When we hosted our first open day at the Lock-up the most frequently asked question was 'who was actually held in the lock-up?' The images of Victorian prisoners dotted around the site generated a lot of interest but I think everyone genuinely wanted to see pictures of people who have definitely had a stay there.
I cannot take the credit for how we came to confirm some actual prisoners from the early 1900s - my Mum had the cracking idea of checking the census for 1901 and 1911 to see who was resident overnight at the lockup on those dates!
1901 was easy enough with a clear list of prisoners and two 'attendants' which is interesting - this is the year before the lock-up matron role was introduced and these individuals must have been living at the lock-up to appear on the census.
1911 proved more challenging. Inspector Andy Harris who completed the census return for the lock-up back in 1911 recorded his home address which the return was mistakenly indexed to. Searches of Steelhouse Lane (which was much longer back then) brought back some interesting returns including:
- The Law Courts Cafe
- The Castle (restaurant)
- Grosvenor Buildings (for female pensioners and widows)
We finally found the census with one and a bit pages of prisoners this time (and no resident attendants).
After painstakingly comparing all of the names on these lists with the prisoner records held by the museum that have been indexed, we had two hits:
William Gordon - pictured in 1905 aged 38, arrested for being drunk and disorderly:
And Thomas McDermott who was sentenced to one week imprisonment in 1906 for warehouse breaking: