Built by Lord Cobham in 1748 to look older than it is, the Old Gaol didn’t get much use as an actual gaol (jail). This is probably for the best, as while open, several prisoners escaped! ‘Scraggs’ Wesley climbed over the battlements with a rope and ‘Coiner’ Varney just walked out the door!
It was built because Buckingham was losing out on the position of County Town to Aylesbury. Building the Gaol meant the summer Assizes (County Civil and Criminal trials) could be held in the Old Town Hall in Buckingham until 1848 when they were finally moved to Aylesbury.
The jail was originally square, the rounded front of the gaol was added by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1839 to house the prison warden and his family.
The Old Gaol is now a museum and tourist information centre. Lots of interesting artefacts can be seen in the museum including a very rare Richard III half angel coin, found locally by a detectorist and Bucks point lace that was supposedly introduced by Catherine of Aragon in 1513.
With thanks to the Old Gaol Museum for images of the Richard III half angel coin, and to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies for the archive image of the Old Gaol in 1982, when it was an antique shop.