Liverpool’s first Gaol was Liverpool Tower; the tower was built largely in the 15th century and by the mid-1700s was in such a bad state that prisoners frequently escaped. There is still a small alleyway, next to St Nicholas church called Prison Weint. The alleyway today runs between the rear of Tower Building and St Nicholas Church.
In 1775 the philanthropist John Howard visited the Gaol; he gave a deplorable account saying that “the place was insufferably dirty, grimy and wretched”. The tower had been purchased by the corporation for the sum of £1835.10s, there were two larger yards and the cells, seven in number were 6 ft 7 inches in length, 5ft 9 inches in breadth and 6 ft high. Three prisoners were locked up in each cell at night; there was also a larger dungeon with an iron grating which looked out onto the street in which as many as 23 prisoners were kept at any one time. Mr Howard made strong representations about the poor conditions and the tower was eventually condemned.