Manchester City Council

Libraries Court and Prison Records

Prison Records

Our prison registers 1847-1881 including names, full details of prisoners and digital images of the registers, are now available on findmypast.co.uk. Free access to findmypast.co.uk is available at any Manchester City Council library.


As the borough of Manchester had no gaol in 1839, agreement was made with the county magistrates of Lancashire that persons sentenced for up to 6 months should be housed in New Bailey Prison, Salford, while longer term prisoners went to the County Gaol at Lancaster. We hold the following records for New Bailey Prison:
  • General Registers (Male), 1859-1869; Nominal Register (Small Debts - Male and Female), Sep 1863-19 Nov 1864, 28 Aug-29 Oct 1868; Female and Male Register, 1847-1872; Female Register, Aug 1862-July 1867; Female Description Books, 1859-1867

The records of Lancaster Prison are held by the National Archives, but Lancashire Record Office hold microfilm copies of these.

Belle Vue Prison (or Manchester Borough Gaol / Manchester City Gaol), Hyde Road, West Gorton was opened in 1849 by the Borough of Manchester. It was a short term Jail, but it proved inadequate and some prisoners were still sent to the New Bailey. It was demolished in 1892. The majority of prisoners were tried at the Manchester Magistrates Court or the Manchester Quarter Sessions (see above). Manchester Central Library holds the following records for this prison:

  • General Registers (Male and Female), 1850-1880 (some gaps). On microfilm 1850-18 Aug 1870 (MF 3047-3059)

Strangeways Prison in Southall Street, Manchester was built to replace New Bailey prison in Salford which closed in June 1868. It acted as the County Gaol for the Hundred of Salford (south-east Lancashire). It was renamed Her Majesty's Prison, Manchester in the 1990s. Manchester Central Library holds the following records for this prison:

  • Female Registers, 1868-1875; Female Description Books, 1867-1879; Male Registers, 1869-1879 (with gaps); Male and Female Register (Small Debts), Dec 1878-Dec 1881.

We also hold a "Felony Register - Bolton and Salford Sessions & Manchester Assizes (Male) Jan 1863-Dec 1872" (ref: M600/4/1). This is probably for New Bailey Prison and Strangeways Prison.

No other records are known to have survived. A full catalogue for our prison records can be viewed on our on-line catalogue (ref: GB127.M600).

If you find an ancestor in Strangeways do not automatically assume they would have been tried at the Manchester Quarter Sessions. The Manchester Quarter Sessions only covered the City of Manchester and Strangeways Prison took prisoners from all over south-east Lancashire. It is more likely that they that they would have been tried at the Assize Court (see above) or if it was a short custodial sentence at their local or magistrates or Quarter Session Court.

A lot of useful information on Manchester's prisons can be found at the Manchester Family History Research website run by Gerard Lodge (external website). 

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