Town Dungeon

Rebuilt after gaol break 1295


Number 18 Middle Row is famous as being the reputed site of Dunstable's 13th century gaol. Two robbers escaped from the dungeon in 1295, after which the Prior of Dunstable ordered it to be rebuilt with stone and cement.

Local historian Worthington Smith, writing in 1904, said that (quote) “dungeons may still be seen under a house in Middle Row now occupied by D. Janes. One cell extends a considerable distance under the Back Street where there is also a small gloomy apartment with a niche or seat in the wall…Another dungeon extends about eight feet under the High Road and is arched by masonry of immense thickness”. Apparently this was broken when gas and water supplies were built in the street.

A local history book, The Dunstaplelogia, in 1859, said the cellars, under premises occupied by Mr Weatherill in Middle Row, were strong and deeply arched. One, extending under the Back Street appears to have been a dark cell, having a curious niche in the wall sufficient to form a seat for one person.

The premises had to be rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1893.

There were long queues here just after the Second World War when greengrocer George Gadd had a consignment of bananas for sale - the first seen in Dunstable since 1939. Mr Gadd, whose son was killed while serving with the RAF in 1943, was a well-known personality in the town.

David Janes, mentioned earlier, had established a greengrocery business at number 18 in around the 1870s. He had bought the shop from a shoemaker.

An early description of the gaol in in the Dunstapelogia, 1859.
An early description of the gaol in in the Dunstapelogia, 1859.

Text: John Buckledee of Dunstable and District Local History Society. ©
Design: David Turner.
Narration: Katherine Yates of Dunstable Repertory Company.
Recording: David Hornsey.
Website developer: Joshua Buckledee.