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HER Number:MDV14071
Name:Old Gaol, South Molton


Former gaol, built circa 1838. The dwellings for the gaoler and superintendent of police are now private houses, and the remains of the old cells and part of the airing yard still survive to the rear.


Grid Reference:SS 716 259
Map Sheet:SS72NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishSouth Molton
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSOUTH MOLTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS72NW/22
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II): 96924
  • Old Listed Building Ref: 96923

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PRISON (XIX - 1838 AD to 1838 AD (Between))

Full description

White, W., 1968, Reprint of History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire, 613 (Monograph). SDV323585.

The Borough Gaol, in East Street, was built about twelve years ago [circa 1838] and comprises dwellings for the gaoler and superintendent of police, and six cells, two large dayrooms, and an airing yard for the prisoners.

Unknown, 1980, Untitled Source (Ground Photograph). SDV79277.

Timms, S. C., 1981, Town Gaol (Worksheet). SDV79273.

Site visit 23rd February 1979. The front block, the dwellings, is currently for sale. The 'airing yard' is still visible, also the gaol block, now roofless. Demolition had begun on the gaol block but has been stopped. Two cells are still visible, the rest are obscured by a modern shed. Other details: Plan.

Department of Environment, 1986, South Molton (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV321005.

Built in 1838, probably on the site of the 17th century gaol. The street frontage, nos 22 and 23 were accommodation for the gaoler and superintendent of police. Two storeys rendered with rusticated quoins. Hipped slate roof with axial chimney stacks. Three sashes with glazing bars intact. Central doorcase with cornice, pilaster, rectangular fanlight, panelled reveals and six-panelled door.
The former town gaol, to the rear of nos 22 and 23. Rubble, now lacking roof and derelict. Four windows to south with segmental heads, left hand are sashes with glazing bars, the other two casements. Door to left. No openings to rear and sides. Internal wall brick. Plain stairs with metal balustrade. Included principally for historical interest. Former exercise yard partly survives, partly obscured by later accretions.

Child, P., 1996, 22 and 23 East Street, South Molton: Proposed Conversion of Two Flats (Correspondence). SDV347009.

Visited 1996 by Peter Child. The interior of this building is interesting as it seems to be largely in its original state, designed for occupation in two separate households, although the exterior appears to be a single house, similat to those in the same terrarce and of the same date. A central corridor, running from the front door to the back of the house, separates the two internal units, each of which have a staircase placed axxially and rising from the external walls. The unit on the left is slightly more grandly fitted out, and is presumably that which was occupied by the superintendent, rather than the gaoler.
The position of the two staircases is an original and unusual feature. The proposed conversion would require them to be in some way reversed.
To the rear of this building is the Town Gaol, which survives with its four cells, but is very overgrown and its condition is not good.

South Molton & District Archive Local History Society, 2000, South Molton Heritage Trail, 31 (Pamphlet). SDV61800.

The former borough prison was built in 1828 to replace an earlier gaol. By 1878 the prison was only used as a house of detention with convicted prisoners being sent to the county prison in Exeter. In 1894 when the new county police station was built in South Street, the building was used as a free library. The old cells still remain at the rear of the building.

North Devon District Council, 2003, North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003, 46 (Report - Survey). SDV344372.

Overgrown. Steel cell doors with grilles have advanced rusting. Other details: Photograph.

Southwest Archaeology, 2005, Mole Valley Farmers Station Road South Molton Devon. Results of an Archaeological Assessment, 2.4, 4.0.6, App.2 (Report - Assessment). SDV324477.

Numbers 22 and 23 East Street are now private houses.

Ordnance Survey, 2010, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV344030.

Green, T. + Humphreys, C. + Laing-Trengove, D., 2010, The Old Gaol, South Molton, Devon. Results of a Desk-Based Study and Historic Building Survey (Report - Survey). SDV344419.

The Old Gaol is part of a small complex of buildings probably constructed between 1828 and 1838 and replacing an earlier 17th century gaol, probably on the same site. The building is set in a walled courtyard to the rear of 22-23 East Street and built into the slope to the north to first floor level. Constructed of semi-coursed stone rubble under a modern roof with modern windows at first floor level. All the openings have shale segmental arches and the first floor windows have brick quoins. According to White's Directory the gaol had 'six cells, two large day-rooms and an airing yard'. The present building has only four cells, one of which was unaccessible at the time of the survey, and the other two cells may, therefore, have been located elsewhere in the complex. The extant cells, located on the ground floor, are whitewashed with brick barrel vaulted ceilings. The doors are of timber, probably oak, encased in riveted iron sheets and set in heavy iron frames. Although the ground floor is still in almost its original condition, the first floor with the former dayrooms has been much altered and the north wall has been rebuilt. See report for full details.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV321005List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1986. South Molton. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV323585Monograph: White, W.. 1968. Reprint of History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire. White's 1850 Devon. Hardback Volume. 613.
SDV324477Report - Assessment: Southwest Archaeology. 2005. Mole Valley Farmers Station Road South Molton Devon. Results of an Archaeological Assessment. Southwest Archaeology Report. 051114. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2.4, 4.0.6, App.2.
SDV344030Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2010. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #81118 ]
SDV344372Report - Survey: North Devon District Council. 2003. North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003. North Devon District Council Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 46.
SDV344419Report - Survey: Green, T. + Humphreys, C. + Laing-Trengove, D.. 2010. The Old Gaol, South Molton, Devon. Results of a Desk-Based Study and Historic Building Survey. Southwest Archaeology Report. 100128. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV347009Correspondence: Child, P.. 1996. 22 and 23 East Street, South Molton: Proposed Conversion of Two Flats. Letter to Local Planning Authority. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV61800Pamphlet: South Molton & District Archive Local History Society. 2000. South Molton Heritage Trail. A5 Paperback. 31.
SDV79273Worksheet: Timms, S. C.. 1981. Town Gaol. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet.
SDV79277Ground Photograph: Unknown. 1980. Slide.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV3273 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV3274 - Mole Valley Farmers Station Road South Molton Devon. Results of an Archaeological Assessment
  • EDV4599 - North Devon Buildings at Risk Survey 2000-2003
  • EDV4602 - Survey of the Old Gaol, South Molton

Date Last Edited:Apr 7 2011 3:37PM