Shire Hall (A Nicholson, 2004).
Shire Hall (A Nicholson, 2004).

Those poor debtors who cannot afford to pay for a bed are most uncomfortably provided for in the 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 feet have fireplaces, the third, which was formerly the condemned room or place assigned 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.

A considerable part of the debtors' courtyard on the north side is still occupied by a large dust-hole and dung-yard leading to the arcades under which is a capacious and convenient bath, with a copper to warm it when necessary, but they are seldom used. Two pumps and three cisterns supply the bath, the gaolers' house and the whole prison with soft water from the river Leen. It is sometimes muddy and at other times must be fetched from the bath.

There is a well sunk in the felons' old courtyard near the keeper's parlour, which, if a pump were put down, would supply the whole gaol with excellent spring water. The well was covered over in 1799, for which the only reason I could have assigned was that some prisoners then there had thrown improper things into it.

The arcades under the County Hall would afford some good room for workshops and comfortable free wards for the poor common side debtors, and adjoining to the Turnkey's lodge there is sufficient space for a small courtyard to accommodate the women debtors. List of legacies and other donations to Nottingham County Gaol.

John Sherwin, Esquire, of Nottingham, £4 per annum now paid quarterly by John Longdon, Esquire, out of an estate at Bramcote purchased by Mr. Sherwin of the descendants of Henry Handley, Esquire, the donor.

Samuel Smith, Esquire, M.P. for Leicester, per-suant to the will of Abel Collin, 4/- monthly for the prisoners for coal.

John Elliott, Esquire, of Nottingham, sends to all the prisoners beef, bread and ale at Christmas.

The Rev. Mr. Gill, Chaplain, sends a large piece of beef at Christmas.

Lady Warren sends twelve stones of beef at different times to debtors.

The High Sheriff, for the past three years, has sent five tons of coal and also bread, beef and ale to all the prisoners.

The Grand Jury at the Assizes make a collection for the criminal prisoners, to the amount of from £1 10s. to 40/-.

Here, as I have before noticed at Derby, Horsham, etc., a man goes round the county about Christmas and collects money at gentlemen's houses for the debtors.

In 1802 the collection amounted to £52 4s. 10d.

Paid to John Brandrath, the collector, being out twelve weeks and four days at two guineas per week : £26 8s. 0d. Net amount £25 16s. 10d.

Distributed as follows:—

1802 December 26th, four debtors
  £1 4 11 each, £6 19 8
1803 January 17th, five debtors,
  £1 15 4 each, £8 16 8
1803 February 26th, six debtors,
  £134 each, £700
1803 March 3rd, seven debtors,
  £066 each, £250
1803 March 3rd, one debtor
  £0 15 6, £0 15  6
  £25 16 10

The Surgeon has discretionary power to order the indulgencies of extra clothing, linen, food, wine, etc., for sick and infirm prisoners as he finds essentially necessary.

The act for preservation of health, and clauses against spirituous liquors are hung up in the debtors' mess room.

Some years since, the following singular incident happened with respect to this prison, which is vouched for by good authority.

On the 19th of February, 1787, two women (Mabel Morris and Elizabeth Morris) were committed to this gaol by virtue of a Bishop's writ and confined there till 25th 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 daytime, and the women went out unmolested.

Applications were made to the Sheriff, to know if they were to be brought back to prison, but nothing was done, and at my last visit in September, 1805, they resided at Calverton, in this county.

The sanction for the confinement of a prisoner upon the above-mentioned process runs thus:—

'For as much as the Capital Royal power ought not to be wanting to the Holy Church in its complaint you are commanded to attach to the said------by his (or her) body according to the law and custom of England until he (or her) 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, however, that the reformation or the revolution or any other adequate and legal interference had done away the power of such imprisonment.

I hereby beg leave to pay my respected acknowledgment to William Elliott Elliott, Esquire, of Gedling House, late High Sheriff of this County, who humanely accompanied me to the prisons hospital and workhouse. And also to the worthy magistrates in general, for the polite notice they were pleased to take on my suggestions relative to the state of the gaols of Nottingham and Southwell.

James Neild, 1808."