© Southwell & District Local History Society          Webmaster: mike.kirton@southwellhistorysociety.co.uk

Southwell & District Local History Society Established in 1983

The first House of Correction in Southwell relates back to an act of 1609 when James I proclaimed that every county should have this facility.  Southwell was an important town at that time, being the centre of administration for the Peculiar of Southwell.  As well as serving the courts of Southwell, Newark and Retford it was also an ecclesiastical prison for the town and the twenty-parish liberty of Southwell and Scrooby.

The original prison opened in 1611 and was cited higher up the Burgage than its successor.  It appears that it was poorly constructed and by 1652 rebuilding commenced, which was completed by 1656.  John Howard, the prison reformer, recommended certain improvements in 1787, especially in respect of cleanliness, sanitation, water, and ventilation to combat the threat of gaol fever that had already claimed several lives.  During the 1780s local attorney George Hodgkinson Junior recorded conducting inquests at the prison for deaths in custody.

By 1806, another reformer, James Nield visited and noted that the prison had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Around this time the Revd John Thomas Becher had become a prison visitor and was not impressed with what he witnessed.  Following lobbying a decision was made to build a new prison on land further down the Burgage.  It was designed by Southwell architect Richard Ingleman and was to become a model for penitentiaries in Britain, Europe and the United States of America. His radial design is illustrated in the model shown below.

History Society member Rob Smith has undertaken a great deal of research into the Nottinghamshire House of Correction and produced a small book detailing a brief history of the prison.  A much more detailed book is in the course of being written.

            See Publications page.

The Nottinghamshire House of Correction at Southwell

Sketch from The History of Southwell, by Richard Phillips Shilton 1818

A 3D image of the House of Correction

Prepared by members of Leicester De Montfort  University

with the help of Rob Smith.

A cell door from the prison found on the site during work in 2015.


A Model Institution

Essential History & Architectural Notes

By Rob Smith

This volume has been extensively researched by Rob Smith and is a most interesting summary of the history of the House of Correction.  It also contains details of the design of the prison, which was copied throughout the country and in other parts of the world.

The book includes a detailed history of the establishment of the prison on the site at the bottom of The Burgage and also some detail of the first prison that was higher up Burgage Green.  

Price £5 - See Publications page.