A Town Gaol existed in Bedford prior to 1589 at the corner of the Guildhall, then from that date was established on Bedford Bridge.
This building, converted from the former chapel of St. Thomas, in spite of being deemed in a bad state of disrepair and being washed away and rebuilt, was used until 1795, when a new Town Gaol was built in St. Loyes, using materials from the old gaol.
Eventually a new County Gaol and House of Correction were built on a site originally owned by Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford in Dovehouse Close.
Until 1865 the majority of prisons were under local control.
These consisted of lock-ups, Houses of Correction, and local gaols.
The Prison Act of 1865 amalgamated the institutions 'Gaol and the 'House of Correction' resulting in one known as the 'Prison'.
These local prisons were administered by their county, financed mainly by local taxes. Rather than just holding facilities, they became places of punishment for people with sentences of up to two years.
Other prisons were run by central government and were known as Convict Prisons.
Local and convict prisons continued to operate as separate operations until the end of the 19th century.
Lock-ups were used for the temporary confinement of people, often drunks who were generally released the next day. Most were small structures with a door and a narrow slit opening or window.
THE HOUSE OF CORRECTION
The first House of Correction was the Bridewell in London which opened in 1556. A law passed in 1609 made it compulsory to provide a House of Correction in every county. These were used to house beggars and vagrants or those who were termed 'unwilling to work'. Here they were made to do so.
THE LOCAL GAOL