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The Bridewell, Hereford

Castle Cliff, Castle Green

Historic Environment Record reference no. 7292, Ordnance Survey grid reference SO 5115 3955

A Bridewell or House of Correction is mentioned on Castle Green early in the 17th century, but it was not in continuous use through the Civil War or immediately afterwards.

The building that was used as the Bridewell stands at the western end of Castle Green, just off the centre of the city. It is 13th century in date and is thought to have once been the Water Gate for the castle (Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in England, Volume 1 - South-West, 1931, p. 126). In a survey of the castle in 1652, the building is called the "Governour's Lodge" and described as having"three rooms below stairs and three above, besides garretts and necessary rooms, with two little rooms adjoining to the said house towards the entering into the said castle" (John Duncumb, Collections towards the History and Antiquities of the County of Hereford, Volume I Part 2, City of Hereford, 1804, p. 287). In a plan of 1677 it is shown as a dwelling, but on Taylor's map of Hereford on 1757 it is shown as a Bridewell.

The Hereford City Council Minutes for 1704 note that the "House of Correction in Castle Green was moved to the Old Bridewell". In 1731, a committee was appointed to view the "Old Bridewell at the Castle", with the result that the Bridewell and the Gaol became separate institutions with separate keepers and divided gardens. This suggests that they were housed within the same building.

During the 18th century there appears to have been another Bridewell adjoining the City Gaol in St Peter's Square. The City Council Minutes of 1847 show an order for "ye treasurer to sell the house and garden to ye highest bidder".

It appears that the Castle Green Bridewell was still in use at this time. It continued to be used throughout the later half of the 18th century, but in 1782 it was condemned by John Howard in his report on the state of prisons, when he described it as "not only ruinous, but dangerous". Prisoners held there were apparently complaining of near starvation.

In 1788 plans were drawn up to extend the Bridewell and a plan survives which suggests a split-level design (Hereford Record Office AE 13/). However these proposals were never implemented as the decision was later made to construct a new County Gaol. Mr Blackburne, who had been chosen to find a site for the new gaol, considered the Bridewell unsuitable as security was lax and the separation of inmates was inadequate (Hereford Journal, 3rd February 1790).`

In 1800 the Bridewell buildings were sold to a Mr Hawkins for £500 and the remaining prisoners moved the County Gaol, which by this time had been built in Commercial Road.

The buildings of the Old Bridewell still exist on Castle Green but are now called "Castle Cliff".

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]