attached to this residence, views at once pleasing, varied, picturesque, and extensive, may be seen in all directions. This house was erected about sixty years since by the late James Milnes, Esq., a near connexion of
the present owner of the estate.
To the left, immediately below the hill, is the Wakefield House of Correction. In this prison the silent
system was first attempted in England; and though it has not realised the hopes of its projectors in diminishing
the number of criminals, still it has accomplished one grand object—the prevention of contamination.
Indeed, owing to the increase of crime, partially attributable to the increase of population, and to other
causes not easy to define, this penitentiary is full to overflowing—a circumstance most deeply to be deplored,
especially as " the crowded state of the wards must materially interfere with the ordinary strictness of the
discipline." To obviate this, and at the same time to effect a more extensive classification, great alterations and
additions are in progress; insomuch that the outer wall will enclose an area of about nine acres, within which
a number of separate cells will be constructed sufficient to accommodate eight hundred persons, the average
number of prisoners confined at one and the same time during the last year. To render the discipline as
salutary as may be, the magistrates have passed many admirable laws and regulations, calculated at once to
reclaim the criminal and to deter others from the commission of crime; a mode of procedure which Paley, in
his " Moral Philosophy,'' affirms to be the only valid argument that can be advanced in justification of penal
inflictions; and when the erections referred to are completed, it is in contemplation to try a system of entire
solitude in lieu of the one now in use.
Through the indefatigable zeal of the duly appointed chaplain (the Rev. W. Alderson), the prisoners have
abundant means of receiving instruction. The younger culprits especially enjoy this advantage in an eminent
degree. In his report of 1842 the chaplain observes : " With reference to the effect produced on the boys, I
am of opinion it has been attended with most marked benefit: the boys manifest great eagerness for instruction,
and seem quite disappointed when any accident prevents their attendance at school. Their personal appearance
has greatly improved under the discipline; and were there any means of providing for them after their discharge,
I have no doubt but that many of them would be reclaimed." In addition to a system fraught with so many
benefits, the prisoners are instructed in various employments : they are taught to weave, and to make and mend
shoes, besides other useful and profitable arts, such as wool-combing, the manufacture of rugs, carpets, &c.; by
which wise arrangement the once slothful and indolent not only acquire habits of industry, but are put in possession of a power whereby they may earn their future subsistence in an honest way. There is, however, one sad
drawback to these advantages, to which the chaplain alludes in his report.
As admission within the walls of a prison is always attended with more or less of disgrace; and as the
great majority of delinquents are as destitute of money as of character, it would appear that they are almost
of necessity compelled to continue in a course of dishonesty from the mere want of employment.
This is, indeed, a sad state of things. Could any efficient remedy be devised calculated to avert such a
calamity, it would be hailed by the kingdom at large as an invaluable boon; and few, I am persuaded, would
grudge the contribution necessary toward its accomplishment.
In a great nation like this, mere pecuniary considerations ought not to be suffered to stand in the way of a
duty so obvious and important. It may be difficult for the Christian philanthropist to determine in what way
this admitted evil may best be modified and rendered less oppressive; but surely it is a subject worthy the
grave consideration of an enlightened legislature !