Life inside the Littledean Jail was seemingly far better than life outside – for most of the Forest community. Life outside was certainly hard, most if not all those that lived in and around the Forest of Dean in the 18th century were destitute, disease ridden, illiterate and very, very poor.
Those that were imprisoned here were at least guaranteed food, a place to sleep and some form of education, if only in religious instruction – namely Catholicism.
On 18th November 1791, Joseph Marshall, a 19 year old labourer was the first inmate admitted here. His crime – stealing a spade. Convictions here ranged from petty theft, lewd women (prostitutes), military deserters, fraud and embezzlement, assault and battery to murder.
Children as young as 8 years old were incarcerated here and whipped with the birch, cat of nine tails and kept in solitary confinement. Between 1837-1838 three babies were born here, though only one survived.
The last woman in Gloucestershire to be charged with witchcraft was tried here at the Jailhouse in 1906. Cinderford wise woman, Ellen Hayward (known as Old Ellen) conducted her own defence and was subsequently found not guilty!!!
In 1854 Littledean Jail was no longer used as a House of Correction, used instead as a Police Station, remand prison and petty sessional Court from 1874. It was also to serve as a headquarters for the County’s mounted police, stabling horses here inside the one time treadmill outbuilding.
It was also used as a barracks and archive store during the war for Gloucester Cathedral and the County’s Public Records Office.