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New Street Prison, Leominster

The inefficient accommodation for prisoners at the Forbury Prison in Church Street led to the provision of a larger building in New Street.

The Leominster Corporation Minutes state:

 Monday, March 31, 1746

Ord. - That the Chamberlain pay Mr William Baker one Guinea for Drawing a plan for a New Gaol to be built in this Borough.

April, 1753

That the Bayliff employ workmen to pull down the old Gaol, and to carry and agree for materials for building a new gaol in New Street: and that the wall be taken down next to the School House; and such a tower be made there as shall be thought proper.

Monday, February 10, 1755

Ord., That the Chamberlain build a shed at the Gaol for the Gaoler to brew in.

In 1808, the Reverend Jonathan Williams, in his Leominster Guide, describes the Gaol as:

"The Gaol, or common prison, is situated in New Street. It was built in the year 1750, at the expence [sic] of the corporation. It contains one cell, and three apartments. The whole is clean, dry and airy. The liberty of selling ale and strong liquors in a prison has been condemned by many sensible persons, who think the suppression of it highly proper." (The ale being sold may be that which the Gaoler brewed in the shed provided for him under the order above!)

In 1888 the Borough Police force was disbanded, and the New Street Prison ceased to be used. The building was let by the Corporation and became the Headquarters of the local Rifle Volunteer Company. Anybody needing to be remanded in custody by the Borough Magistrates was now placed in cells attached to the County Police Station in Burgess Street. (Interestingly, the door to the cell of the Burgess Street Police Station can now be seem in Leominster Folk Museum in Etnam Street.)

(Information taken from Alec Haines, Leominster's 20th Century Characters and its Poacher, 1988, p. 60)

With thanks to Eric Turton of Leominster Folk Museum for information on this topic.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]