The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas

1827

Fleet Prison.

This prison is for debtors, and was founded as early as the of Richard I. It is of small dimensions, and will be removed to St. George's-fields as soon as a suitable building can be erected,

In Mr. Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum are

the constitutions and orders renued and established in the prison of the Flete, A. D.

1561

,

3

Eliz.

The regulations are as follows:

The warden may appoint as many of the servants of the prison as he thinks fit, to guard the outward gates as porters; to be armed with halberts, bills, or other weapons, at his discretion.

The gates to be opened and shut at the same hours of those of Newgate and Ludgate prisons.

663

 

The prisoners to give bonds for their good behaviour, and for all fees and charges.

To prevent any prisoner from bringing in weapons further than the lodge.

No prisoner to buy provisions or liquor out of the prison without licence; the prices not to be higher than those in the city.

The prisoners to go abroad for the day on paying ; half day ; to the keeper and to the warden's box.

If the queen happened to be above miles from London or , and any prisoner was summoned to attend the council, he was to pay all the charges of himself and attendants.

The warden was empowered between the terms to take with him into the country any prisoner that he had before permitted to go out; unless forbid by the council.

That it may be lawful to and for the said warden, or his deputie, and so many of his household as shall be thought needful, to keep waites in harnesse, or otherwise, within his p'cinct at all times, as he shall see cause, for his better safeguard, if he shall suspect any prisoner within his custodie to intend to make his escape.

The warden was to keep key of the poor box, and

the poore men

another. He was to prevent dissention, by an equal division of the contents.

If any person committed was unable to pay the parlour or hall commons,

nor also will take part of the boxe,

the warden was to provide a chamber and bed, as the parties could agree.

If a prisoner had more ease than the regulations afforded, he was to pay for it.

Any man or woman that sat at the parlour commons to pay weekly for their chamber and bed; and the same at the hall ;

lying like prisoners,

two

in a bedd together.

Whereas by an auntient custome, time out of memory of man used in the said Fleete,

the wardens licensed prisoners not condemned, or commandment to the contrary by council, to go about their necessary business, or to their learned counsel, with a keeper. The commissioners still permitted it.

The warden and prisoners agreed upon the following:

It may please yr honrs worshs, that whereas ye pleasure was that wee should certifie unto you what prices we should think meete and convenient that e«y prisr of every degree in the Fleete, remayning hereunder menc«oned, might reasonably pay for his weekly com«ons here.

It may please you to understand that we the prisoners hereunder named, having deliberately consulted hereupon, doe now condiscend and agree, with the assent of the warden here, that e«vy p«son, of the degrees hereunder written, for their weeklie com«ons and wine, ovr and besides the rate for their bedd and chamber by yr honours in the book of constitutions already assigned, shall weekly pay according to the rates hereafter declared.

Viz. a dr of divinitie, and other of like calling, having 200 m«ks a yeare living, 18s. 6d. An esquier, a gent, or gentlewoman, that shall be at the p«lor com«ons, or any p«son or p«sonsunder yt degree that shal be at the same ordinarie com«ons of the p«lor, that pay weeklie for their weeklie com«ons and wine, 10s. A yeoman that shall be at the hall com«ons, or other man or woman, shall pay weeklie for their com«ons 5s. The forme of the table that shall be hung in hall of the Ffleete. The ordinarie ffines and ffees of every estate and degree that shall hereafter be com«itted to the Ffleete, as well to the warden as to all other officers ther being, as p«ticulerly appeareth here in this present table ensuing.

That shall sit at the p«lor com«ons. An archbishop, a duke, a duchess. A marquis or mar«nes , an earle, viscount, viscountes This column is lost by the binding of the book A knight, a lady, dr. of laws. or div. Esquier., gent. or gentlewomanYeoman at the HallA poore man at the wards that his pt. at the box. £s.d. £s.d. £s.d. £s.d. £s.d. The wardens ffines for lib«tie of the house and irons at the first cominge10007 0021341680134nil. The first weekes co«mons for evry degree or estate50036816801680610nil. The dismissons3502100100074074074 The ordinarie co«mons with wine, weeklie36820001860100050nil. The clerkes ffee for making of the obligations0100070024024024nil. The ffee for entering the name and050030004004004nil. The porter«s ffee0100070010010010nil. The jailer«s ffee0100070010010010nil. The chamberlain«s ffee0100070010010010nil. For wine10001341 gal.1 gal.1 bottlenil.

Notwithstanding the preceding regulations were to endure for ever, Charles the found it necessary, on the d , to issue a special commission to inquire into the frauds mid oppressions committed by the warden of the Fleet, his deputies, and other officers of the said prison. If it was worse even than it is said to have been in the commission during the latter part of this reign, and that of Oliver Cromwell, it

665

would be nothing extraordinary: but be that as it may, we find the merchants and traders of London, , petitioning the against the warden. They said it was no better than a licensing office for cheats; and it was afterwards proved that persons had been committed from the year to , of which number only were legally discharged and removed by habeas Corpus.

In , the parishes of , St. Sepulchre's, and , , petitioned parliament; complaining, that insolvent debtors came to reside within the rules of the Fleet in those parishes, and praying for relief, as they became burthened by additional poor by this means.

Complaints without number poured about this time from all sides against the warden. Perhaps none had more foundation, or more required redress, than the shameful practice of marrying within the prism. Anthony Grindall, warden, and Robert Saunders, register of the marriages, appear to have been guilty of forging books, which, when produced to a committee of the commons, were proved to be so: besides, they were destitute of every particular which makes a register valuable.

To such an extent were the proceedings carried, that and couple were joined in day, at from to each.

From the , to , marriages were celebrated (by evidence) besides others known to have been omitted. To these neither licence or certificate of bans were required; and they concealed by private marks the names of those who chose to pay them for it. And this was the foundation of the marriage act. The very vitals of the salutary laws, which render property and persons safe, were brought into danger, by the knavish tricks debauchees and fortune-hunters were enabled to practise, through the Fleet-clergy and the wardens.

Mr. Pennant says,

In walking along the street, in my youth, on the side next to this prison, I have often been tempted by the question,

Sir, will you be pleased to walk in and be married?

Along this most lawless space was hung up the frequent sign of a male and female hand conjoined, with

Marriages performed within,

written beneath. A dirty fellow invited you in. The parson was seen walking before his shop: a squalid profligate figure, clad in a tattered plaid night-gown, with a fiery face, and ready to couple you for a dram of gin, or roll of tobacco. Our great chancellor, lord Hardwick, put these demons to flight, and saved thousands from the misery and disgrace which would be entailed by these extemporary thoughtless unions.

In the year much apprehension arose in the neighbourhood of Ely house, , from a plan that was formed of removing the there. The opposition of the inhabitants prevailed.

666

 

It was then proposed to transfer it to St. George's-fields, and the market to the site of the prison, and to open a street through the Swan Inn to .

The part of this plan has been revived, and will be carried into execution immediately, with the full concurrence of the lord chief justice, and the corporation of London. A long continued dispute between the parish of and the wardens of the Fleet was decided in by the court of King's Bench; it was, whether the wardens were liable to the poor rates. The decree declares them to be so.

The little river Fleet, whose waters were swelled by Turnmill and Oldbourn brooks, flowed in avalley, which may be very readily traced from the Thames to , near the small pox hospital. This united stream might once have been celebrated for its transparent waters; and Mr. Malcolm says,

possibly some of our very, very early ladies might have honoured it by smoothing and adorning their shining tresses from its surface more beautiful than glass. But, behold how uncertain are the currents of this world! We have lost every thing but the names of Oldbourne and Turnmill; and the Fleet exists only under a sewer.

So long since as , we find the

prior et fratres de Carmelo

(the White Friars) complaining to the king and parliament of the putrid exhalations arising from ; which were so powerful as to overcome all the frankincense burnt at their altar during divine service; and even occasioned the deaths of many of the brethren. They beg that the stench may be immediately removed, lest they should all perish. The Friars Preachers also (Black Friars) and the bishop of Salisbury (whose house was then in ) united in the same complaint.

In , a petition was presented by the earl of Lincoln (Henry Lacy), setting forth,

that the water course under Holbourne and Fleete bridges used to be wide and deep enough to carry

10

or

12

ships up to Fleet bridge, laden with various articles and merchandize; and some of them passed under that bridge to Holbourn bridge, to cleanse and carry off the filth of the said watercourse, which now, by the influx of tan-yards and sundry other matters troubling the said water, and particularly by the raising of the key, and turning off the water which the inhabitants of the Middle Temple had made to their mills without Castle Baignard, that the said ships cannot get in as they used and ought to do; and praying that the lord mayor, with the sheriffs and discrete aldermen,

may view the water-course, and, on the view and oath of good and lawful men, cause all nuisances thereon to be removed, and the water-course repaired, and put into its ancient state.

It was in consequence directed, that Roger le Brabazon, constable of the Tower, with the mayor and sheriffs of London,

should take with them honest and discreet men, and make diligent search and inquiry how the said river was in old time, and that they should leave nothing that may hurt or stop it, but keep it in the same state as it was wont to be.

This order occasioned the mills, and other nuisances, to be removed, and the river to be cleansed; as was also done at several subsequent periods, particularly in the year , when the

whole course of Fleet-dyke was scowered down to the Thames.

In , flood-gates were erected in it; and in , years after the fire of London, when it had been partly filled up by rubbish, it was again cleansed, enlarged, and deepened sufficiently to admit barges of considerable burthen as far as Bridge, where the water was feet deep in the lowest tides. So convenient, however, was this stream, as a receptacle for all the filth of this part of the city, that the expense of maintaining its navigation became very burthensome; and it was at length so utterly neglected, that Fleet ditch, as it was now called, grew into a great and dangerous nuisance.

The satirist Pope invites his heroes in the Dunciad to its filthy stream:

Here strip, my children; here at once leap in,

And prove who beat can dash through thick and thin.

Many Roman and Saxon coins, medals, and utensils, have been found in the soil taken at different periods from this river.

At length the corporation of London obtained an act of parliament (which vested the ground in their hands) to fill it up. This was done about the year . The expense of the undertaking, making the vast arch that now carries off the water, and erecting the market, amounted to

 
 
Footnotes:

[] A statute 23d of Henry VI. contains regulations for the Fleet, and it is there permitted to the warden to suffer prisoners to visit the country.

[] See Gent. Mag. vol. v. p. 93.

[] Called in the foundation charter of St. Martin's-le-grand college, by the Conqueror, the river of wells. Stowe, p. 9, edit. Munday, p. 110.

[] Prior et fratres de Carmelo in London, qui ita gravantur de fetore. . . propinqui, quod dunare non possunt, nec divinum officium ministrare, et occasione multi dictorum fratrum mortui sunt. Petunt quod rex velit precipere dictum fetorem remover. Et tratres predicatores petunt illud: et episcopus Sarum, et omnes vicini propinqui, petunt illud idem. Rot. Parl. vol i. p. 61.

[] Vide, ante, vol. i. p.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
CHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
CHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
CHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
CHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
CHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
CHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
CHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
CHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
CHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
CHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward