Prison records

  1. What's available

    New Bailey Prison

    As the borough of Manchester had no gaol in 1839, an agreement was made with the county magistrates of Lancashire that people sentenced for up to six months would be housed in New Bailey Prison in Salford. Longer term prisoners went to the County Gaol in Lancaster. We hold:

    • General registers (male), 1859 to 1869
    • Nominal registers (small debts - male and female), Sep 1863 to 19 Nov 1864, 28 Aug to 29 Oct 1868 (female and male), 1847 to 1872 (female), Aug 1862 to July 1867 (female description books), 1859 to 1867

    We don't have the records for Misdemeanants 1847 to 1872. 

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

    Belle Vue Prison

    Also known as Manchester Borough Gaol or 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 (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 Quarter Sessions. We hold:

    • General Registers (male and female), 1850 to 1880 (except June 1871 to April 1872, and September 1877 - June 1878), or 1850 to 18 Aug 1870 (on microfilm MF 3047-3059)

    Strangeways Prison

    Located in Southall Street, this prison 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 in the 1990s. We hold:

    • Female Registers 1868 to 1875 (female description books), 1867 to 1879 (male registers), 1869 to1879 (with gaps, male and female register, small Debts), Dec 1878 to Dec 1881.

    We also hold a "Felony register - Bolton and Salford Sessions and Manchester Assizes (male) Jan 1863 to Dec 1872" (ref GB127.M600/4/1). This is for New Bailey Prison and Strangeways Prison. No other records are known to have survived.

    If you find an ancestor in Strangeways, don't automatically assume they would have been tried at the Manchester Quarter Sessions, as they only covered the city, but Strangeways Prison took prisoners from all over south-east Lancashire. It's more likely that they that they would have been tried at the Assize Court, or at their local or magistrates or Quarter Session Court if it was a short custodial sentence.

  2. How to access

    Our available prison registers 1847 to 1881 including names, full details of prisoners and digital images of the registers, is on findmypast, access is free at any of our libraries.

    A full catalogue for our prison records is on the archives catalogue (ref: GB127.M600). 

    If you prefer to use microfilm, they are on the ground floor of Central Library (Ref MF 3047-3059), no appointment needed.

  3. Related information

    Lots of useful information on our prisons can be found at findmypast.

    We also have information about courts and industrial schools and workhouses.

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