belle vue gaol

Belle Vue Gaol

Belle Vue Gaol, also known as Manchester City Gaol, was built in Gorton, Manchester in around 1845. The initial Construction and Location chosen for the prison was near Hyde Road on the outskirts of the rapidly growing city.

Intended Use as Short-Term Jail

The gaol was originally intended for Intended Use as Short-Term Jail, housing male and female inmates serving sentences of six months or less.

Actually Housed Prisoners for Years

However, records show it actually held some prisoners for up to Actually Housed Prisoners for Years two years, mainly military members jailed for desertion.

Close Proximity to Courts

Its Close Proximity to Courts proximity to Manchester’s Assize Court and Quarter Sessions after 1864 meant it could also readily hold prisoners awaiting trial.

Wretched Living Conditions

Despite its initial vision as a short-stay jail, Belle Vue Gaol became notorious for imposing absolutely abysmal, inhumane living conditions on prisoners.


The prison was badly Overcrowding, with far more inmates crammed into confined spaces than its infrastructure could properly support.

Minimal Food and Healthcare

Prisoners received only Minimal Food and Healthcare, with scant, poor quality food rations and essentially no healthcare or medical treatment.

See also  Bodmin Jail

Disease and Deaths

As a result, Disease and Deaths diseases ran rampant, leading to many ill inmates and high mortality rates.

Notorious and Reviled Reputation

Belle Vue Gaol earned an infamous, reviled reputation across Manchester and beyond.

Comparisons to Worst Prisons

It was compared frequently to the Comparisons to Worst Prisons worst, most squalid prisons in all of England.

Public Outcry and Demands for Reform

Horrific inmate accounts led to Public Outcry and Demands for Reform widespread public outcry and demands for drastic prison reform.

Demolition and Legacy

After these intense pressures and criticism, Belle Vue Gaol was finally closed in 1888 and demolished in 1892.

Closed and Razed in Late 1800s

The prison was Closed and Razed in Late 1800s completely shuttered and razed to the ground in the late 19th century.

Impact on Prison Reform Movement

Its dreadful legacy strongly fueled the Impact on Prison Reform Movement nationwide movement for substantially improved prison conditions.

Former Inmates of Note

Belle Vue Gaol housed a few renowned prisoners over its operational years.

George Gissing

One famous inmate was the novelist George Gissing, who recounted the prison’s horrors in his memoirs.

Other Esteemed Prisoners

Other prominent Other Esteemed Prisoners intellectuals, artists, and professionals also spent time confined in the prison.


In summary, Belle Vue Gaol remains an important reminder of the utterly inhumane prison conditions that prevailed in the 1800s before hard-won reform. Though only operational for around 40 years, its cruel neglect of inmates made it one of England’s most notorious prisons. The public outrage it provoked directly led to critical improvements in the prison system nationwide.

See also  HM Prison Whitemoor


When was Belle Vue Gaol built and closed?

It was built around 1845 and closed in 1888.

Where was the prison located?

In Gorton, near Hyde Road on the outskirts of Manchester.

What kind of prisoners were held there?

Mostly short-term inmates, but also some long-term military prisoners and inmates awaiting trial in Manchester courts.

What conditions were prisoners kept in?

Extreme overcrowding, with poor food, healthcare, sanitation and rampant diseases.

Why was it demolished?

After intense public criticism of the inhumane conditions, it was closed and demolished in the late 1800s.

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