Gloucester Gaol began life as Gloucester Castle, around 1185. By the 17th century the main function of the castle was as a gaol. Bad reports in 1777 and the vision of local reformers resulted in a new Gaol being built in 1791 on the same site. Unfortunately, few records of the old castle gaol survive.
The new building contained a gaol, penitentiary, and house of correction. Until 1878 the Gaol was under the control of the Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions. After this time the gaol became HM Prison Gloucester, which became an all male prison in 1915.
Prisoners usually came from courts in Gloucester, Worcester, and Hereford. There were also gaols run by the Gloucester and Tewkesbury Corporations. The Tewkesbury Gaol was built in 1816 on Bredon Road. It closed in 1854 and all prisoners were transferred to the County Gaol. Gloucester City Gaol was on Southgate Street and closed in 1858. Houses of correction were established in Littledean, Northleach, Horsley and Lawfords Gate. First time offenders and young people were often placed in houses of correction, which were under the control of the Quarter Sessions. The records available for each institution varies widely.
What’s Included in This Database:
- Calendars of prisoners in County Gaol and Houses of Correction (irregular returns from Berkeley, Cirencester, Northgate (Gloucester), Lawfords Gate (St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol) and Winchcombe). Particulars usually given for each prisoner are name, name of justice by whom committed to custody, date committed and offence. Calendars from the houses of correction often record the period kept in custody and note of discharge, or delivery to Quarter Sessions. From 1737 they often include prisoners reprieved for transportation at the Assizes. After-sessions calendars are also included.
- Registers of prisoners for trial at Quarter Sessions and Assizes. These contain details of prisoners remanded in custody in Gloucester gaol while awaiting trial, in chronological order of commital.
- Penitentiary register of prisoners. Details include prisoner's name & number, age, when tried, sentence, where committed, expiration of term, trade, behaviour, remarks.
- Debtors' registers. Details include name, place of abode (not always filled in), date of admission, plaintiff's name, money owing, when discharged, period if remanded, remarks (usually the date arrested).
- Registers of summary convictions. Details include prisoner's name, residence, trade, physical details (age, height, hair & eye colour, visage, complexion), other marks, cause of committal, sentence, religious persuasion, conduct.
- Returns of habitual criminals and albums of prisoners' photographs. Information comprises date [when details were] sent to Home Office, name and aliases, age on discharge, physical details (height, eye & hair colour, complexion) place of birth, marital state, trade/occupation, intended residence after liberation, place & date of conviction, sentence, offence. The first photographic records were taken unofficially by prison governors in the 1850s. In 1871 photographing prisoners became a regular part of prison routine.
- Nominal [prisoners'] registers. Details given include name & register number, date & place of committal, date & place of conviction, offence, sentence, education, age, height & hair colour, occupation, religion & place of birth, no. of previous convictions, date of discharge & remarks.
- Record of [previous] conviction books. These contain a double page for each prisoner. Details include name, sentence, court, place & date of conviction, offence of which found guilty, reference to nominal register, age, height (not always filled in); prison where sentence undergone. These registers are compiled in date order of current conviction but include all recorded previous convictions of each prisoner. If a prisoner was convicted again while the register was in use the later conviction(s) were usually added, even if a new register had been started. The dates assigned to each volume therefore indicate the period of its currency, and not the date of the earliest and latest conviction recorded in it.
- Registers of prisoners. These registers are from Horsley House of Correction, Littledean House of Correction, and Northleach House of Correction.
- Transportation Bonds. These contain the names of convicts to be transported to America, offences, and sentences (at Quarter Sessions or Assizes). There are also lists of convicts transported, 1750-55.