The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


The Marshalsea Prison.


This is a court of law and a prison, intended at for the determination of causes and differences among the king's menial servants, and was under the control of the knight marshal of the royal household, and removable at pleasure. Stowe informs us,

that in the year 1376, the 50th of Edward III. Henry Percy being marshal, kept his prisoners in the city of London, where having committed one J. Pendergest, of Norwich, contrary to the liberties of the city of London, the citizens, by persuasion of the lord Fitzwalter, their standard bearer, took armour, and ran with great rage to the marshal's inn, broke up the gates, brought out the prisoner, and conveyed him away, intending to have burnt the stocks in the midst of their city, but they first sought for sir Henry Percy, to have punished him, as I have noted in my annals.

Moreover, about the feast of Easter, next following, John, duke of Lancaster, having caused all the whole navy of England to be gathered together at London, a certain esquire chanced to kill one of the shipmen: which act the other shipmen taking in ill part, they brought their suit into the king's court of Marshalsea, which then, as happened, saith my author, was kept in Southwark; but when they perceived that court to be too favourable to the murderer; and farther, that the king's warrant was also gotten for his pardon; they, in great fury, ran to the house wherein the murderer was imprisoned, broke into it, and brought out the prisoner with his fetters on his legs; they thrust a knife to his heart, and stuck him as if he had been a hog. After this they tied a rope to his fetters, and drew him to the gallows, where, when they had hanged him, as though they had done a great act, they caused the trumpets to be sounded before them to the ships, and there, in great triumph, they spent the rest of the day.

This court had particular cognizance of murders, and other offences committed within the king's court; such as striking, which was anciently punishable by the loss of the offending hand. Here also persons guilty of piracies, and other offences on the high seas were committed. For the latter purpose it is still continued, though the offenders are tried and convicted at the , and executed at the , .

The dispensation of the law in the Marshalsea, and the Court, is by the following judges: the lord steward of the household, the knight marshal, deputy marshal, steward, &c. The causes are conducted by counsel, and attornies; here are also marshalmen, or tipstaffs, and subordinate officers. The attornies are of , London, none others being suffered to practice in these courts. The court has jurisdiction miles round (exclusive of the city of London) for actions of debt, damages, trespasses, &c. and subject to be removed to a higher court of law, when above

Mr. Howard describes the old prison as

an irregular building (rather several buildings) in a spacious yard. There are in the whole near sixty rooms, and yet only six of them left for common side debtors.

Mr. Allnutt, who was many years since a prisoner here, had, during his confinement, a large estate bequeathed to him. He learned sympathy by his sufferings, and left 100l. a year to release poor debtors from hence. Many are cleared by it every year.

In the year , the Kentish rebels broke down the houses of the Marshalsea and King's-bench, in ; took from thence the prisoners, broke down the house of sir John Immorth, the marshal of the Marshalsea, and King's-bench, &c. In , the of Richard the , after St. Bartholomew's day, the king kept a great council in the castle of Nottingham, and the Marshalsea of the king was then kept at Loughborough upwards of days. Sir Walter Manny was marshal of the Marshalsea in the year of the reign of Henry VI. William Brandon, esq. in the year ; during his presidency the prisoners of the Marshalsea, at that time removed back to , broke out, and many of them being taken, were executed; especially such as had been committed for felony or treason.

A dangerous insurrection in , in , was occasioned by the serving of a warrant from the lord chamberlain, by of the knights marshal's men, upon a feltmaker's servant, who was committed to the Marshalsea, with others; that had been accused to his lordship by the knights marshal's man, without cause of


offence. The officer entered the house where the warrant was to be served, with a dagger drawn, alarming the man's wife who sat by the fire with a young infant in her arms; and after having taken the prisoners, committed them to the Marshalsea, where they lay days without having it in their power to answer the supposed offence. Upon this the servants of the felt-makers made this a common cause, and assembled together out of and Blackfriars, with a great number of men, to rescue those that were committed to the Marshalsea. The pretence of their meeting was occasioned by a play on the sabbath; which, besides its profanation, gave opportunity to commit various disorders.

The lord mayor, sir William Webb, hearing of the tumult, hastened with of the sheriffs, to the scene of disorder; and having dismissed the multitude by proclamation, seized some of the ringleaders, and committed them to prison, to be farther punished as they deserved; he sent next morning for the deputy and constable of the borough, with others who were present, from whom he found, by the testimony of the inhabitants, that the occasion of the riot had been through the misconduct of the marshal's men; and to add to the provocation, when the populace had assembled, the knight marshal's men having sheltered themselves within the Marshalsea, issued forth with their daggers drawn, and bastinadoes in their hands, beating innocent passengers; and afterwards drew their swords, by which several persons were slain; this had increased the tumult.

The inhabitants of also complained

that the said marshal's men were very unneighbourly and disdainful among them, refusing to pay scot and lot with them, or any other duty to church or commonwealth.

The lord mayor upon these informations applied to the lord treasurer, that they might be admonished of their behaviour, and receive more discretion in serving their warrants.

The lord mayor apprehending also great danger in the city, when the apprentices and others who had raised the insurrection should be punished, it having been generally known that the marshal's men gave the occasion, wrote to the lord treasurer, and urged that their punishment should be impartial, as well upon the knight marshal's men, who excited the disorders by their indiscreet and violent behaviour, as upon the rioters; adding, that in case it were not done, notwithstanding the great care that the magistracy had and meant to take to keep good order; and he supposed that the magistrates of this city never had the inhabitants under better regulation, yet they were in doubt, that this mischief could not be thoroughly abated if the measure recommended was not adopted. The lord treasurer attended to the representation, and peace was restored.

Mr. Bray says,

government purchased the old county gaol, called The White Lion, for


l and built a new prison, fitted up in


, of which Mr. Nield gives this account: The entrance gate

fronts the


, near

St. George's church

, and a small area leads to the keeper's house. Behind it is a brick building, the ground floor of which contains


rooms, in a double row, and


upper stories, each the same number. They are about

10 1/2

feet square,

8 1/2

feet high, with bearded floors, a glazed window and fire place in each, intended for male debtors. Nearly adjoining to this is a detached building, called The Tap, which has on the ground floor a wine room and beer room. The upper story has


rooms for female debtors, similar to those for men.

At the extremity of this prison is a small court yard and building for Admiralty prisoners, and a chapel.


[] Vol. iii. p. xxix.

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 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda