Liverpool’s first Gaol was
the tower was built largely in the 15th century and by the mid-1700s was in
such a bad state that prisoners frequently escaped. There is still a small
alleyway, next to St Nicholas church called Prison Weint. The alleyway today
runs between the rear of Liverpool Tower and St Nicholas
|John Howard by Mather Brown|
In 1775 the philanthropist John Howard visited the Gaol; he gave a deplorable account saying that “the place was insufferably dirty, grimy and wretched”. The tower had been purchased by the corporation for the sum of £1835.10s, there were two larger yards and the cells, seven in number were 6 ft 7 inches in length, 5ft 9 inches in breadth and 6 ft high. Three prisoners were locked up in each cell at night; there was also a larger dungeon with an iron grating which looked out onto the street in which as many as 23 prisoners were kept at any one time. Mr Howard made strong representations about the poor conditions and the tower was eventually condemned.
Plans were started to build a new 'modern' gaol. It was to be based on Newgate prison in
London and one of
the consultants on the scheme was John Howard, by then a great prison reformer
who helped to make prison conditions better right across the UK. His name is
commemorated in Liverpool in the name of the
street that was built for the new gaol,
' Great Howard Street'.
A Painting of Great Howard Street from by WG Herdman in 1856.
In 1793 the gaol was still not finished but 4000 French POWs were incarcerated there It wasn't until 1811 that it was finally used for prisoners of the city. The prison was designed with a central block with six radiating wings. This style was called the 'separate-system' and was (according to Wikipedia) pioneered at the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania USA in 1829.
By around 1865 however, the prison was gone and Kirkdale Prison has been built. Kirkdale Gaol was built as a county prison and session’s house in 1819, the prison was transferred to the borough of
Liverpool about 1855. It stood near Kirkdale railway
station and closed in 1897, part of the site has since 1897 been utilized as a
Walton prison was built between 1850 and 1854 on the then fashionable Panopticon (radial) principle. It was designed by Messrs. Charles Peirce and J. Weightman and constructed in
Hornby Road, Liverpool with
an initial capacity for 1,000 inmates. It took both male and female prisoners,
who had been sentenced at the Liverpool Assizes, and was one of the largest and
most modern prisons in England in
its day. both Walton and Kirkdale prisons had execution sheds and it would seem
shared the same gallows which was transported between them.
In 1892, Kirkdale Gaol, closed altogether although most of its inmates had been transferred to Walton in 1890. Apparently, according to contemporary reports, they were simply marched along the road from one prison to the other.
Elizabeth Berry had the odd distinctions of being the first woman to be hanged at Walton Prison and the only woman to be hanged by a man with the same surname as herself. She was executed by James Berry in 1887 and even more strangely they had actually met and even danced together. This had occurred in August 1885 at a police ball in
Manchester. Walton was to
achieve its place in the history books of crime and punishment in 1964 when one
of the two final executions in Britain
took place here on Thursday, the 13th of August 1964.
|The New Assize Courts in Liverpool|
|Liverpool (Walton) Prison Hornby Road Liverpool|
Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Records Office
British History Online
Robert F Edwards