HOBS: Provincial Debtors' Prisons: Oxford

30 MAR 2010

According to Pitt's 1693 text debtors in seventeenth century Oxford resided in either the Castle gaol or the City gaol. The Castle gaol[1] records[2] for the seventeenth century are scant. There is evidence of a petition for relief from Oxford prisoners in 1687 which states that the prisoners are, “very poor and… forced to undergo great want and suffer great calamities.”[3] The use of the clog was not restricted to the Fleet (where it cost 100l to remove), it was also used in Oxford Castle gaol.[4]
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[1] Neild, J, Account of Persons confined for Debt, in the various prisons of England and Wales, ... with their provisionary allowance during confinement; as reported to the Society for the discharge and relief of small Debtors. London, 1800, at page 439 provides an excellent physical exposition of the Castle gaol.
[2] Oxfordshire Record Office, Ref. CJ/V/14 – date Michaelmas 20 Chas. II (1670) – suit for recovery of £21 owed to Allen to James Carr, a debtor released from custody by Henderson before discharging the debt. See: Cordeaux, EH & Marry, DH. A Bibliography of printed works relating to Oxfordshire (excluding the University and City of Oxford). Oxford Historical Society, New Series, vol.XXVIII, supplementary volume. Clarendon Press, Oxford, MCMLXXXI, for prison books.
[3] Barrett, A & Harrison, C (Eds). Crime and Punishment in England – a sourcebook. UCL Press, 1999, page 133.
[4] Pitt, M. The Crye of the Oppressed being a true and tragical account of the unparrallel’d Sufferings of Multitudes of poor Imprisoned Debtors, in most of the Goa’s in England, under the Tyranny of the Goalers, and other Oppressors, lately discovered upon the occasion of this present Act of Grace For the Relief of poor Prisoners fr Debt, or Damages; some of them being not only Iron’d and lodg’d with Hogs, Felons , and Condemn’d Persons, but have had their bones broken; others poisoned and starved to death; others denied the common blessings of nature, as Water to drink, or straw to lodge on; others their Wives and Daughters attempted to by ravish’d; with other Barborous cruelties, not to be parallel’d in any History or Nation: All which is made out by undeniable evidence. Together with the case of the publisher. London, Printed for Moses Pitt and sold by Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1691, at preface. See Pitt’s clog woodcut, and for a modern recreation of a clog see the Muir Hunter Museum of Bankruptcy exhibits.

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