Come the mid 19th century there were repeated complaints by visiting justices, who remarked that the Warwick gaol on Barrack Street, and the Bridewell were unfit for purpose, suffering from poor conditions and overcrowding. Many sites were considered, but by the summer of 1859 the buildings for the Cape Road prison were finished, and it opened in 1860 with the prisoners transported there in leg irons.
The regulations in 1865 state that prisoners were allowed to write and receive a letter once every three months, further letters would not be given to the prisoner. One Charles Randall wrote to a ‘Miss Knight’:
I beg leave to say that I am very sorry for the deed that I did and I hope you will please to look over in light it was in the state of drink that I did it it is the first time that I ever tried to do anybody an injury and I hope that I never should do the like again. (CR4513/4)
Charles Randall of Alveston, aged 19 years, appears in the Calendars of Prisoners (QS26/2/bundle 7), accused of malicious damage. His case was heard at the Quarter Sessions on 17 October 1865, where he was sentenced to 6 months hard labour in gaol. Further investigation into the court deposition (reference QS 30/1865/Michaelmas) recounts how Charles was accused and brought to justice following the destruction of his employer’s (Charlotte Knight) garden – footprints in the garden aligned to Randall’s boots, providing the evidence for his being the culprit.
Memories of the prison
J. Mancini helped with the demolition of the prison, and also recounted memories of visiting the building when in use (Z668(SM))
The Prison was used for the purpose of confining Conscientious Objectors, and also for “Uncontrollable Girls.” This I remember quite well, because being in a ‘Dance Band’ we were engaged to play for those inmates, on two or three occasions. It was a laugh, when the ‘Matron in Charge’ passed the remark “Watch yourself boys, these girls will stop at nothing”!!
On 23rd May 1916, the Home Office notified the prison that it would close during the war (see QS24/613) “and thereby render the staff at present employed there available either for enlistment in the Army or for fulfilling vacancies at other prisons caused by enlistment.” Concerns were raised that with depleted manpower, it would not be wise to march the prisoners through Birmingham to Winson Green, where they would now be housed. It was resolved that prisoners would thus be transported from Snow Hill by taxi. The building was put up for sale in January 1933, with a subsequent sale for the fixtures and fittings taking place between 28th-30th September of that year. Most of the buildings were demolished in 1934, and the houses of Hanworth Road and Landor Road lie within the site. The Governor’s House still survives, and was converted into a pub of that name, where landlord Leslie Rose moved from the Stag and Oak down the road, and claimed to be the only man ever to have held a license to serve drinks in a prison. The building is now general offices.
I was talking to a gentleman who recounted a tale of an elderly lady he knew remembering the prisoners being led up Cape Road in chains. The fleeting glimpse into times past led to me wanting more, so does anybody else have any information or memories of its time either as prison or pub?
All references within this piece refer to documents that can be found at the Warwickshire County Record Office. The information about Charles Randall is from the catalogue entry.