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Recovering the 19th Century: Penal Landscape

Friday, July 6, 2018 - 10:00 to 16:30
Smith Cooper Grand Jury Room, National Justice Museum, High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN, Nottingham

Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice

How many prisons were there in the 19th century? Where were they located? How did they relate to each other?

The penal system in 19th century England was incredibly complicated. It comprised two types of prisons, convict prisons and local prisons. While convict prisons were under the direct control of the Home Office, local prisons were, until the 1877 Prisons Act, managed by a whole host of different local authorities, from counties and boroughs to liberties and even cathedrals. Moreover, included among convict prisons were penitentiaries, public works prisons and prison hulks (aka floating prisons!). And among local prisons were gaols, bridewells and lock ups.

This complexity has meant that penal historians have confined their work to studies of either convict prisons or local prisons, and even more typically, to case studies of individual institutions. There remain big gaps in our knowledge. Simply put, we don’t even know how many prisons existed in nineteenth-century England. marks the first stage in recovering that lost landscape. The resource contains key information on, as well as lists of surviving archives of nearly 850 English prisons used to confine those accused and convicted of crime in the period 1800-1899. This one-day conference marks the launch of this new resource by exploring how the data can be used and developed, by academic and non-academic historians alike, to transform our understanding of 19th century imprisonment.

Please refer to registration section below to register, please include any special dietary requirements and any other special requirements.

For further information, please contact Rosalind Crone:, and/or Registration closes 22 June 2018.




Arrival and Registration

(tea and coffee will be available)


Writing the History of the Prison

Seán McConville, Queen Mary University of London


11:15 An Introduction

Rosalind Crone, The Open University






Peopling the Institutions

Barry Godfrey, University of Liverpool

Helen Johnston, University of Hull



Institutional Archives

Paul Carter, The National Archives


Tea and coffee



Roundtable: Where next? Present uses of our penal past

Rosalind Crone, The Open University

Maryse Tennant, Canterbury Christ Church University (Canterbury Prison Project)

Aoife O’Connor, Find My Past

Nina Champion, Prisoners’ Education Trust

Anita Dockley, Howard League for Penal Reform



Conference end