Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors, and British History

Escape from Chelmsford Prison in 1847

chelmsford gaol from an old postcard
Chelmsford Gaol. Postcard date unknown.

A newspaper report on an escape from Chelmsford Prison in 1847.

Also see Part 1 - a report on the prison from 1848
Part 2 - a report on the prison from 1842
Part 3 - a report on the prison from 1860

This is a tranmscript of an article in the The Essex Standard 19 Fenruary 1847

Escape of two prisoners from Springfield Gaol and re-capture.

On Sunday evening last John Allum, convicted at the last assize of a felonious assault on Eliza Crisp, at Ramsey, and sentenced to 18 months' hard labour; and James Goldsmith, convicted at the same assize of stealing a watch belonging to Joseph Harrington, at Ugley, for which he was sentenced to 15 months' hard labour, contrived to effect a temporary escape from the above prison.

The prisoners had been locked up and reported at the regular time by the officer then on duty, who afterwards went-off for the night and another officer succeeded him, who improperly unlocked the cells and neglected to lock them again.

A few minutes after eight o'clock in the evening Mr. Neale, the Governor, being in the turnkey's room, in the centre of the prison, giving directions to one of the turnkeys, heard a noise as of a board falling; he immediately went in the direction of the sound, and examined all the cells in No. 6 radius: the result of the search was that the two prisoners were missing.

The Governor and some of his officers then went towards the front gate, on their way to look round the outside of the prison, and were met there by the Rev. G. B. Hamilton, the chaplain, with a small lantern in his hand, when informed them that Goldsmith was lying on the ground at the back of the prison with a broken leg; the man was immediately removed in a state of great suffering into the prison infirmary, where Mr. Gilson, the surgeon, attended and set the broken limb.

It appears that at the time of their escape they had no other clothing than a long flannel shirt, secured by a broad belt of the same material.

In the present insecure state of the prison they had no difficulty in getting over the temporary wooden fence, which is the only separation between the prisoners' yards and the extensive works which are carrying on in the alteration of the prison, and then, by means of one of the poles, they climbed to the top of the boundary wall, from whence they dropped down 20 feet.

Goldsmith, falling on a stake, broke his leg as above stated; and the other, it was afterwards found, sustained both external and internal injuries from the fall. The cries of Goldsmith alarmed Mr. Hamilton.

As soon as attention had been given to his case, the Governor gave the necessary information respecting Allum at the Police-station; and super intendent May was speedily on the road to Colchester, which it was rightly conjectured he had taken.

The description of the prisoner's person was given at the several points of conference with the police officers of the district, and about three o'clock the following morning police constable Beckwith captured the prisoner on the road to Tiptree; but in the interim he had been supplied with a pair of trousers. He was as speedily as possible conveyed back to his old quarters. Goldsmith asserted that the escape was entirely planned by Allum. The officer who let them out of their cells and the watchman on duty have been suspended.

Also see Part 1 - a report on the prison from 1848
Part 2 - a report on the prison from 1842
Part 3 - a report on the prison from 1860

Place links: Chelmsford

The Essex Standard 19 Fenruary 1847 in the British Newspaper Archive

More articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors, and British History

Find your Ancestors in the Newspapers

Essex Standard Newspaper

Newspaper archives are now a very important source of information for researching your family tree.

Find your ancestors in the newspapers.
Try our example search to discover if your ancestors are in the British Newspaper Archive.

Also look at other newspaper archives and learn how they can help you research your ancestors. >>more

Looking for pictures to add to your family tree album?


Ebay is a good source of old images of Essex towns and villages. If you're looking for pictures to add to your family tree album, then try one of the auctions, or there are several 'Buy It Now' shops offering postcards which have been touched up and improved - so if you're unsure about bidding, try these. Link already formatted for Essex Postcards. Browse through or type the name of the location in the Ebay search box.