Debtors’ jail once stood in Jail Road
FOR the past two years the local Metro bus has been taking passengers from Liversedge to Heckmondwike via Batley on a Monday to Saturday basis.
As the bus driver takes us along White Lee Road on our left is Jail Road. A number of passengers have asked why is it called Jail Road.
I’ve now found the answer. Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood tells me a debtors’ prison once occupied Jail Road.
Out of curiosity I paid a visit to Heckmondwike Library to do some research. The jail was established soon after the passing of the first Insolvency Act in 1649.
It served as a debtors’ prison for Batley and Spen for 150 years. When it closed prisoners were transported to Wakefield Prison.
The last keeper of White Lee jail was named Mayman, a native of Heckmondwike.
The ground plan of the prison was rectangular and the keepers were situated in front of the prison. Six of the jail rooms were for men and two were for women.
Prisoners were charged for their food and sleeping accommodation, and the longer they were detained the more they owed.
They could only be discharged if some person found the appropriate money.
Methodist preacher John Wesley visited the jail in 1779 and in 1780.
The history of Batley and Spen is fascinating. When I spoke at the boundary commission meeting in Leeds I highlighted its historical significance.