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Index to Stafford Gaol Photograph Albums, 1877 - 1916


Stafford Gaol c. 1869-1871The Gate-house at Stafford Gaol c.1869-1871

The first mention of a gaol in Stafford for the use of the county's sheriff was in 1185, and it is likely that the gaol for Staffordshire prisoners was fixed at Stafford from the early fourteenth century. Courts were held for different purposes not only in Stafford but also in Wolverhampton, Penkridge and Lichfield. However, in 1559 an Act laid down that Stafford should be the location of the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, and from 1579 the Assizes were also fixed there.

The gaol first opened on its current site in what is now Gaol Road in 1793. Previous gaols had been sited close by, either in the now-demolished North Gate, or in its vicinity. Since then Stafford Gaol has been extended numerous times, and various of the buildings demolished and rebuilt.

In 1916 the gaol was turned over for use as a military detention barracks until 1921, at which point it was closed temporarily. It reopened for civilian use in 1939 and remains in use today.

Scope of this index

This index covers the surviving photograph albums, which cover the periods given below. There is a total of 6,300 entries in this index.

  • D6957/1/1 February 1877 - April 1881
  • D5112/58 March 1883 - December 1887
  • D6957/1/2 August 1893 - November 1896
  • D5112/59 November 1896 - January 1898
  • D6957/1/3 January 1898 - March 1899
  • D5112/60 March 1899 - November 1899
  • D5112/61 September 1902 - December 1903
  • D5112/62 August 1907 - May 1911
  • D5112/63 January 1911 - May 1916
  • D5112/64 1907 - 1909 (juvenile adults)

Prisoners held in Stafford Gaol at the time of these photograph albums included not only people convicted at the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, at the various borough Quarter Sessions within the county, and at the Staffordshire Assizes. The Gaol was also used as a "staging-post" for people convicted in courts across northern England, eventually destined for penal servitude in gaols in southern England, including Dartmoor (Devon), Portland (Dorset) and Parkhurst (Isle of Wight). Local prisoners usually have numbers without letter prefixes.

It is important to note that even where there is a surviving album, there are not necessarily photographs for all of the prisoners known to have been in the Gaol during that period.

At what point in a prisoner’s stay in Stafford Gaol the photographs were taken is not always possible to establish, although some of the photographs are known to have been taken immediately prior to discharge.

Image of Stafford Gaol courtesy of Staffordshire Arts and Museums Service


We are pleased to acknowledge the work of the Staffordshire Record Office Volunteer Group in making this online index possible.