Although formidable, it was obviously not impossible to break out of the prison, still known as Folkingham Castle, as on 26th May 1826, one William White (alias Thomas Brown) who had been committed for robbing a shoemaker, escaped. He “travels as an umbrella maker and wears a green apron”, according to his “Wanted Bill”, and his fate; unknown. Others followed.....?On the gatehouse, the words “House of Correction 1825” were added. Justices of the Peace dealt with offenders committing minor offences, the most common charges against prisoners being prostitution, petty theft and “loose, idle and disorderly conduct”. Over two thirds of the prisoners were female, more than half of offenders were released within a week, and over two thirds within two weeks. Virtually all prisoners were required to do hard labour, typically, beating hemp, and over half of the convicted were whipped, particularly those found guilty of theft. The treatment of prisoners was organised on “sharp shock” lines to deter them from re-offending.
By the 1860s, the treadwheel, the crank and stonebreaking was the fate of those serving “hard labour first class” for males over 16. For the “second class”, there was mat making, picking oakum, pumping, tailoring, and stone-making, i.e. creating drinking troughs for cattle and horses, using a mallet and chisel. For females, hard labour entailed work in the laundry, picking oakum, cleaning and knitting.
For those convicted only of misdemeanours, they could wear their own clothes, have books and newspapers, and if required, buy beer. Mr. Bailey Jnr, licensee of the Greyhound Inn, regularly supplied the House of Correction with transport and drinks in the mid-nineteenth century.
Houses of Correction were under the control of the county justices, and in theory, the establishments were supposed to be self-supporting. The justices contracted out the right to use prisoners as out-workers, commonly employed in the textile and rope-making industries, and prisoners would be set to preparing wool, sewing mailbags and unpicking used rope. The Governor was allowed to use the whipping post to compel obedience. In practice, it was always difficult to employ forced labour, and it was also difficult to make the House of Correction pay its own way.
According to the 1841 census, the prison was holding 35 prisoners – 11 women and 24 men. Gaining extensions to the building and its capacity in 1849 and 1852, it survived the Prison Act of 1865, by now accommodating about 70 prisoners and prison staff. In June 1870, the House was authorised to purchase a camera and complete photographic apparatus, to record the likenesses of prisoners to meet the Secretary of State’s instruction that photographs of offenders should be sent to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
Under the terms of the Prison Act of 1877, orders were issued to close the House of Correction at Folkingham, it was assumed that the main reason for its closure was the absence of a railway station nearer than 3 miles. Kesteven prisoners were transferred to either Spalding or Lincoln, prisoners from farther afield being transferred to either Southwell or London. Barely a year before its closure, the prison governor had offered brush doormats made by the inmates to the firm of Wherry of Bourne, for sale, to try and generate income. The gaol closed down on 30th April 1878.
The buildings were then sold to Mr John Wadsley, a builder from Horbling. He pulled down the outer wall, and converted the prison buildings into 10 cottages. In the 1930s, the gatehouse was also turned into a house, with a brick addition built on at the back.