King s Bench Prison

London, United Kingdom



Description

The King s Bench Prison was a prison in Southwark, south London, England, from medieval times until it closed in 1880. It took its name from the King s Bench court of law in which cases of defamation, bankruptcy and other misdemeanours were heard; as such, the prison was often used as a debtor s prison until the practice was abolished in the 1860s. In 1842, it was renamed the Queen s Prison, and later became the Southwark Convict Prison.OriginsThe first prison was originally constructed from two houses and was situated in Angel Place, off Borough High Street, Southwark - as with other judicial buildings it was often targeted during uprisings, being burned in 1381 and 1450. During the reign of King Henry VIII, new prison buildings were constructed within an enclosing brick wall. This was eventually demolished in 1761.New buildingIts 1758 replacement was built at a cost of £7800 on a 4acre site close to St George s Fields . Although much larger and better appointed than some other London prisons, the new King s Bench still gained a reputation for being dirty, overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of typhus. Debtors had to provide their own bedding, food and drink. Those who could afford it purchased Liberty of the Rules allowing them to live within three square miles of the prison.

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