Alternative Names Little Bolton Star Chamber
Location Underneath the Little Bolton Town Hall, St George's Street, Little Bolton
Map location exact or closely approximate
Year opened 1826
Year closed 1876
Century of Operation 1800-1899
Building Type Police Station, Town Hall
Remarks Town Hall was built in 1826 and lock-up cells date from this time. In August 1839, the Town Hall was stormed and damaged during Chartist riots. The police station in the Town Hall closed in November 1876 and the cells were no longer used after this date. In 1878, the building was converted into a library. In 2012, the building was restored with funds from a Lottery Grant. The space now includes: restaurant, bar, business space and workhouse.
'The accommodation foe the detention of prisoners, previous to their cases being disposed of by the magistrates, consists of two lock-ups; one situate in Bowkers-row, attached to the police station, and the other in the basement of the town-hall at Little Bolton. They were clean and in good order at the time of my visit ... Little Bolton: Six cells; length 8 feet 1 inch, width 6 feet, height 8 feet 3 inches; guard beds inside each cell; ventilated with iron grating over each door, 2 feet 4 inches by 1 foot 2 inches. All the cells heated by one of Dr Arnots large stoves, which stands in the centre of the lobby that divides the cells ... Greatest number, from Monday to Thursday, without being bailed - 4 males, 1 female ... The six cells under the town-hall at Little Bolton are very unfit for the detention of prisoners for the time they are liable to be detained in them in consequence of the magistrates only disposing of cases on three days of the week. At the time of inspection, there was one female prisoner who had been apprehended on the Monday afternoon, charged with offering an umbrella for sale, knowing it to be stolen, who would not, in the regular course, be brought up before the bench until the ensuing Thursday. These cells are quite dark, imperfectly ventilated, and have no water-closets or other conveniences. The superintendent of police states: "...Prisoners are liable to be detained from Saturday till Monday. They are supplied, while under detention, out of the police funds, at the rate of 3d for breakfast and 4d for dinner. The prisoners are sent off, as early as possible, after commital, by the rail-road, to the New Bailey or Kirkdale.''
Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain II. Northern and Eastern District, Sixth Report (Parl. Papers, 1841 Session 2, V.1), p.145
'These cells form part of the county police station, and are in a convenient situation in Little Bolton. They are in the building which was formerly used as a town hall. The cells, six in number, are on each side of the passage leading from the principal entrance to the rooms of the superintendent and constable on duty. Between the cells and the street are two doors, the inner of which has a large grated opening in it, and the outer door being frequently left open to admit air and light, persons on the outside are enabled to converse with prisoners in the cells ... The cells are now secure; but the superintendent of police, who has charge of the lock-up house, informed me that some time ago a man had escaped by cutting the fastening out of the door, with a knife he had, by some means, obtained whilst in the cell. The doors are now lined with iron sheets. The cells have each a guard-bed, a straw mattress, and a good rug ... At the time of my visit there were six prisoners, some of whom, though they had been in the cells all night, had not washed themselves. I recommended the superintendent to see that every prisoner was required to wash himself in future before having his breakfast. The number of persons confined in these cells last year was 397; the greatest number in one cell at the same time, 12; and the longest period of detention 10 days.'
Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain IV. Northern District, Thirteenth Report (Parl. Papers, 1847-8, XXXVI.361), p.80
'By 1819, the site had been identified but it wasn’t until the Trustees’ meeting of 2nd January 1823, that a final plan was adopted. The minutes of this meeting reveal that the proposed building was to comprise “Town Hall and offices, dungeons, lock up room and deputy constable’s house to be erected in George Street….” ... A Heritage scheme in 2007 for Little Bolton Townscape identified the building as ‘of significant cultural and historical value, offering some of the finest examples of Georgian buildings in Bolton’. In 2010, LBTH was saved and structurally renovated with funds from a Lottery Grant but still lay empty after these works were completed in 2012. ... The courtroom is now reinvented as Workhouse, the felon’s stairway and oldest surviving door are visible from the restaurant’s stone passageway. The ‘link building’ is now home to Courtyard 36, the outdoor seating area of which is where the guilty were led away by horse and cart. The mystery of the blocked up doorway once-numbered 36, still exists, helping the bar to gain its name.'
'The Story of Little Bolton Town Hall', Little Bolton Town Hall website (August 2019) (https://www.littleboltontownhall.com/history/)
'An account of a local gang, comprising George Nathaniel Silwood (24), William Schofield (26), William Shipperbottom (29), John Crompton and Alice Cook, who, accused of breaking into a warehouse on Green Street, Bolton, on 27 January 1835, were placed in the lock-ups in Little Bolton underneath the Town Hall: "During the night Silwood and Shipperbottom contrived to make use of a fire provided to keep them warm, and burn a hole in the bottom of their cell door, in the Star Chamber, large enough to permit their escape. Silwood through previous experiences was acquainted with the cells layout, and located Crompton and Schofield's cell and helped them to make their escape. Before Silwood and Shipperbottom made their escape Silwood had the audacity to write on the cell wall "G.N. Silwood, first time November 21st 1831 six months spent at New Bailey, which cost me twenty six pounds. G.N. Silwood, second time May 17th 1834 Got acquitted. May 18th 1834 Listed in the East India Company Artillery and was discharged unfit for service November 21st 1834". He had also drawn a man hanging on the gallows. The prisoners were subsequently recaptured in Chester. Their fate - Schofield acquitted, Silwood and Shipperbottom transported.'
'The Saga of Two Boltonians', Bolton's Genies: Monthly Newsletter of the Bolton Family History Society, January 2019, pp. 9-10 (https://bolton.mlfhs.org.uk/newsletter/Genie_2019_01.pdf)
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