Go to 4schools home pageGo to a glossaryGo to a Timeline Links to other useful websitesGo to an archive of additional sourcesGo to a Gallery of student's work

The work of John Howard: a transcript

Go to section on Crimes and Criminals

Go to section on Punishments

Go to section on Prison Reforms and Reformers

Go to section on the Bloody Code

Find out more about prison life

Go to section on the history of Durham Prison




THE HIGH GAOL is the Property of the Bishop. By Patent from his Lordship, Sir Hedworth Williamson Bart, is perpetual Sheriff.- The Court-yard for Master's-side Debtors is only twenty four feet by ten. Common-side Debtors have none at all: their free wards, the Low Gaol, are two damp unhealthy rooms by the Gateway: they are never suffered to go out of these, unless to Chapel, which is the Master-side Debtors Hall: and not always to that: for on a Sunday I was there and missed them at Chapel, they told me that they were not permitted to go thither. No sewers: at more than one of my visits, I learned that the dirt, ashes &c, had lain there many months. There is an excellent double-barreled Pump, which raised water about seventy feet.

FELONS have no Court-yard: but they have a Day-room and two small rooms for an Infirmary. The Men are put at night into Dungeons: one seven feet square for three Prisoners: another, the Great Hole, has only a little window. In this I saw six Prisoners, most of them Transports, chained to the floor. In that situation they had been many weeks; and were very sickly. Their straw on the stone-floor was almost work to dust. Long confinement, and not having the King's allowance of 2s 6d a week, had urged them to an Escape: after which the Gaoler chained them as above. There is another dungeon middle-sized; and for Women-felons a separate room or two.

The Common-side Debtors, whom I saw eating boiled bread and water, told me, that this was the only nourishment some had lived on for near a twelvemonth. They have from a Legacy two shillings a week in winter, and one shilling and six pence a week in summer for coals. No memorandum of it in the Gaol: perhaps this may time be lost; as the Gaoler said two others were, viz. one of Bishop Crewe, and another of Bishop Wood; from which Prisoners had received no benefit for some years past. The clauses of Act against Spirituous Liquors are hung up. Gaol-Delivery once a year.

THERE was a vacant piece of ground adjacent, of little use but for the Gaoler's occasional lumber. It extends to the river, and measures about twenty two yaerds by sixteen. I once and again advised the inclosing this for a Court-yard: but when I was there in January 1776 I had the mortification to hear that the Surgeon, who is Uncle to the Gaoler, had obtained from the Bishop in October preceding a Lease of it for twenty one years at the rent of one shilling per annum. he had a built a little stable on it.

Close window


Home | Glossary | Timeline | Links | Archive | Gallery