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County House of Correction.
Aug. 1823. The most recent alteration in this prison is the erection of a tread-mill; the building is intended to contain one tread-wheel, capable of employing eleven men at a time, with an adjoining corn-mill and bakehouse, and a small storehouse or granary above them. It is proposed that, at the ringing of a bell, at intervals of not less than ten and probably not more than fifteen minutes, the changes for relays shall take place. The present diet is only bread and water, with occasional indulgence of a little animal food supplied by the friends of the prisoners. The estimated cost of the mill building and machinery is upwards of £600. The force is to be employed in grinding corn; and it is intended to bake the bread for the use of the prison: when the wants of the prison are supplied, the mill will be employed to grind corn for the public.
Chester Castle, County Gaol.
Aug. 1823. Tais prison was built to receive forty felons, and about thirty debtors; but it has contained about 200 prisoners at one time. The plan provides inspection only into the airing yards, which surround the governor's house in the centre. The debtors' yard is very airy; they are effectually secluded from the other classes of prisoners : a second class consists of female debtors; a third of untried males; a fourth, tried male misdemeanants; a fifth, male convicts; a sixth, assaults; a seventh, female criminals, who are employed in washing, &c. It is intended to add another class for juvenile prisoners. The prison is whitewashed four times in the year. No matron is as yet appointed to this prison.
The allowance of food is a pound of bread and four ounces of meal for gruel daily, with ten pounds of potatoes and a pound of meat for the week.
The tread-mill is not yet erected : it is intended for twelve men only, and to have two wheels for six each. The amount of earnings for the last twelve months, is £706.4s. 2d.; they are thus divided: one-fourth to the prisoner, half of which is paid weekly, the remainder on discharge; ten per cent. to the governor; five per cent. to the taskmaster; and the surplus, being sixty per cent. to the county. The labour is various, viz. woollen and cotton weaving, clogging, shoemaking, tailoring, joinering, painting, bricklaying, masonry, &c.: the various repairs of the gaol are done by the prisoners. Irons are scarcely ever used, and in but one instance only in the last fifteen months ; when the prisoner had made his escape, and was on his recapture fettered only a day or two. There are not any lunatics confined here. The following is an account of the commitments.
Aug. 1823. But little that is new, can be said this year, in addition to the two preceding Reports on this prison. The amount of earnings for the last year was £979. 43. 7 d.; the cost of food during the same period £827. 98. 9d.; and the amount of sundry disbursements £ 565. lls. 8d.; which leaves the county chargeable for the balance, £413. 16s. 10d., as the expense of this prison for the past year. The average number of prisoners in confinement may be estimated at from 120 to 130 prisoners : the number at Midsummer last was 158.
Some particulars respecting the tread-mill are inserted under a separate article on the subject.
May 1823. This prison is unfavourably situated, being placed at the foot of a steep hill, which rises immediately behind the prison; in consequence of which the interior is too much exposed to public view, and in some degree even to risk of communication from without.* The space of ground occupied by the prison is very confined, which is much to be regretted, as there is a very great want of accommodation. Sometimes as many as six prisoners sleep in a cell containing two beds, and occasionally they are obliged to convert the passages into dormitories. The debtors, for want of proper yards, are suffered to walk about the central tho
* In the choice of a site for a prison, it should be an object to seclude the interior as much as possible from external observation. A prison is undoubtedly rendered more secure against attempts to aid escapes, when the arrangement of its buildings or internal walls, &c. cannot be readily understood or surveyed from without. An open and moderately elevated site of ground in general commands this advantage, together with the benefit of airiness and dryness, with good drainage; and the tread-mill removes any fear of not being able to raise a full supply of water to the prison in all ordi
It is lamented that the situation of the new county prison now building at Morpeth, should have been fixed upon so near to the margin of the river; and the ground immediately behind the prison will it is feared greatly expose the interior to public view, if not to communication.
roughfare between the lodge and the governor's house, which has a disorderly appearance, and must be a great inconvenience to the officers; and at night they are (to use the officers' expression) thrown about the prison wherever they can be placed. Escapes are not unfrequent, but in most cases the prisoners have been recaptured, the form and situation of this county being favorable for their early apprehension. The recommitments are also frequent, especially for minor offences, the ratio in every description of prisoners being estimated at ten per cent. There is an almost total want of inspection in the plan of this prison, and much vigilance on the part of the officers must always be required to compensate for this inconvenience.
In the bridewell some excellent employment is carried on. The prisoners' clothing, shirts, shoes, stockings, &c. are made in the prison; also the blankets and sheeting. A threshing machine was at work, at which about six prisoners were employed.
Sawing and polishing marble, also carpenter's work, are here carried on, and there is a hand crank-mill turned by eight men; also a tread-wheel employing ten men; the former grinds the flour consumed in the prison, and seems to require very severe labour; the latter is not yet applied to any purpose. This treadwheel is made entirely of wood, at a cheap rate, and from its rough manufacture does not revolve steadily. It would be well if a set of complete tread-wheels were erected, and the power applied to grinding, which is now performed by the hand crankmill, and to the sawing and polishing of marble. The prison is frequently whitewashed throughout.*
The chaplain reads two sermons on Sundays, and is in frequent attendance. The commitments have been as follows:
1820. To the Gaol.... 132.... To the Bridewell.. 362
. 225 1822. Do.
. 287 Since the erection of this prison, in 1779, to the 7th May 1823, viz. 44 years, there have been committed 8664 persons, viz. Debtors
1966, of whom have died in the prison 12 Bridewell Prisoners 4105.. do...
6 Gaol Prisoners.... 2593.. do.
Total number of deaths ... 25
Being one in 346 prisoners for the whole period of 44 years.
* It would be useful to colour the lime with a little ochre (a frequent practice at other prisons), to lessen the very strong reflection of the sun's light from the walls in all the airing-yards.
. Sept. 1823. This new prison has been begun only a few months since. The plan consists of a central building four stories high, containing a considerable number of rooms, with the chapel above; and six radiating double buildings, with thirteen intermediate airing yards. The site of ground is on the side of a hill, and is therefore not so level as could have been desired. The intended classification is to be as follows:
1. Males on charges of felony.
9. King's evidence.
The boundary walls will be 25 feet in height. There will be about 130 sleeping cells. It is proposed at present to have four tread-wheels, the power of which may probably be applied to raising water for the supply of some part of the town, as well as of the prison itself, from the river Calder, which flows near the prison.
Oct. 1823. The new County Prison is now in progress, and probably in the course of two years will be completed. The plan provides very extensive classification for one prison establishment, com