Visit the Old Gaol

gaolSunday, 13th September

Every September, across Europe, Civic Societies are encouraged to try to make buildings available to the public that might not otherwise accessible. Haverfordwest Civic Society has a good record on this and on the 13th September, Pembrokeshire County Council has given permission for the old gaol at Haverfordwest Castle to be used.

A prison, or ‘House of Correction’, had been created during the 1770s within the inner ward of the castle but it was an extremely ramshackle, grim affair consisting of a double decker, timber arrangement against the north eastern wall. Prison reformers, most notably John Howard, Elizabeth Fry and much later Charles Dickens campaigned endlessly for   improvement in the treatment of prisoners but it was slow coming. As the result of an outbreak of scarlet fever, which the whole prisoner
population succumbed to, a decision was made to build a new prison. With grant money of £1,500 from the
government in 1817, the prison was built that we are all familiar with.

This prison, for the county, was in addition to the tiny town gaol that stood originally in the Mariner’s Square before being moved a few yards to a point immediately below St Mary’s Church wall. A huge treadmill was erected in 1820 at a cost of £473 to provide the element of hard labour. The wheel was built by and was the invention of Sir William Cubitt whose engineering talents led to him being used internationally and he introduced a water supply to Berlin and surveyed the Paris to Lyon railway. Two teams, each of eight to ten prisoners were used on the wheel.

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