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The Old Prison, Formerly Northleach House of Correction, Northleach with Eastington

Description: The Old Prison, Formerly Northleach House of Correction

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 23 January 1952
English Heritage Building ID: 130502

OS Grid Reference: SP1089514949
OS Grid Coordinates: 410883, 214959
Latitude/Longitude: 51.8331, -1.8435

Location: A429, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3LR

Locality: Northleach with Eastington
Local Authority: Cotswold District Council
County: Gloucestershire
Country: England
Postcode: GL54 3LR

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Listing Text


Northleach House of Correction is a former prison, latterly with police station and petty sessional court, constructed in 1792 to the designs of William Blackburn. It was altered with additional buildings in the C19, and fell out of use by the 1930s, when some blocks were demolished. The buildings have been used as a museum and offices in the later C20.

Reason for Listing

The Old Prison, formerly Northleach House of Correction is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons.
* Rarity: it is a rare surviving example of the work of prolific gaol architect William Blackburn.
* Architectural: a confident, and suitably austere, classical design.
* Historical: dating from the pioneering period of prison reform under Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire.
* Interior: the remaining buildings contain high quality fittings including cell doors and external doors with complex lock mechanisms. There are also distinctive judicial and penal rooms, including cells with barred windows, and a C19 court room with fitted dock and bench.
* Location and setting: the former prison grounds retain a legible layout with a rear exercise ground, in an isolated valley bottom location chosen for its suitability for a house of correction.


The Old Prison, formerly Northleach House of Correction, was built by Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, as part of a pioneering C18 movement of prison reform. Paul was also responsible for the building of a new county gaol in Gloucester and four other houses of correction at Lawford's Gate, Bristol, Littledean and Horsley. The House of Correction at Northleach was built in 1792 to the designs of William Blackburn. After the death of Paul in 1820, conditions worsened and hard labour was introduced to the prison. The buildings were extended in the early C19, and a government enquiry into the poor welfare standards at the prison resulted in a new female cell block being built in 1844. Further adaptations to the buildings occurred throughout the C19 in response to changing penal methods. In 1857 the status of the prison changed to a house of remand and in 1859 the local Petty Sessional Court moved onto the site. The earlier mill house, with a treadmill for hard labour, was converted into a police station. By the 1930s the main cell blocks were out of use and were demolished in 1936-7, along with other buildings. The site ceased to be used by the police and court services in the 1970s. Since then the buildings have been converted to a museum, office space, refreshment facilities and the home for the Lloyd Baker Rural Life collection of agricultural equipment. In the C21 the site is being considered for new uses.


MATERIALS: coursed, squared and dressed limestone, under a slate roof with ashlar stacks.

PLAN: the buildings are arranged on a D-plan. The principal range comprises a rectangular central block built in 1792, which originally formed the governor's house and prison chapel. The central block is linked to smaller rectangular blocks via a curtain wall (now forming the back wall to C20 lean-to display areas). These flat-roofed blocks were built c.1820 (left) and 1844 (right). The left-hand block originally housing a hand corn mill, subsequently a treadmill, and was later converted into a police station, now office space. The right-hand block functioned as a female cell block, and now forms part of the museum display. The five-sided wall that connects with the left-hand and right-hand blocks, to form the D-plan, is the back wall of former cell blocks. Inserted C20 sheds house the Lloyd Baker Rural Life collection of agricultural equipment.

EXTERIOR: the central block is two storeys, with a symmetrical 1:3:1 windowed fa├žade. The block has rusticated quoins and rusticated stonework around three central ground-floor bays. The central three bays are lit by twelve-pane sashes; and the flanking bays are lit by small two-light casements. There is a four-pane sash with horns to the left of the ground floor, and a similar-sized opening to the ground floor of right-hand bay, but is partially sealed. There is a plain parapet above the first floor. The attic is set back from the frontage and is lit by central three-light window with glazing bars. The central double plank door is C20 in date, with a stone lintel and fanlight. The twelve-pane sashes flanking the door sit within recessed semi-circular headed surrounds. Two stone piers with capstones stand in front of the door with curved iron railings. Stone steps to the right lead down to a gully and barred cellar windows below a relieving arch. The wall to the right of the central block has two four-pane sashes to the left. Attached to the far right is the female cell block of 1844. It is two storeys with a symmetrical, three-bay facade. The outer bays project slightly. There is a central plank door of C20 date, within a plain architrave, and with a small blocked or blind window above. A stone band is continuous with the window cill. The bays to either side are lit by cross-shaped slit windows. To the left of the central block there is a large inserted C20 door opening in the wall, and a clock fixed on the wall above right. The former mill block to the left matches the cell block but has narrow eight-pane sashes in place of cross-shaped slit windows. Above the door is a stone plaque inscribed 'POLICE STATION', with a six-pane sash above. A small bay links the block to the curtain wall and has a single-light sash at ground floor level, facing the central block. There is an engraved benchmark in the right bay, and an ashlar stack to the right of the roof.

The rear of the central block is two storeys, symmetrically arranged. At the centre is a canted bay, three windows wide, below a pyramidal roof, and lit by twelve-pane sashes. The upper windows are mostly sealed with an upper tripartite light in the central bay. Single bays to either side of the centre have twelve-pane sashes (left) or casements (right). At either end are stair towers with first-floor door openings (the left is sealed) onto walkways with iron handrails. The first-floor walkways lead to the central bays and former door openings, once used for attending chapel. The tower to the right has a ground-floor door. The tower to the left has a high ground-floor casement. The elevation has three stone bands. Below the central window is access to the cellar. The main roof is hipped with squat ashlar stacks at each end. To the left and right of the main block are C20 glazed lean-to areas for museum use. To the left, the rear of the female cell block has three wide cell windows to each floor. The upper part of the elevation has been rebuilt in the early C21. To the right, the former mill block has two sashes to each floor. There is a blocked central window at first-floor level.

The attached rear wall to the former cell blocks has five sides, enclosing the former exercise yard. C20 shelters are built against the wall and house agricultural machinery associated with the museum.

INTERIOR: the central block has an internal lobby with doorway into the court room. This room has a C19 interior with a semi-circular magistrate's bench and attached witness stand and dock. The room is lined with dado panelling and moulded architraves around the door and window openings. There are fitted cupboards below the windows in the far wall. To the left is a recessed alcove. Above the lobby doorway is a fanlight, with windows to either side, from side rooms. To the right of the bench is the magistrate's entrance, leading to the magistrate's room. In the far right corner of this room are steps up to a former stair tower, and a door to another room beyond. To the left of the court room, the door to the courtyard has an exposed heavy iron locking mechanism, and the facing wall has been cut away to accommodate it when the door is open. An inserted stair to the right of the court room leads to the first floor which has been subdivided into modern offices. Some C19 fitted cupboards and a chimneypiece are extant. A bolted roof structure is exposed in the former chapel above the court room. To the right is the top of a former stair tower. To the left is an extant stair tower with heavy timber door and iron locking mechanism. Spiral stone steps with an iron handrail lead to a door onto the first-floor walkway, and below to the ground floor. The cellar is accessed from the main staircase via stone steps. The cellar contains a bread oven and a large stone trough with an iron grille at one end, covering a water inlet. Beside the trough are two barred cellar windows. The roof is supported by timber beams on stone corbels.

The female cell block entrance opens into a flag stone corridor with three cells leading off. Each cell has rubble stone walls and an elongated cell window at the far end. A rudimentary bed is set in the flag stone floor of one cell, formed by two stone block supports and a cast-iron sheet. The middle cell has an iron door gate. A stone winder stair with iron handrail leads to the first floor. All three cells at this level are gated, with a supporting timber above on carved stone corbels.

The mill block has a central hallway covered in encaustic tiles. The room to the right is double-width, with a substantial wall partly dividing the space. The wall has curved corners and this may be the location of the former treadwheel. The staircase has a C19 stair balustrade with stick balusters. On the first floor are two plain C19 fireplaces.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.