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City Gaol, Hereford

Historic Environment Record reference no. 26982, Ordnance Survey grid reference SO 5130 4005

On New Year's Day 1838, Hereford City Council ordered that land belonging to Mr. Cam in Little Gaol Lane, Hereford, be purchased for £550 as a site for the new City Gaol. (HCC minutes, 1st January 1838). This lane had previously been known as Grope Lane. It was later renamed Gaol Street, by which name it is still known today.

Work began on 9th November 1841, and the architects were Trehearne and Duckham. It took three years to complete the building of the gaol. The building was of rough stones and consisted of a large central block flanked by a two-storey wing on each side. To the rear of the prison were exercise yards, and the whole building was surrounded by a high wall for security.

The City Gaol was only in use for around 33 years as it was closed due to the Prisons Act of 1877, which amalgamated the prisons of the city and passed the administration of the County Gaol in Commercial Road into the hands of the national Government.

The Gaol Street buildings were then re-purchased by the City Corporation for the sum of £1,750.

In 1853 a Report to the General Board of Health referred to the drainage of the Town Gaol: "The city prison situate in Gaol Lane, which has been occupied about eight years, has a main drain emptying into the brook [Stonebow Brook]. The average number of the inmates, including the officers, is nearly 30 persons; and the whole of the refuse is passed into the brook, there being no cesspools on the premises. The outfall pipe is situate at a low level and is sometimes immersed".

The north-western wing of the prison was converted into the City Police Station and the south-eastern section became a fire-engine house. A section of the original gaol on the south-east of the central block was demolished to create a new street. The Corporation built a row of cottages down this side of this street to act as barracks for the city policemen. These cottages have since been demolished and the street now leads to the modern police station on Bath Street.

The fire station was also demolished and the remaining part of the prison became the City Magistrates Court. In 2001 this Magistrates Court closed down and moved to new purpose-built premises on Bath Street, opposite the police station.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]