Welcome to Prison History

A resource to expand our knowledge of the practice and experience of imprisonment in the British Isles between 1500 and 1999.

Use the search below to find detailed records on nearly 850 penal institutions operational in 19th century England, or on over 400 lock-ups spanning the early modern to the modern period.

19th Century Prisons Search Local Lock-ups Search


Based in the Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice at The Open University, Prison History aims to transform our understanding of incarceration in the British Isles from the early modern period to the twentieth century through the publication of new, interactive resources. To date, Prison History hosts two datasets: 19th Century Prisons, a database of 846 English prisons that existed between 1800 and 1899; and Your Local Lock-Up, an evolving collection of sites used for temporary confinement between 1500 and 1999.

Learn More


We are actively seeking contributions from anyone interested in the history of the prison in the British Isles both to expand the datasets we have on prisons, and to show how data from these resources can be used. Do you have an old lock-up in your parish? We would love to know about it! Have you been able to use the data from Prison History for a local, business, or heritage project? Please tell us your story! Would you like to work with us to uncover more about our penal past? Why not become a contributor!

Become a Contributor


We’d love to hear from you! If you have any information on historic prisons, especially pictures or archival material, please let us know. We are also keen to hear about how you’re using the data, and to receive any feedback you might have for improving Prison History and its resources.

Get In Touch