Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Buckinghamshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 69675 34092



SP6934 MARKET HILL 879-1/5/103 The Old Gaol 13/10/52


Former gaol. Built 1748. Gaoler's house added to front by G Gilbert Scott and gaol remodelled, other later C19 and C20 alterations. Coursed limestone rubble with limestone dressings, hipped slate roof to cell block and brick internal stacks. PLAN: rectangular walled enclosure with square corner turrets, hollow to S side, cell block to opposite side alongside open courtyard, bowed extension to front. Mock castle style. 2-storey extension curves forward between turrets of original front. Entrance bay breaks forward to resemble gatehouse and has central studded door with double-chamfered pointed head dying into piers either side. 2-light leaded stone mullion window above with hoodmould and ashlar battlemented parapet stepped up to centre and framing blank cross loop. Triangular projections either side of entrance with blank cross loops either side supporting square turrets corbelled out over sides and with leaded 1-light windows to 1st floor with double-chamfered stone surrounds. Turrets rise above battlemented parapet and have cross loops to front and their own battlemented parapets on corbel tables. 2-light leaded stone mullion windows to ground and 1st floors of bowed sides of former gaoler's house, with hoodmoulds. Battered plinth to entrance bay, chamfered plinth to sides, 1st floor string course and string to base of battlemented parapets. Corner turrets of original block rise above battlemented curtain wall and have blank pointed quatrefoils to front at 1st floor level, blank cross loops above and battlemented parapets. Turrets widen a little below battlements which are set slightly forward with a cornice to outer sides punctuated by two round arches. Similar arcaded cornice to curtain walls. Pointed arched doorway to left side near front approached by 4 stone steps. Rear elevation has 3 blank quatrefoils at 1st floor level above later openings with double-leaf doors and segmental-arched brick heads. The flanking turrets have 2 chamfered pointed arched blank windows, on above the other with moulded stone sills and cross loops above. One cell window at a high level in wall with stone surround and iron grille, horizontal slit-shaped. INTERIOR: cell block is on 2 floors with 1st-floor landing of York stone serving cells, supported by cast-iron brackets and approached by stone cantilever dogleg stair; plain iron balustrades. The exact number of cells originally provided is difficult to determine, but there appear to have been around 5 cells downstairs and 8 cells upstairs before mid C19. Several cells survive unaltered with most of the original cell doors. Surviving cells have brick floors and painted brick barrel-vault roofs, fitted wood mattress frames and double cell doors with peep holes. Backs of inner doors are lead-plated; studded outer doors. One trefoil-shaped cell to ground floor in one of the turrets 3 upstairs cells converted C19 into a police station with 12-pane sash windows and division walls removed. Original cell windows looking into courtyard are slit-shaped with York stone sills, jambs, curved lintels and iron gratings. York stone-paved courtyard. Part of yard encroached upon by single-storey former fire engine store with lean-to slate roof. The Old Gaol was built at the expense of Viscount Cobham of Stowe at a reputed cost of »7000, in conjunction with his successful Parliamentary Bill, passed 1748, to fix the Summer Assizes at Buckingham (qv Old Town Hall). The Old Gaol forms an important landmark in the middle of the town at the head of the broad spaces in Market Hill and High Street on the other side, still partly used for a market. It resembles two eyecatchers built around the same time at Stowe - the Keeper's Lodge now known as the Bourbon Tower and, especially, Stowe Castle. Underused throughout most of its history, parts of the building have served as police station, public conveniences (now removed) and fire station. Gaoler's house now occupied by council offices. (The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Buckinghamshire: 1960-: 75).

Listing NGR: SP6967534092


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, (1960), 75


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 12 Mar 2006
Reference: IOE01/15298/15
Rights: Copyright IoE Alex Hazlewood. Source Historic England Archive
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