This is a unique opportunity to visit a nineteenth century gaol. The visit will enable you to appreciate the English judicial system of the nineteenth century as it was applied within Wales. The tour will allow you access to cells, treadmills, punishment blocks. infirmaries and the like.
Prisoners were photographed
Originally only a single cell, the infirmary was enlarged and a toilet provided just outside the door for the use of sick prisoners, a surgeon was appointed to look after sick prisoners, he could order special food or alcohol for his patients
Typical cell - Early Period
These cells measure about 10 feet by 6feet, prisoners were provided either with hammocks or beds, a seat, table, an enamel washbowl and toilet which was flushed by water from the wash basin. Until extensive improvements were made to the goal in 1867 the cells were not heated and in winter temperature dropped to well below 50 degrees F. Each cell was fitted with an alarm system. A prisoner who wished to call attention of a warder turned the knob on the right hand side of the door. This simultaneously rang a bell in the corridor, and operated a metal flap by the door outside which indicated to the warder which prisoner had rung for him. The remains of a gas lamp fitting can he seen - gas was brought into the Gaol in 1857.
This is easily distinguishable from the original building. being much lighter and the cell larger. The new part of the goal was built in 1867 following an act of 1865 which stipulated a minimum number of cells for separate confinement, prison inspectors disliked prisoners working together during the day. preferring separate confinement at all times. Also in 1867 a heating system was provided for all the goal. so making it possible for the cell in the old building to be occupied by day as by night.
Typical Cell - The separate system
Under the separate system prisoners worked. ate and slept in their cell to avoid the corrupting influence of association with the other inmates. A common form of labor was turning the crank.
This involved the prisoner working alone in the
cell, turning the handle of a crank 10.000 times a day. The work had no purpose
other than keeping the prisoner occupied. but meals depended on the work being
Here you can see the slit made in the floor through which the ropes attached to
the babies’ cradles hung down into the women’s workroom below.
Apart from washing and laundering, women were also employed mending clothes. knitting or tailoring, a notable feature of this day room is the slit in the ceiling. it is said that this was to allow a rope to be attached to cradles in the room above, so that the women employed below could rock their babies’ cradles without interrupting their work, stone steps in the corner of the room lead to the upper floor where the nursery can be seen.
On the walls are displayed details of meals served in the goal. Prison food varied according to the class of prisoners, more varied and substantial food being given to 1ongterm prisoners to maintain their health. Food was usually adequate but not very appetizing.
This cell is completely sound proof and pitch dark. there being no window. It is entered through three massive doors. Prisoners were sentenced to periods ranging from one hour to three days in this cell for such offences as being insolent to the prison staff, irreverent behavior in the chapel, refusing to work, speaking to other prisoners whilst in the exercise yard, whistling in the cells or in one case emptying the night pail through the cell window. A less severe punishment was stoppage of diet, and, very rarely, the use of irons.
irons (leg shackles)
The tread mill
mechanism used to operate the treadmill
prison as seen from the courtyard
The condemned cell is twice the size of the ordinary criminal cells, and unlike them has a fireplace. On the morning of execution the condemned man had to walk along the corridor to the door in the wall. A wooden ramp was built across to the outer wall and above the Street was the platform with the gibbet in full view of the watching crowds. The mental hooks to which the platform and ramp were attached can still be seen. Only two executions took place in this goal.
At the appointed hour. the condemned man was led from the condemned cell on a final walk to the scaffold. The Chaplin followed reading the funeral service: condemned prisoners could behave in very different ways. William Griffith, in a state of terror, fought and struggled and had to he dragged to the scaffold. Richard Rowlands in contrast behaved with bravery. He walked out calmly and “unassisted” to meet his fate. although proclaiming his innocence to the end.
place for hangings
Huge crowds flocked into the town to see the executions, in the Street people jostled each other for the best view and nearby households even rented out positions in their top windows to allow spectators a good vantage point. They also changed six pence for standing room in their gardens. Some bought broadsheets and souvenirs.
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