Ancestry UK

Convict Prisons

The term 'convict prison' came into use in the nineteenth century to refer to government-run institutions whose inmates had been sentenced to 'penal servitude' — imprisonment with hard labour. Such sentences had been introduced in the late eighteenth century after the transportation of offenders to America had ceased. The term 'local prison' later became used to cover other types of prison, such as county and town gaols, run by local administrations.

The first convict prison was Millbank opened in London in 1816. It was followed in 1838 by Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight, originally usd a a special prison for juvenile offenders. and Pentonville, built as a 'model prison' opened 1842. A list of convict prisons is given on a separate page.

Convict prisons ceased to exist in 1948, after the use of penal servitude and hard labour were abolishd by the Criminal Justice Act of that year.


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