Prison Charity books
For the past few months one of our volunteers, Sue Cleaves, has been digitising the Prison Charity books ref 6001/3940-6001/3947.
These registers cover the period 1797 to 1878 and give insights into changing social conditions, in addition to individuals’ names.
The charity was established:
- to enable debtors to gain a livelihood while in prison
- to ‘encourage industry, penitence and orderly behaviour in prisoners, to furnish with clothes and implements those who on quitting prison receive a certificate of good behaviour’.
- To provide those who are dismissed with a small sum for immediate maintenance ‘to prevent the great temptation of committing a crime for that purpose’
- To empower the visiting justices to send prisoners to the Refuge for the Destitute or other similar Asylum.
Often 4 or 5 prisoners were aided each day.
Sue has noticed that discharged prisoners usually left with enough money for their fares home. During the 1870s this is given as specific rail fares (from Shrewsbury) e.g Walcot 6d, Wellington 10d, Oswestry one shilling and eight and a half pence, Ludlow 2s 11d, Birmingham three shillings and five and a half pence. It is noticeable that even small villages had a rail service.
If you are researching people who spent time in prison, these fascinating records are well worth a look. The registers also include debtors, who can be quite hard to find due to gaps in other Quarter Sessions and prison records.