Liverpool Main Bridewell




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Nation   England

County   Lancashire

Location   Cheapside, Liverpool  Liverpool

Map location   exact or closely approximate

Year opened   1864

Year closed   1999

Century of Operation   1800-1899, 1900-1999

Building Type   Prison, Police Station, Courthouse

Remarks   The main Bridewell was the central lock-up for the city of Liverpool. It opened in 1864 as part of a complex which included the police courts, the police headquarters, and the central fire station. It was designed by Liverpool corporations architect Mr Weightman. The complex was the first of a kind in the UK and believed was often taken on board by other forces across the country. Now a hotel and student accommodation. Note - that in Liverpool all police stations with cells were called 'bridewells'. The Main Bridewell 'was classified as a prison with its own Governor who was a Police Chief Inspector' (City of Liverpool Police).


'The Main Bridewell was in Cheapside in Liverpool and the building is still standing although it is in the process of being re-developed. It was first opened in 1867 having been built in the Victorian tradition of striking fear into anyone who had the misfortune to have to spend some time there under lock and key. It had approximately 60 cells with each having a heavy wood door and each cell measuring 7ft x 7ft in total accommodation size. The toilet was positioned at the end of the wooden bench where a prisoner would have to sleep and the floors were made of stone. The reception area of “the main” ( as it was referred to by Police Officers) had a huge heavy door that was attended to by a Constable/ jailer. Once inside the premises, a prisoner would be presented to the Bridewell Sergeant or Inspector and the circumstances of the arrest would be explained by the arresting officer. Prisoners then had to remove articles of value and items such as belts, laces, braces etc for safe keeping and to prevent the prisoners causing harm to themselves. They would then be searched and detained in a cell. Prisoners that were detained at other Bridewells throughout the greater Liverpool area who would be appearing at the Liverpool Magistrates Court the following morning would be transferred during the early hours of each day to the Main Bridewell for detention before court, as the Magistrates buildings was adjacent to the Court complex and had underground access. This prison was completely secure. Once you were in that was it. A plaque on the wall in the reception area said: "Please do not ask for bail because a refusal often offends"'

'Main Bridewell - Liverpool City Police' (

'Large bridewell, 1857-9, by John Weightman. Mellow brick, Flemish bond to front elevation, English bond to rear and side elevations, sandstone dressings, stone plinth, slate roof hidden from view by deep cornice and plain frieze. 4-storey front block, 3-storey rear wings plus basement, austere classical style. ... Historic records reveal that the bridewell was opened in 1860 and it is believed to have originally had approximately 80-90 cells (an 1862 report records 32 cells on the second floor alone), which was later reduced to approx.60. It originally held both men and women on mixed floors. Cells to the front of the building on each floor were knocked through in the mid-late C20 and became offices when the Main Bridewell was used as a police station and lock-up.'

Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 'Main Bridewell, Liverpool', LEN 1068316

Featured Images

  • ExteriorPhoto © John Allan (cc-by-sa/2.0)


    Information from a Merseyside police officer
  • 'Main Bridewell - Liverpool City Police'

  • Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 'Main Bridewell, Liverpool', LEN 1068316



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