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Document three

Reports by prison reformer John Howard following visits to Dartford Bridewell 1776-1788 and a report regarding prison conditions in 1792

April 24th 1776

"Dartford - This County Bridewell built in 1720, consists of 2 rooms, one for men, 21 ft. by 17 ft., one for women, 14 ft. square, both 10 ft. high. No chimneys; offensive sewers; and the rooms dirty; no water; no straw; mats, but quite worn out. No court, though the Keeper has a garden. His salary 20; fees 3s.6d; no table.

Allowance to those committed on suspicion of felony, two pence per day. The Keeper told me they had, about two years ago, a bad fever which himself and his family and every fresh prisoner caught. Two died of it. The prisoners are now well, and at work on a manufacture of flax dressing and weaving sacks. Prisoners 6".

April 15th 1779

"There are two courts taken from the Keeper’s garden, one for each sex, with pumps and sewers and a room in the men’s court for the sick, but the women have no mats or any kind of bedding. Prisoners 5".

 July 15th 1788

"Dartford - No alteration, only one room for women whether sick or well; no coverlets; employment beating hemp; allowance, a two penny loaf a day (weight 19 ounces) and a halfpenny in money. Prisoners 9."


"The court for the men is 39 ft. by 30 ft. The room in which they both work and sleep is 20 ft. by 17 ft. and 10 ft. high. A fireplace in the wall of the court. The court for women is 24 ft by 18 ft. The room in which they both work and sleep is 13 ft. by 13 ft, and 10 ft. high. No fireplaces in this room or court. The room let by the Keeper of the prison is 3 ft. by 10 ft. and 9 ft. high, the other 12 ft. by 6 ft. and 9 ft. high. Strong room 12 ft. by 9 ft. and 8 ft. high. Hospitals both for men and women 11 ft. by 11 ft and 9 ft high. Chapel none. A pump in each court.

Prisoners at present 11 men and 7 women, 16 of whom are to go to Maidstone, 15 for Quarter Sessions and 1 for Assize trial. The general average of prisoners is 13 exclusive of deserters, the number of whom has amounted to 32 in one night. The prisoners are employed in beating hemp and sewing sacks. They are maintained by one half their labour, the county allowing nothing for their maintenance except in sickness. Neither rules for the discipline of the prison, nor a table of fees are hung up. The prison appears to be kept very clean and whitewashed according to Act of Parliament. The buildings are in good repair".


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