sandy rock. One of them, 23 feet long by 13, and 7 feet high, appears not to have been used for a long time: The other, occupied at the time of my former visits, is nearly circular, 12 feet in diameter, supplied with barrack bedsteads; and opposite to it, in a narrow passage, are three cells, each of them 8 feet by 5. All the light or ventilation these subterranean abodes can receive, is from two circular apertures over the doors, of 7 inches in diameter. Each has a wooden bedstead, with loose straw thrown upon them, and two rugs: the door-ways, only 4 feet 6 inches high, and 2 feet wide! The present Gaoler says, he has never put any Prisoners into the circular dungeon, or the three dismal cells in the narrow passage opposite to it; but I was sorry to find them all cleaned out, and made ready, as it were, for any occasion, instead of being inaccessibly bricked up, and consigned to merited oblivion.

The court-yard, appendant to the above cells, is that which heretofore had the well in it; and close to the Keeper's door is raised an open iron-palisaded fence, of 10 feet by 5, to prevent the Felons from rushing out. Their court-yard, of 39 feet by 28, is paved with flag-stone; and their day or mess-room, in the centre of it, is 15 feet by 10.

The newly-built part of the Felons' Gaol has a court-yard for the Men, 46 feet by 18, with a day or mess-room, 25 feet by 18. For the Women here are arcades, about 16 feet square. Their day-room, in its original construction, was 22 feet by 10; but at my last visit in 1809, I found it divided into two. One part contained two beds, and near it was a narrow slip for Vagrants, who sleep on straw. To each day-room there is a fire-place, with side-ovens, and a table and shelf for provisions: And over the Women-Felons' day-room they have now three sleeping-cells, 9 feet each by 7. Every Felon, Male or Female, is here allowed a straw-in-ticking bed, three blankets and a rug; and each window of their rooms and cells has a casement of 16 inches by 12.

Over these apartments are eight sleeping-cells for Men, which open into a lobby 5 feet wide. Each cell is about 9 feet by 7, arch-roofed, with a semicircular grated and glazed window, and a grating of like form over each door. They were hereto fore only supplied with a wooden bedstead each, for two Prisoners, loose straw, and two rugs; but the considerate Magistrates have lately ordered a bed for every cell, and to these new cells have added a stove, to introduce warmth when needed. The door-ways to the cells are 4 feet 6 inches high by 2 feet 6 wide, and cased with iron In the New Gaol are twelve sleeping cells.

Upon Convicts being left for execution, it is customary to confine them, during the day-time, in a room 22 feet by 10, with three windows in it, a fire-place, and a table. Here they are duly supplied with religious books: they have tea twice a day, and a hot dinner; and are daily attended by the Chaplain, or other Clergyman.

At the West end of the Shire-Hall, there is a very convenient and suitable place for the awful business of Executions, and where a platform might be occasionally or permanently fixed, as at Chelmsford, Reading, and many other places. Instead of which, at Nottingham, the poor wretches are dragged along through the Town, in a cart, to a place about a mile distant; to the preposterous gratification of unfeeling curiosity, that "knows no brotherly yearnings," and to the sad disgrace of civilized society!

"When Criminals," says Dr. Moore, "are carried to execution with little or no solemnity, amidst the shouts of an unconcerned, rabble, who applaud them in proportion to the degree of indifference and impenitence they display, and consider the whole scene as a source of amusement; how can such exhibitions make any useful impression, or terrify the thoughtless and desperate from any wicked propensity? If there is a Country," continues he, "in which great numbers of young, inconsiderate creatures are, six or eight times every year, carried to execution in this tumultuous, unaffecting manner, might not a stranger conclude that the view of the Legislature was to cut off guilty individuals in the least alarming way possible, that others may not be deterred from following their example?"

Some years since, the following singular incident happened with respect to this Prison, which is vouched by good authority. On the 19th of Feb. 1787, two women, Mabel Morris and Elizabeth Morris, were committed to this Gaol by virtue of a Bishop's Writ, and confined there until the 25th of February, 1799; when, some repairs being wanted at the Prison, their doors were thrown open, They sent for a cart, in which their goods were loaded in the day-time, and the women went out unmolested. Application was made to the then Sheriff, to know if they were to be brought back to Prison; but nothing was done; and at my visit in Sept. 1805, they resided at Calverton, in this County.

The sanction for the confinement of a Prisoner upon the above-mentioned Process runs thus: "FORASMUCH as the Royal Power ought not to be wanting to the Holy Church in its Complaint, You are commanded to attach the said * * * * by his [or her] Body, according to the Law and Custom of England; until he (or she] shall have made satisfaction to the Holy Church, as well for the contempt, as for the injury by him [or her] done unto it." —One cannot help wishing that the Reformation, or the Revolution, or any other adequate and legal interference, had done away the power of such imprisonment.

Legacies and Donations.

John Sherwin, Esq. of Nottingham, four pounds per annum; now paid quarterly by John Longdon, Esq. out of an Estate at Bramscote, purchased by Mr. Sherwin of the descendants of Henry Handley, Esq. the Donor.

By Samuel Smith, Esq. M. P. for Nottingham, pursuant to the Will of Mr. Abel Collings, four shillings monthly, to the Prisoners, for coals.

John Elliott, Esq. of Nottingham, gives annually a sixpenny loaf, and a pint of ale to every Prisoner; and a buttock of beef amongst all.

The Rev. Dr. Wood, Chaplain, gives annually one pound of beef, and a pint of ale to every Prisoner.

The High Sheriffs send to each Prisoner a sixpenny loaf, one pound of best cheese, and a pint of ale.

The Grand Jury, at the Assizes, make a collection for the Criminal Prisoners, to the amount of from thirty to forty shillings.

Here, as at Derby, Horsham, &c. a Man goes round the country, about Christmas, and collects money at Gentlemen's houses for the Debtors.

Here is no County clothing provided; but if a Prisoner be ragged, he is clothed at the County's expence.

The Surgeon has a discretionary power to order indulgences of extra clothing, linen, food, wine, &c. for the sick and infirm, as he finds it necessary.

Religious books are supplied for the use of the Prison. The Gaol has no fixed Infirmary; but if any Prisoners fall sick, they are removed to some separate room unoccupied.

Upon their discharge from hence, they have money granted, proportionably, to carry them home.

The Act for Preservation of Health, and Clauses against Spirituous Liquors, are hung up in the Debtors' mess-room.

In 1823, the quarter-sessions were told that the gaol was "insufficient, inconvenient, and inadequate to give effect to the rules and regulations prescribed by the new Prison Act." Several alterations were subsequently made in order to extend the classification of inmates. On the east side of the prison, an additional department was formed for the female felons, comprising a spacious day-room, airing-yard, and sleeping-rooms, all entirely detached from the men's wards. The site previously occupied by the female felons' ward, was taken over to provide six new sleeping-cells, with an airing-yard, for prisoners under sentence of death. There were then five distinct sections of to the gaol, each with separate yards, for: two classes of male felons, one for female felons, one for male misdemeanants, and one for debtors. The prison then contained twenty separate sleeping-cells. The chapel had also been divided, so that four classes of prisoners were removed from view of one another, and were under the immediate observation of the chaplain. A matron was appointed for the females. The chaplain performed divine service twice on Sunday; he also read prayers every day in the week. The prisoners were furnished with bibles and other religious books.

In October 1824, there were only eight prisoners: three male felons, two female felons, and three male debtors. The greatest number during the previous year had been fourteen male felons and two female felons. Convicted prisoners sentenced to hard labour, i.e. namely felons and misdemeanants, were sent to the County House of Correction at Southwell, where a tread-mill was in operation. Other classes of male prisoners were employed in opening or pulling horse-hair for upholsterers. The females were employed in the finishing of lace breadths.

In 1826, it was reported that a separate infirmary was about to be erected. The weekly allowance for food had been increased from 2s. 11d. to 3s. 4d. a head.

In 1837, the Inspectors of Prisons reported:

This gaol is built upon the edge of the rock, on which a considerable portion of the town, of Nottingham stands. On the north it is masked by the county courts from the thoroughfare, called the High Pavement; on the south, at a depth of 70 feet below its level, is the densely crowded quarter of the town, known, from its low situation, as the Marsh; to the east and west it touches upon other buildings in private occupation. The prison is entered through a long passage on the side of the court-house; the keeper's dwelling, female prisoners' ward, chapel, and debtors' rooms adjoin, and are old and dilapidated buildings, wanting even the ordinary requisites of safety and convenience. The chapel is a small room, pewed off and only accessible by a dark, narrow staircase; it is too small for the number of prisoners, and very insecure. A window from a debtors' room, and another from an adjoining warehouse,, look directly into the airing yard of the females; and the windows of the ward occupied by the latter, which are beneath the keeper's house, open upon the Marsh, and the women are often detected talking to the people below. The infirmary for the males is close to the courthouse, and consists but of a single room, the other apartments in the same building being occupied by debtors; a prisoner placed there a short time since effected his escape. The parts appropriated to male criminals have been erected at different periods, but the most considerable addition was made in 1833. From the situation of the prison every word spoken in the Marsh below is heard by the prisoners, and noises therefrom during the night frequently alarm the officers, from the idea of their arising within the gaol. The keeper states, "That a prisoner, who was under sentence of death, and afterwards executed, heard his confession bawled about in the streets below, and earnestly solicited me to purchase it for him, which was done." The rock beneath the prison is excavated into cellars, the private property of individuals. The new buildings are of red brick faced with stone. There are no reception cells for prisoners on their admission; and the bath for cleansing them is inconveniently placed on the female side, and the women have to be locked up in their cells when it is wanted for the males. The windows of the Shire-hall, towards the debtors' airing-ground, are very insecure. The privies for the male criminal prisoners are unnecessarily exposed in the centre of the airing-yards: water is laid on to each yard.

Dimensions of Sleeping Cells.
New cells.—11 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 2 in.; 10 ft. high.
Old cells.—9 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 2 in.; 9 ft. high.

This prison, having been altered and added to at various times, is very ill suited for the carrying on of any efficient system of prison discipline. A chapel, infirmary, keeper's dwelling, reception cells, and ward for the females, are much wanting; and, looking at the present confined site, it will be a subject of some difficulty to decide how they may be best disposed upon the general plan without adding to its inconveniences.

Diet.—Criminals, 1½lb. of bread, 1 quart of milk, daily. Debtors, 1lb. of bread. One penny a-day is allowed by the county for each Crown prisoner, which is partly disposed of in coals for the day-rooms, and the overplus in the purchase of a little meat on Sunday. The prisons are permitted to have provisions sent in from their friends; no distinction is made in this respect between the untried and convicted.

Clothing.—None provided, except in case of urgent necessity.

Bedding.—Wooden and iron bedsteads, mattress, two blankets and rug; sheets to every bed.

Fuel.—The prisoners find their own coals in the day-room. The new cells are warmed by hot air in the passages; the old cells by a stove.

Cleanliness.—The prison and prisoners clean.

Health.—The surgeon attends daily if required, and sees all the prisoners, and goes through the prison twice a-week. He slates, "There have been a great many cases of sickness lately, as many as nine at a time; there is a kind of hospital; but when I want it, I am told it is occupied by the debtors, and I am obliged to make use of a day-room, The single room called the hospital is inconvenient from its situation, and I have experienced great inconvenience from the want of one. The most prevalent diseases are the itch, and low and inflammatory fevers: a severe case of typhus occurred during the year in a prisoner under sentence of transportation. The sick have not had those conveniences their situation required. Twice a-week I see the prisoners in solitary confinement; it is impossible that any person can remain well in solitary confinement upon such a diet as milk and bread: these prisoners have generally complained, after three or four days, of pain in the stomach, knees, and beck, and of giddiness in the head, and the confinement has been relaxed. I am quite satisfied that it is not a proper diet for men in solitary confinement, nor can they remain in health under it."

Attended by the surgeon I visited the four prisoners, soldiers, undergoing this sentence, and satisfied myself of the correctness of that officer's opinion; I moreover found that these prisoners had not been visited by the chaplain, and were without books. The surgeon keeps a journal arranged as follows:—Date—names—disease—class—diet—number of sick—observations.

Moral and Religions Instruction.—One full service is performed by the chaplain on Sundays, and prayers are read daily, with the exception of Saturdays, at 9 o'clock, from a prescribed form. The chaplain states,—"He occasionally visits the prisoners; was not aware, at the period of the inspectors' visit, of the four soldiers (adverted to under the head of Health) being in solitary confinement. They have been since supplied with books. There is no attempt made by him to instruct the prisoners; has occasionally placed elementary books in the hands of some, but with little avail." The matron states—"The females express but little desire to be instructed; ladies from the town visit them for the purpose, and to distribute tracts, but with little effect. The chaplain does not visit them. When we have had females for murder they have at times been very anxious to see the chaplain, and have done so, but not under other circumstances." The chaplain further says,—"The officers do not invariably attend divine service, and the females have been to the chapel occasionally without one. The County Gaol, debtors do so very irregularly. When a prisoner comes in under any extraordinary circumstances then the debtors' seat is sure to be full. Is always supplied with books by the magistrates. The prisoners in solitary confinement do not attend divine service. Keeps a journal, from which the following passages are extracted:—

"1835. It is the opinion of the chaplain that the room in the county gaol appropriated as a chapel, is, in many respects, ineligible. It is too small, not admitting a proper classification; the access to it by a narrow winding staircase, and high steps, is inconvenient; and the effluvia, easily accounted for in the summer months, and at all times when the number of prisoners is considerable, which has of late been the case, is very perceptible and offensive; and that these objections might be obviated at no very considerable expense, and render the room more appropriate to the use for which it is designated."

"3d August. Since his respite —— seems more cheerful."

"13th August. —— as usual, expressing some dissatisfaction on being informed of his further respite; wishes he may be transported for life, as he cannot live in this country."

The journal is arranged under the heads of—date—performance of service—observations.

Offences and Punishments.—The principal offences aye attempts at escape, which have been very frequent, punished by close confinement in the refractory cells, and irons. Weight of irons used in the conveyance of transports, lbs.; on refractory prisoners, 8J. No whipping. Number of punishments, see Table.

Benefactions.—A rent-charge, bequeathed by —— Hanley, in 1646, upon the landed estate of —— Sherwin, Esq,, and known as the Meadow, rent being 4l. a-year, receivable quarterly; divided among all the prisoners.

Abel Collinson, in 1704, bequeathed 1s. to be paid weekly to poor debtors in the county gaol.

The High Sheriff on Christmas-day, and Mr. Elliott, on the 1st of January, regale the prisoners with a dinner of beef bread, and ale.

Two boxes are placed at the gate to receive donations; they are opened at the discretion of the visiting magistrates; the amount is generally trifling, and is distributed among the prisoners.

Debtors.—The conduct of the debtors is as little satisfactory here as elsewhere. They are allowed to purchase a quart of beer a day; occasionally they get in spirits through their friends. The surgeon says, "The debtors are lying in their beds during the day, and I have frequently spoken to them on the subject without avail." One of the turnkeys states, "Visits to the debtors are allowed from 10 to 12 and from 2 until 5: I have known disreputable women attempt and have got in, but we put a stop to it when we can." The debtors pay 2s, a-week to the keeper for bedding if 2 sleep together, and if one has a room to himself, 4s.

Accounts, Expenditure, Books.—Provisions, and other articles, are purchased by the keeper. The tradesmen send in their bills quarterly, when they are examined by the visiting justices. The bills are produced at sessions, referred to a committee of finance for approval, and the clerk of the peace gives an order on the treasurer for the payment. The keeper states, "I pay the turnkeys in advance, and generally receive the amount due to me about two months after; the county is sometimes indebted to me as much as 200l."

I cannot refrain from expressing, my surprise at the very imperfect manner in which the accounts connected with the expenditure of this establishment are kept. There are no regular books for the entry of the provisions supplied from, the tradesmen. The bread account is entered upon loose slips of paper, the one of keeper's disbursements for sundries is kept in the same way, and the expenditure for the shire hall adjoining mingled with it.

The keeper provides coals for the prison and hall, charging the county with the quantities consumed; he likewise sells coals to the prisoners, and is obliged to keep a most troublesome and elaborate account in consequence; a penny a-day is allowed to each prisoner to purchase the coal, and the overplus is laid out for them in a pound of meat on Sundays. The sixpences for the subsistence of soldiers under sentence of court-martial are paid to the keeper, who calculates and retains the amount for their diet, and pays the remainder over to the county treasurer. Deserters on route, or committed by the magistrates, receive their sixpences, today out as they think proper.

Books.—Pence book. A debtor and creditor account is opened-with every prisoner in respect to the receipt and disbursement of the daily penny.

Register.—Arranged under the heads of date—name—parish—county—trade—age—height—person—complexion—eyes—hair—marks and remarks—read or write—whether convicted before, imprisoned or charged—offence charged against prisoner—when and how disposed of—committing magistrate.

Register of Transports.—Debtors' Register—Keeper's Journal—containing entries of punishments and occurrences in the prison. Daily state book, with number received, discharged, and in custody.

General Discipline.—The defective construction of this prison makes the supervision and control of the prisoners no easy task. Communication between every class is without an obstacle. In aggravation of these difficulties I find a total absence of any attempt to instruct or control the prisoners, who waste their time in idleness and mutual contamination. In a gaol where men are congregated before trial, the labours of the chaplain, uninterrupted by correctional discipline, are the more neccssary, and more likely to be attended with beneficial results. It is his intercourse with them in the day-rooms and cells that I allude to, not the regular devotional duties in the chapel. The introduction of some light employment for the prisoners would likewise be highly beneficial, with a trifling payment in the shape of increased diet, or money reserved until discharge, or paid to their families, to encourage the untried to undertake it I recommend most strongly the abolition of the allowance in money of a penny a-day to prisoners, the keeper in consequence being most improperly engaged in a sort of retail trade in coals. If the coals and the pound of meat are necessary, the county should provide them in kind. The females who receive the pence in money have, in some, instances, saved it during their stay in prison. The matron, in evidence, says, "The money of the females is not taken from them on coming in. They are allowed 7d. a-week, which they receive in money." The turnkey purchases tea, sugar, and other articles for them. The convicted prisoner has her 1d. a-day the same as the others. Coals are sold to them by the keeper, half a hundredweight occasionally at a time, and the money is stopped on a Saturday. They have sometimes saved the 7d. One woman was here for 2 years and saved between M. and 4l. The convicted woman now here is saving her money. The female prisoner who washes receives food and half a pint of ale from the keeper's table the days she is employed. A convicted female is generally specially sentenced to imprisonment in the gaol to wash for the prisoners. Her female servant (the matron's) assists the prisoner in washing their own linen, and they are in constant communication. They wash together in the yards below. The women for trial are employed, as much as possible, in sewing; I never put them to hard work, their linen in general is washed for them by the convicted. The servant maid locks and unlocks the female prisoners. I think the condition of many of the women in the prison is much superior to those out. Very seldom we have female debtors; the one we have now is of necessity, from the want of other accommodation, placed with the misdemeanants. The debtors can see into the female yard from one window and carry on communication with the women; tobacco and notes have been thrown down."

No order is observed in the prisoners taking their meals, which they do when and how they please. In a prison the most trifling office should be done by rule; something is gained even by teaching men of irregular habits the facility of acquiring regular ones. The entire management of this prison is susceptible of great improvement.

Keeper.—Age 49, appointed 1830. Salary 180l. Average 50l. annually for rent of bedding from debtors. 15s. a-head and expenses for the removal of transports.

Matron.—Appointed 1830. Wife of the keeper. Salary 30l.

Turnkey.—Age 46. Appointed 1826. Salary 60l. Coals and candles. Receives small presents from debtors for marketing for them. Resides in the prison.

Turnkey/.—Age 40. Salary 41l. 12s. Occasionally receives a present from debtors. Coals and candles. Resides in the prison.

Chaplain.—Appointed 1806. Salary 100l. Has two small livings in Nottinghamshire.

Surgeon.—Appointed 1835. Salary 60l. for medicines and attendance.

The prison buildings were extended in 1875-6 to designs by W. Bliss Sanders. However, it was closed 1878 following the nationalisation of the prison system, and its role taken over by the former House of Correction, also on High Pavement.

The gaol building now forms part of National Justice Museum which features Victorian courtrooms, original Georgian cells, exercise yard, and medieval dungeons.


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.

  • The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Has registers of Prisoners from national prisons lodged in County Prisons, Nottingham (1864-5);
  • Nottinghamshire Archives and Southwell Diocesan Record Office, County House, Castle Meadow Road, Nottingham NG2 1AG. Has extensive administrative material (reports, minutes, rules, diet etc.). Holdings relating to named prisoners include Sheriffs' lists of prisoners (1822); List and account of prisoners, writs, etc (1840); Sentences of felon prisoners confined in his Majesty's Gaol (1810, 1821); Assignment of County of Nottingham, gaol and prisoners etc. (1810).
  • 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.