Wakefield House of Correction was made possible by an endowment of £20 in 1595 from the will of barrister, George Savile. His father, also George, lived in Haselden Hall in Northgate and the Savile family had been founding benefactors of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.
Little is known about the original building which was probably in Back Lane close to Westgate. Additional building was carried out in 1611 with further minor repairs (usually after escapes) during the next 150 years.
The prisoners were kept in leg irons and generally conditions were primitive and filthy with men and women sharing facilities.
The staff were not paid a salary but made money by selling the prisoners work and receiving a 'release' fee when the inmate's sentence finished.
Some wages were paid after 1638 but the payment of fees by prisoners was not abolished until 1773.
Following an escape in 1764 a full enquiry was set up with the intention of building a new House of Correction. In 1766 Surveyor to the West Riding, John Carr was put in charge of the building project which cost £2770. Carr was an architect of renown and also designed St Peters Church at Horbury.
In 1800 further buildings were added, including a special reception building where prisoners could be washed, given a change of clothing and seen by the surgeon.
In 1823 a Governor's house, a treadmill, a further 193 cells plus some other buildings were erected at the cost of £40,000.
By 1835 the number of staff had grown so much that they could no longer all live within the prison. Staff could now live outside but had to 'dine' inside.
In 1847 a completely new and larger prison (with 732 new cells) was opened. It had taken 4 years to build and was one of the largest and best equipped in the world. The main gate and reception buildings now faced and opened onto Love Lane.
Each cell had a hammock, a small round table, a 3 legged stool and a gas light. The inmates were bathed (in warm water) every two weeks, given some education and worked at their respective trades where possible.
The 1847 design has proved to be durable as it is still used as the principal living accomodation to this day. Some of the other buildings have been replaced over the years, and the main gate and reception have been moved to their current location on the corner of Back Lane and Love Lane.