The following interesting item is from the report of the Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, contained in House of Commons Papers of the time.

Gatehouse Prison and Crime - 1837

Population about 2000.

The prison of Gatehouse, which is a lock-up house only, was built about twelve years ago by Mr. Murray, of Broughton, who owns most of the property in the village. The prison consists of two rooms, each 14 feet long, 10½ feet broad, and 8½ feet high. These rooms form the second story of the building, the first being occupied by the porter, who has the care of one of the gates opening into Mr. Murray's grounds. The place is dry and tolerably secure, but it is ill ventilated, the windows being almost closed by iron shutters, put up to prevent prisoners from obtaining supplies of whiskey, &c., from the outside, which was a constant practice, it is said, before this was done.

There are no means of warming the prison; but owing to the thickness of the walls and to the smallness of the apertures for air, the place is probably seldom very cold. I found the prison clean, and the Provost assured me that it generally is so. There was no one in confinement, and it was stated that there are not more than twenty or thirty put in during the year, and these for a single night only. The prisoners consist chiefly of drunken people found disturbing the peace. Loose straw, lying on the ground, is all that is allowed for bedding. I was told that there were once bedsteads, but that they had been broken. The prison is under the jurisdiction of the magistrates of the burgh.

State of Crime, &c. at Gatehouse.—There appears to be very little crime here, and what is committed is of a petty kind - such as drunken brawls, robbing gardens, etc. It is stated that the number of offences is much less than it was thirty or forty years ago; not that there were any serious offences at that time, but that those of the kind which still occur were much more common then than they are now. The only inhabitants at the present time who give much trouble, are two drunken fellows, who commit assaults and otherwise disturb the peace. They have both been repeatedly in gaol, and it would be a great relief to the town if they could be got rid of. It is stated that about one-half of the offences are committed by strangers, though the number of these has been greatly reduced by the measures  adopted, about seven years ago, to suppress vagrancy, which have been very successful.

The improvement that has taken place in the state of crime at Gatehouse is attributed partly to the increased attention to education, to the improvement in the condition of the people (which appears to have been strikingly great), and to the decline in drunkenness; and partly to the erection of the prison and the suppression of vagrancy just referred to. As respects the latter, it may be well to state, for the information of the inhabitants of other small towns, that the whole expense of the beggars at Gatehouse is now under 5s. per week, including a salary of 3s. 6d. per week to an old military pensioner for looking after them. Public begging is entirely stopped, but the cases are examined (when the parties wish it), and relief afforded where the person is believed to be in real distress. One gentleman told me that the beggars used to cost him, as an individual, more than they now cost the whole town.

August, 1837.

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