SALTHOUSE The North Norfolk village with the Fascinating History    

From the heath c 1820




The Poor Prisoners' Petition 1815

In 1815
two men from Salthouse, Robert Spence and John Jeary, were arrested for carting wreckage off the beach. They were taken to Norwich County Gaol to await trial.

Their plight is described in a letter which was recently (2001) found in the church chest. Written on handmade paper, sown in the form of a booklet and obviously made for some other purpose, it was possibly dictated to some kindly scribe who then took it back to Salthouse and got so many village people to contribute money. (see the transcription below)




Whereas we two poor prisoners Robt Spence & Jn° Jeary, are committed to Norwich County Goal, Robt Spence for bringing a piece of wreck from the Beach with a boat & John Jeary, for drawing it aCross the highway with one horse into Spence’s yard about 10 yards from the place,
We humbly beg the favours of our Neighbours to favour us with an human Charity in so peril a distress as we are fost [forced] to be, & Cannot help our selves for want of friends & money wich I hope the feelings of our dear neighbours will be so kind as to Contribute something at their pleasure to take us out of so bad a distress as we are oblidg’d to undergo by such over powering men, And we shall ever Remember and think our selves in Duty bound to submitt our selves to your humble Charity be it here(?) so small,

in 1815 to the Poor Prisoners need

William Cooke 5s 6d
William Cubitt 2s
Thomas Dix 10s
John Frost 10s
Thomas Gaffer 2s
John Gibbs 5s
James Gidney £1
Will Harding 1s
John Hardy 1s
B. High 3s
Francis Ives 6s
R? Johnson 2s
? Johnson £3
5s 6d
William Keymer 2s
Mrs Larner 1s
Thomas Lines? 1s
Charles Luse 10s
James Mansbridge 5s
Robert Matthews 5s

John Moy 10s
John Moy Junior 1s
John Newell 2s
Samuel Olley 1s 6d
Rose Otway 1s
Edmund Painter 1s 6p
John Parstone 2s
S. Perfrement 2s
Elizabeth Pratt 3s
John Proudfoot 4s

Thomas Proudfoot 3s
James Pooley 5s
E. Purdy £3
John Ramm 5s 6d
William Smith 6d
Robert Spence £1
John Smith 6s
William Web 6s
John Wilson 1s
John Woodhouse 2s


Norwich Castle has been besieged several times. At the beginning of the reign of Henry III it was captured by Louis, the Dauphin, or heir to the King of France, who had been invited by a group of English barons to take the English throne. Louis also captured several other castles, but was eventually paid a large sum of money to give them up and return to France.

After this the military importance of the castle declined and in 1345 the King gave the two baileys to the city of Norwich. The keep, on its mound, and the Shirehouse remained under the control of the Sheriff of Norfolk, for by this date the castle had become the county gaol. The first gaol was built in 1165-6, when the prisoners were probably housed in wooden buildings. Later they were moved into the keep, which remained as the county gaol until 1887.

By the seventeenth century the keep was reported to be 'decayed' and between 1707 and 1709 over £1,300 were spent on repairs, as the justices of the Peace, who were responsible for the gaol, said the castle was 'not fitting to detaining prisoners in' ' Most of the prisoners at this time were in fact kept in appalling conditions in the remains of the ground floor rooms. The keep roof had long gone and part of the first floor had been demolished so that the prisoners could see daylight - twenty-one metres above them. Debtors whose friends or family could afford to pay the gaoler's fees lived in rooms built on the remains of the first floor. In 1729 a debtor who had a bed to himself paid the gaoler 2 shillings (10p) a week, if he shared the bed with another person, they each paid Is. 6d. (71/2 p), while if three people shared they only paid 6d. (21/2 p) each. Unless food was brought in, prisoners had to exist on a small amount of bread and water.






© Val Fiddian 2005