Manchester Archives have launched The Manchester Collection via Find My Past the records from this prison. Many examples from this site were used in the publicity  packs and blogs etc to announce this launch.


STRANGEWAYS was completed in 1868 and was built to replace the New Bailey Prison. Prisoners were taken from many parts of south west Lancashire and not just Manchester itself. The prison register columns are again similar, but not quite the same as those for Belle Vue. Just before the new prison opened the Manchester Guardian published an article on June 18th 1868 waxing lyrical about "this wonderful pile". I have transcribed it in full, as I believe it makes interesting reading. I am not sure that the prisoner's of the day, or for that matter those prisoners of 1990, felt quite the same admiration for the place as did the journalist writing the piece.

 The new gaol which the justices of the hundred of Salford have erected for the reception of prisoners committed within their jurisdiction is nearly finished, and in a few days the prisoners now in the New Bailey prison will be removed there. Up to this time there has been no intimation that the public would be admitted to the new building, although we think it highly desirable, that under certain necessary restrictions, they should be permitted to do so. The instances in which such a building can be viewed are necessarily rare, and the gaol itself is such a perfect building that we feel sure many persons both in the city and the county would be glad to visit it, while to architects it would offer a means of studying a remarkable pile of buildings which has been designed by one of the foremost men in their profession - Mr. Alfred Waterhouse. The gaol has been developed mainly by three means: First there was the experienced architect who drew the plans - a task of considerable magnitude and difficulty from the extent of accommodation required on an area, which though large, is well filled. In the next place, much is due to Mr. Littler, the clerk of works, who has spent nearly eight years on the Strangeways county property, for the harmony of all minor arrangements, and for many adaptations and inventions to effect the saving of labour and money; and thirdly, Captain Mitchell, the Governor of the New Bailey prison, and henceforth of the new gaol, has made some valuable suggestions, the result of his thorough acquaintance with the practical work of prison management. On a previous occasion (in anticipation of the visit of the Social Science Congress to Manchester), we described the plans of the gaol, and the portion that had been executed. We now proceed to a further description, as the building is finished and soon to be occupied.

The front of the new prison is in Southall Street, and the prison buildings cover the plot of land between that street and Sherbourne Street, and extending from the rear of the Assize Courts, about as far as Exchange Street in Cheetham. The principal entrance to the prison is about one third of the way along the front wall. The gates are between two buildings; that on the left of a person entering the prison is the Governor's residence; and the smaller one on the right is for the porter. Further along the boundary are residences for the chief warder and matron, and an extensive range of stores. Within the wall, and nearer the Assize Courts, are other stores for coir yarn and mats, houses for the engineer and taskmaster, stables and other necessary offices.

The arrangement of the men's prison is planned on a straight line from the front gates. Behind these gates is a small open space, and a short flight of steps leads to an archway, which is at the end of one of the six wings of that prison extending north and south. This archway opens into a hall, which is ceiled with a groin of brickwork and stone ribs, supported on stone corbels. On one side of this hall is a large boardroom for the magistrates and on the other are the offices for the Governor and clerks. Immediately beyond these offices is a screen which nominally encloses the prison. In this wing there are cells in which prisoners may be visited by their friends. Each prisoner is placed in a cell without being taken out of the prison boundary, and is seen by the visitor from a room which is not within the prison proper. Between the cell and the room is a narrow corridor, in which a warder can be placed, and the open spaces through which the conversation is carried on, are protected by bars and wire network. In the centre of the prison is a hall of duodecagonal form, from which the six wings radiate. The hall is covered by a dome, which has in its upper part a lantern light of arched stonework supported on columns, with capitals and bases, surmounted by a handsome cornice of stone and brickwork, the whole being roofed with a flat cupola, which is more that a hundred feet in height above the level of the street. Five of the wings are entirely composed of cells for the confinement of prisoners. A number of cells in the basement are used as workshops, and some already contain the looms which will be set to work in a few days. The wings are built in straight line from end to end, and from the extremity of wing B to the further (sic) point of wing E-those wings being the longest two-there is a view of nearly 500 feet. In each wing there are there storeys of cells, and the uppers ones are reach by iron staircases and corridors. These corridors extend around the central hall, into which there are staircases from each wing, so that the internal communication is abundant and easy. The clerestory of the wings is divided into bays by equilateral gothic arches, each alternate bay of the roof being glazed, by which means an abundance of light is afforded throughout the prison. The walls are pressed brickwork; for a few feet upwards they are painted a dark colour; above the paint they are coated with white distemper.

A prisoner, on arriving at the gaol, is taken to the reception cells, and thence to the baths. The clothes are exchanged for prison dress, and are stored away and labelled with the prisoner's number according to the books. This number is also entered on a card, together with the length of sentence, and this card is hung up outside the cell to which the prisoner is removed.

There are in the prison nearly 1,100 cells, upwards of 700 being for men and more than 300 for women. All the cells throughout the prison are of the same size, viz. 13 ft deep, 7ft wide and 9ft high. The cell doors are of wood, lined with iron. Each door is fitted with a Hobbs's patent indicator lock, which seems to afford an absolute security for the safe keeping of the prisoners. The mere act of shutting the door effectually locks it in the first degree; near the rim of the lock is a small projecting nut, which on being pressed against the framework releases the bolt and fastens the lock. Each warder will be provided with a key that opens the door when it is locked in that manner. The Deputy Governor is to be furnished with a key which projects the bolt still further into the sheath, and then the warder has not the power of opening the door. In like manner the Governor will have a master key that shoots the bolt to its full extent, in which case the prisoner is under the Governor's personal keeping. This latter arrangement is intended for the custody of those prisoners sentenced to death, or of others with respect to whom there may be reason for extra precaution being taken.  The "indicator" is like an external handle, and the angle at which it sets itself shows the extent to which the door is fastened. In the upper part of the door is a small trap, which, on being unlocked, falls inside, and forms a shelf, on which the prisoner's food is served to him. Above this trap is a hole, through which the warder in charge can inspect the occupant of the cell. This hole is small outside, but much larger within; it is scooped out in such a manner that the warder's eye can command a view of nearly all the interior of the cell, and is covered on the inside with a wire guard. Within the cell there is a small open cupboard for the keeping of the articles which the prisoner has in daily use. The space above the cupboard is intended to  hold the mattress on which the prisoner sleeps at night, but which is strapped up and put away during the daytime. This mattress at night is place on a wooden trestle bedstead, which is made in two parts; when these are placed lengthways on the floor of the cell they form an inclined plane. To raise one end of the mattress after the fashion of a pillow to the prisoner is provide with a simple wooden lift made after the style of a writing slope. During the day the two parts of the bedstead are placed one above the other, and then form a table, at which the prisoner may sit on the tree-legged stool with which his cell is also furnished. In the corner of the cell is a water-closet, which cannot be tampered with by any prisoner who might be destructive, or might wish to turn the drainage pipe into a speaking tube by means of which he might talk to a fellow-prisoner in an adjoining cell. Each cell is fitted with a means of communicating with the warder. Any prisoner who wishes for the attendance of an officer has only to turn a handle rear the cell door; that handle moves a wire which effects two objects; in the first place it strikes one of a pair of gongs that are fitted in the middle of each corridor, and secondly it move forward a plate on which is painted the number of the cell from which the prisoner has rung. To save the warder any unnecessary trouble there is fitted above each gong which is set in oscillation by the pull of the wire, thus showing at a glance in which direction the pull has come. A walk of a few yards brings the warder at once to the cell which is indicated by the number plate that remains at right angles to the wall until the warder, who answers the summons restores it to its original position. Within each cell there are also gas and water supplies. The gas is a mere pipe with a burner at the end of it and, except that he can blow it out, if perverseness should lead him to prefer the smell of gas to the light, the prisoner can exercise no control over it, it being shut off by the warder from the outside of the cell. As to the water, each prisoner is supplied with a fixed maximum quantity of six gallons per day for all purposes.

A few cells are provided for debtors, whose detention is not that kind of imprisonment to which felons are subjected. At the end of the wing in which their cells are placed is a spacious dayroom for their common use, and this opens into a large triangular yard, in which the debtors can exercise or amuse themselves.

The remaining cells in the debtors' wing are the dark ones for punishment of the refractory prisoners, and this is a very different matter from the mere detention of their neighbours. To all these cells there is an outer chamber, so that however noisy or violent a prisoner may be, he is as secluded as a hermit, and causes no disturbance. Some of the cells are entirely darkened; other are, owing to a humane feeling on the part of the justices, provided with a little light. No one can enter a perfectly dark cell without shuddering at the idea that so terrible a punishment may be inflicted for the space of three days.

It will easily be imagined that the efficient ventilation of so large a number of separate chambers was a work which required considerable skill, and the difficulties of the case were increased by the determination of the architect to work in precise opposition to the commonly received rules of the subject. Ordinarily the vitiated air is withdrawn from the top of a room and the fresh supply is admitted from below. In the cells of this prison, however, the fresh air is admitted through a grating close to the roof, while the exhausted atmosphere is withdrawn from a similar grating fixed near the floor. In like manner the smoke from the open grates (which are provided in the warders' rooms alone) is allowed to pass upwards only through a short flue, from which it is drawn by means of descending pipes, in some instances to a depth of 40 ft, to a large shaft which is fixed in the high ventilating tower. It was first expected that the great height of that shaft would have been sufficient to provide a current which would of itself had drawn the fresh air into the cells and removed the impure air. In writing upon this subject nearly two years ago, we ventured to express a doubt whether this arrangement would be found to work well. It has not worked well, and the artificial mode of creating a draught such as in collieries has been adopted, and has proved a successful solution of the obstacle. At the base of the shaft a large fire has been made, which has provide a sufficient current throughout the building. It is expected that it will not be requisite to have a fire permanently at the foot of the tower. In close, damp weather, it may be necessary; but ordinarily the waste heat from the steam-cooking boilers, which are purposely placed partly within the base of the shaft, will, it is believed, be sufficient to effect ventilation. A simple experiment with the anemometer show that, when the fire was burning, a very large volume of air flowed into each cell through the upper grating. The entire building is heated by means of hot water circulating in pipes placed in the basement.

The water supply to each block of cells is effected from above. There is a kind of open gallery along each side of the wings. At the end of the gallery, near to the central hall of the prison, is a large cistern that can be filled either from the city mains or the well in the prison yard. A pipe from the large cistern supplies a trough, which joins together the smaller cisterns that contain the supplies for the prisoners. These smaller cisterns are built above the dividing wall of each pair of cells; they are sub-divided into six compartments, each of which contains the six gallons which the daily supply allowed to each prisoner in the six cells on the three storeys beneath. The manner in which these cisterns are supplied is similar to the operation of a rain gauge, except that in this instance all the reservoirs are on a level. As soon as the first group of six is supplied the overflow passes through to a small trough to the next cistern, and so on in the same way to the end, where there is a return pipe for any surplus supply. It was necessary to supply such [a] return pipe in order to prevent any accidental overflow; but as an excessive and unnecessary supply tends to increase the expense of maintaining which must always be a very costly establishment, there has been provided, by the ingenuity of Mr. Littler, an apparatus which of itself provides an effective signal when the time arrives for closing the supply pipe. This contrivance consists in another smaller return pipe which is fitted into one of the smaller cisterns. When only two of the cisterns remain to be supplied a small quantity of the water which is flowing forward passes into this smaller return pipe which comes near to the large cistern at the end of the wing. The water from this pipe drops into a drum which, as it is filled, turns and discharges itself into a larger receptacle: the motion of the drum rings a bell which is hung in the upper corridor, and this bell continues to be rung at short intervals until the attention of the proper officer has been called to the matter and the supply has been stopped. The exact point at which to fix the receiving mouth of the pipe was a subject of repeated experiments, without which it was not possible to determine the time at which the supply should be stopped.

The spaces between the wings of the men's prison are formed into exercise grounds for the prisoners. Two are circular in shape, and two are elliptical; each exercise ground is laid out in paths about eight feet apart. Near one of the large elliptical grounds is the building in which the treadmills are placed. There are ten mills, placed in two storeys, and about 80 prisoners can be worked at one time. The building is arrange at such angles that the whole of the prison can be seen by a warder who stands on a raised platform at the opposite flat wall. The power supplied by the treadmills is applied to turning the machinery within the prison, and to pumping water from a well sunk to a depth of two hundred feet. This well is six feet in diameter, and was cut for 60 ft down, the remainder being bored. At the dept of 60 ft a reservoir has been excavated in the rock.

The women's prison is similar in arrangement to the men's, but scarcely half the size. It consists of four wings, extending at right angles from a central hall, in which is an office for the matron and rooms for the other officers. This prison is provided with a large exercising ground, a part which is covered. There are means of communication between the two prisons, but so far are the prisoners are concerned there is the completest isolation.

Above the principal entrance to the men's prison a large chapel has been provided, which will accommodate about 600 prisoners. It consists of a nave and transept. The nave is sloped from back to front, and is railed off into six compartments for the male prisoners. In the front are some deep pews for the debtors. In front of these pews is a screen that separates the nave from the transept, the floor of which is appropriated to the female prisoners, who are brought there along a covered corridor. On the floor is a space railed off for communion and other services. Around three side of the transept is a gallery, projecting from which is a desk for the officiating minister, who can be seen from every portion of the chapel. The Governor's pew commands a view of the nave, and the matron's pew overlooks the transept, so that the prisoners, when assembled for divine service, are overlooked, in addition to the warders, by the chief officers of the gaol. The chaplain has a separate entrance to the gallery, and is provided with a room in an adjacent building.

In the part of the ground nearest to the Assize Courts is a detached building appropriated for a hospital for male prisoners. In the upper part is a ward for sick prisoners, and below are cells for those who are convalescent, who also have a separate airing and exercise ground. Attach to the hospital are rooms and offices for the dispenser, and separate bathrooms. Still nearer to the Courts are drying sheds and bleaching and dyeing house, in conjunction with the business mat making and weaving, which are carried on as industrial occupations within the prison. Near the women's prison is a separate hospital for the sick persons of that sex. In that part of the gaol is a laundry-yard, where the clothing of all the prisoners is washed. The washing troughs are screened off from each other. Above a portion of the floor is a gallery, on which a large steam closet has been erected, in which the clothes, already considerably drained of water by a centrifugal machine of great power, are thoroughly dried.

In the middle of the basement of the prison buildings are situated the cooking-house and the necessary offices. The kitchen is a light room measuring 50 ft by 30 ft. It is fitted with capacious iron boilers, which are heated by steam pipes. In this room are also two steam closets for cooking potatoes on the large scale required for so many prisoners. The prisoners' food is conveyed from the cooking house by means of a railway to the central hall, where it is passed by hoists to each wing, and is conveyed from cell to cell by means of a travelling crane which moves along the hand rails of the corridors.

In a vacant plot near to the corner of Southall Street , there have been placed some of the beams which formed the scaffold at the New Bailey. They will never be erected outside the prison walls. It is intended that the execution of any criminals who may be condemned to death shall take place in the yard, which is only overlooked by one room in the Assize Courts. This was not contemplated when the plans for the prison were drawn, and it may, therefore, be necessary to make some slight alterations in order to provide for the proper carrying out of the sentence of death within the prison walls.

The establishment of this new gaol will lead to the demolition of the New Bailey prison. In future all the prisoners committed by the Salford borough magistrates will be taken to the prison in Strangeways, the borough having no prison of its own, but contracting with the county justices for custody of its prisoners.

The discontinuance of the New Bailey prison has further necessitated the building of a new police court for the stipendiary magistrate of the Manchester division of the county. This will not be, as heretofor (sic), within the prison buildings but adjacent to them, and in communication with them. The court and the offices and rooms attached, are contained in a building which is 100ft long and 60ft deep. The principal entrance, but not the public one, is at the top of Cotham Street and faces Strangeways. This doorway leads into a curved vestibule, above which is the bench, which is reached by a flight of steps at each end. On the right hand [side] from the bench is a corridor leading to the magistrates' retiring-room, and a library which is 23ft by 19ft in size. On the left from the bench is another corridor leading to a private room for the magistrates' clerk, the public office of that official, and rooms for the witnesses. The police court itself is situated between these two sets of rooms. The court measures 60ft by 40ft and is 29ft high. Immediately below the centre of the bench is a table, one side of which is occupied by the magistrates' clerk. On the left are provided boxes for the witnesses, and the crier of the court, and in a corresponding position on the other side are the seats for the reporters. The counsel and attorneys are placed in two rows of seats on each side of the dock, this part of the plan being somewhat similar to the arrangements in the Crown and Sheriff's courts in the adjacent building. At the back of the dock is a partition, behind which is a gallery for the public, who are admitted from a vestibule and staircase placed at the extreme rear of the court. The public entrances to the court are in an open space out of Sherbourne Street. Beneath the court there is a strong room for the deposit of stolen property. There are also cells for the prisoners, while awaiting examination, and a way by which they are conveyed from the court to the prison on committal or remand. The provision of so spacious and handsome a set of offices for police business, is very creditable to the public spirit of the county justices, and will lead many to wish that all the public law officers of the city were equally well accommodated.

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Records available at Manchester Archives ; Female registers 20 Apr 1869 to 19 Dec 1870; Dec 1970 to Aug 1873 (some pages are missing); 8 Sep 1873 to 8 Nov 1875; Female Description Books 18 Dec 1867 to 26 Nov 1870; 26 Nov 1870 to 5 May 1873; 6 May 1873 to 12 Apr 1875; 12 Apr 1875 to 25 Nov 1876, 29 Nov 1876 to 29 Aug 1878 and 15 Aug 1877to 29 Jun 1879; . Male registers 10 May 1869 to 17 May 1871; 17 Apr 1873 to Nov 1874 and 28 Apr 1876 to 25 Jan 1879 ( also see New Bailey for Dec 1878 to Dec 1881).


Strangeways Prison 1951

Courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection

MORE IMAGES SEE HERE: http://s.coop/1fg2

Census Returns for the above can be found at:

1871 RG10 4064 folio 85

1881 RG11 4027 folio 81

1891 RG12 3266 folio 60

1901 RG13 3771 folio 89

Please note the dates of the registers available.


Here are a couple of examples from the female registers which shows how harsh the authorities could be. Please note the wordiness of the charges.



5261: Martha STANDING. Appeared July 6th 1870 before James Butterworth and James Hope. Offence: Unlawfully and wilfully deserted and escaped from the Certified Industrial School at Bolton. She the said Martha Standing, not having any such cause for escaping from such school, the period of detention not having expired. Sentence: 21 days hard labour + five years to Toxteth Reformatory School.  Age last May 13 2/12. Height 4 ft 5 ins. Weight In 4 st 9 lbs. Weight out 4 st 10 lbs. Fresh complexion. Light hair. Grey eyes. Marks etc: Mole above left wrist. Bites her nails. Left thumb nail slightly fractured. Trade: Factory operative. Place of birth: Rochdale. Last residence: Father, Alexander Standing, Nelson St, Rochdale. Religion and Education: [CofE] R + W (reads & writes). Single. If in prison [before] committed here: 4 years Industrial School, Bolton.

So this poor young tiny girl had been in an Institution from the age of nine.


6115: Margt. CLAYTON. 16th July 1875. Offence: On the 13th June last being then delivered of a certain male child unlawfully by a secret disposition of the dead body did endeavor to conceal the birth thereof. Sentence: Six months hard labour...

With the closure of the New Bailey and the opening of Strangeways, and a change of law, the ultimate penalty was to be carried behind the wall of the new prison, no longer in public. The first person to be executed was Michael Johnson. He was convicted of the murder of Patrick Nurney (see prison register entry below). He was executed on March 29th 1869. After the body had hung for the appointed time of one hour, and an inquest was held to prove that this was indeed the body of Johnson and that he had been executed. After the inquest he was buried in a grave adjoining those of the six prisoners executed at the New Bailey, which were removed to the new gaol when it was first occupied.


Felony Register - Bolton and Salford Sessions (Male) & Manchester Assizes from Jan 1863 - 1872.

This register is very fragile and many of the folios are water damaged with some rips.  Some pages are out of numerical and date order. This is possibly as a result of the 1990  Strangeways Prison riot when most of the registers (and buildings) were destroyed.

On closer inspection, I believe that this was the prison Felony Register for the New Bailey Prison and it continued to be used when Stangeways Prison opened. There are several references to prisoner entries being removed from this register to the Misdemeanours Register, yet another recording of prisoners. These prisoners' details were not recorded in the general registers as I first thought.

Whilst I was searching through this register I came upon a set of pages that were out of order. These cover the period from December 1872  to Oct 7th 1876. Unfortunately,  within this set of pages there is a time gap, as about forty pages are missing. However it means that they are records covering a period of four years longer than expected. These are now catalogued as GB127.M600/4/1a.

Having stated all of the above, this register makes most interesting reading as in contains the details of the prisoner who committed the most foul crimes and it contains some whom were sentenced to death for murders.  It also contained the records of those involved in the murder of Police Sergeant Charles Brett. They later became known as the Manchester Martyrs.

This register has now been re-bound. Here are a couple of more gruesome examples of what the register contains.

5936 Michael JOHNSON. Offence and When Committed: On the 26th December 1868 feloniously, wilfully and of his own malice aforethought did kill + murder one Pat Nurney. Sentence: Death. Age:20 9/12. Ht: 5ft 2 1/2. Complexion, Hair, Eyes: Fresh, Brown, Grey. Occ: Dyer. Where Born: Bolton. Last or Usual Address: Wood St, Ordsall Lane, Salford. Religion: R C.  Education: N[il]. Single. English Wt In: 8st 8lbs. Wt Out: Dead. Mark Etc: Cut corner of left eye, scar back of right hand, two cuts 2nd finger of right hand. When Discharged or Otherwise Disposed: Executed March 29/69

4251 Michael KENNEDY. Oct 12th 1872. Offence and When Committed: Having on the 8th Oct 1872 feloniously wilfully and of malice aforethought killed and murdered Ann Kennedy at Salford. Sentence: Death. Age: Last November 5711/12.  Complexion, Hair, Eyes: Sallow, Grey, Grey. Occ: Overlooker. Where Born: Castleshaw, Monaghan. Last or Usual Residence: 9 Brunswick Place, Pendleton. Next of Kin: Daughter Ellen. Religion and Education: RC + nil. Widower. 7 children. Weight In: 9st 6lbs. Weight Out: Dead. Marks: Cut over left eyebrow. Lost all upper front teeth, 2 moles above right elbow. When Discharged or Otherwise Disposed: Executed December 30th 1872.

I have now compiled a data base of the more interesting and unusual cases. They can be seen here.

For a link to The Manchester Collection see Find My Past



 BELLE VUE                                                                       NEW BAILEY



Copyright: Gerard Lodge (www.manchester-family-history-research.co.uk) 2007-2017

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Last update: 15th February 2017