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As a convict awaiting transportation you were entitled to “Kings Allowance” of 2s and 6d a week. The government were charged anything from £8 to £12 per prisoner and escorting jailers received a set fee per mile for each prisoner.
If you could not pay your debts and were found guilty you would have found yourself serving time in castles debtors’ prison. The castle housed between 3 to 400 debtors at any one time who would be required to work within prison.
Life as debtors was quite comfortable compared to other inmates and you would receive in payment for your work 3 ozs of bread, 4ozs of oatmeal daily and 1oz of salt and 10 lbs of potatoes on a weekly basis.
If you were one of lucky ones who had access to money from friends or family then your stay in prison was even more luxurious. You could choose your own type of accommodation from 22 rooms set aside for just such people. The price ranged from 5s to 30s and included a fire, candles, cutlery and a servant who did cooking and cleaning. The lifestyle did not stop there. You were able to buy beer and wine, purchase tobacco and newspapers, buy meat, groceries, fruit and vegetables from debtor’s market which was held in castle yard. You could carry on with your profession and have visitors from morning until night.
And you thought life was a hardship in prison!
Until 1902 when Borstal system was introduced, if you were caught as a child committing an offence you could be expected to be fined or sentenced to five days hard labour. The resulting fine of 7s and 6d meant that for most families their children went to prison and completed five days of hard labour.
Lancaster has not been short of royal visitors during her 800 years. The first visitor of note was King John who held court and received French Ambassadors and King Alexander of Scotland in 1206. From that point in time there was a steady stream of visitors.
In 1400’s Henry IV held his court in castle and it was also patronized by Edward IV. Both James I and Charles II visited during 17th century. By 1800’s, Lancaster was a very popular place to visit with nine Royal visits.
The first was in 1803 with Prince William Fredrick of Gloucester. Queen Adelaide visited in 1840 and Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Royal children spent time there in 1852.
The most recent royal visitor was Queen Elizabeth in 1999.
Today Lancaster Castle is a thriving tourist attraction, working prison and court room.
I hope you have enjoyed this two part series on History of Lancaster Castle and when you find yourself in area, pay her a visit.
Best Wishes Stuart Bazga
A Guide to Castles of Europe was born from childhood dreams and aspirations. It is my hope to educate and stimulate you into exploring these castles for yourselves.