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Beverley History – Beverley Prison

Did you know that Beverley used to have its own prison? Well to be accurate a ‘House of Corrections. These three blocks of houses in Norfolk Street were formerly an early 19th century prison complex or House of Correction. Numbers 5 and 7 housed the treadmill. Numbers 9 and 11 were a house for the turnkey (gaoler) and the third block was the mens’ cells.

When criminals were imprisoned they went to the House of Correction, which was behind the Sessions House in New Walk. It was opened in 1810. In the mid-Victorian period there were sometimes as many as 100 convicts in prison at one time. Convicts went there to have their behaviour corrected by a diet of plain food, hard work and moral training which was supposed to leave them determined to turn over a new leaf. Prisoners were strictly segregated and were expected to work to earn their keep. Weaving and dressing flax were tolerable occupations. More arduous tasks included breaking stones or, worst of all, working the treadmill to produce whiting from chalk. The Silent System of total isolation aimed to stop any prisoner from speaking to another.

The House of Correction was closed in 1878 and all the buildings were converted to houses in 1880 by M L Whitton to the designs of his brother James. There are several examples of the prisoners’ graffiti remaining to this day.

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Photograph of the House of Correction in Beverley showing a group of prisoners and officials, c.1860-1870, East Riding Archives and Local Studies Service.

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