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Buildings and Purpose

A History of Bedford New House of Correction 1819 - 1849

Bedford New House of Correction
Bedford New House of Correction

The New House of Correction was built in 1819 in response overcrowding at Bedford County Gaol. It was recommended that inmates were sent there were 'light offenders'. It was not intended for the most serious offenders.

The prison population continued to grow at an alarming rate. In 1802, 65 entries were made in the gaol register [QGV 10/1], by 1817 the number of entries was 242. In 1818 it was decided to erect a House of Correction not directly connected with the gaol. Plans were submitted and that by James Elmes was chosen [PP 2/1]. The site was to the north of the gaol, but not directly adjoining it, with a frontage onto Kettering Road, now known as Tavistock Street.

In 1819 James Elmes, reported that the contractor was executing the works in a "faithful manner". "The weather has been hitherto most favourable to the durability of the works, but the change that has just taken place, make me lament that the stone roofs of the cells, are not now in their places, but they are daily expected. The extra works that have been ordered by your Worships at various times have increased the quantity of work to be done, and consequently the length of time necessary." John Millington produced further plans for an infirmary, chapel, laundry and treadmill [PP 3] and these were erected. [QSR 24/365]

The next year (1820), a circular letter sent by the Clerk of the Peace stated the New House of Correction "is so far completed and furnished as to be fit for the reception of prisoners" Recommended by the court that offenders against the Game Laws, servants and labourers for misbehaviour in their employment, men for cases of bastardy, women committed for lewdness, persons committed for light offences or for want of sureties "with the exception in all cases of Prisoners of notoriously bad Characters" shall be sent there. The old or new house of correction should be specified on all warrants of commitment. [QSR 24/69, 70]

At the Michaelmas Sessions of 1822 the County Surveyor, John Millington reported:
?It affords me the greatest satisfaction to be able to state that the present sessions will terminate all the heavy and expensive works in which this County has for a considerable time been engaged. The new House of correction at the last Sessions, appeared to stand in need of nothing but the means of affording labour to such prisoners as were incapable of working at the Tread Mill; In consequence of which a portable hand crank mill was ordered, and has since been erected, and is found to answer its purpose perfectly well?" [QSR 1823/684]

The Old House of Correction was the one incorporated into the County Gaol when built in 1801. References to the Old House of Correction after 1819 mean the House of Correction built with the County Gaol in 1801. The New House of Correction built 1819 - 1821 was also known as the Penitentiary.

The 'New' House of Correction was pulled down in 1851 after housing all County prisoners during the expansion of the County Gaol in 1849, and became a garden for prisoners in the County Gaol.