Before 1835, Hanover County's only jail was a "small structure with a steeply pitched roof" to the southeast of the courthouse. This jail was reportedly relatively comfortable, with a stove for heat, but insecure.

What is today known as the Old Stone Jail was built around 1835, likely using stone from the quarry at Aquia, Virginia (although local lore has it that the stone came from the South Anna River). By 1841 both jails were being used by the county: The older jail as a debtor's prison, and the new stone jail for holding criminals and runaway slaves. The county's original jail was out of service by 1844, leaving the stone jail to handle all imprisonment.

Two cells, about fourteen feet square, occupy the Old Stone Jail's lower floor. Each cell had two windows secured with iron bars, but without shutters or glazing: This made for unpleasant conditions in the winter months, as inmates were not provided with bedding of any sort. The upper floor comprises one cell and a room that housed the jail's warden and his men.
Click on any of the images on this page for a full-sized image.


The Old Stone Jail in 1928. Note that the low stone wall extended beyond the jail, and the white frontage along the lower floor.

The interior of one of the lower floor cells today.

Thankfully for those who visit the Old Stone Jail today, glazed windows have been installed. This likely occured in 1916, when the jail was "extensively renovated."
The iron jail holding cell pictured above right was made by Stewart Jail Works, a division of Stewart Iron Works. In the early 20th century Stewart was one of the world's largest producers of iron fencing, and began making jail cells such as the one at the Old Stone Jail in the 1930's.

Several Federal Prisons had contracts with Stewart Jail Works: Alcatraz, Sing Sing and Leavenworth all had Stewart iron. The addition of this state-of-the-art iron cell to the Old Stone Jail likely took place in the 1930's.

A note about historical accuracy: Finding definitive information about the historical sites of Hanover County is a daunting task. If you have reason to suspect any aspect of the histories presented at this website are inaccurate, please email the webmaster and we'll do what we can to get it right.