Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Tothill Fields Bridewell Gateway

London The Unfinished City
The Old Stone Gateway.

Sunday July 30, 2023.

It was while walking through the City of Westminster, on a Sunday afternoon with drizzle falling from the leaden sky, that I passed by this odd little stone gateway.

It is not completely out of keeping with the area and fits nicely with the building behind which it stands, but I was still unsure as to what its purpose was.

The engraved stone above the gateway states...

“Here are several Sorts of Work for the Poor of this Parish of St Margaret’s Westminster. As also the County, according to law. and for such as will beg and live idle in this City and Liberty of Westminster, Anno 1655.”

This didn't exactly clear up the matter of the gateway for me, but rather made its purpose more confusing.

Peering over the railings that lead from each side you can see that the door doesn't lead anywhere, as it is not affixed to the building. 

Fortunately, there is another plaque affixed to the railings to the right of the gateway, explaining more.

London The Unfinished City
The only surviving piece of the prison.

Finally, I knew what the gateway was for, where it was from and why it was here.

When I got home, I did some research on Westminster House of Correction and discovered the following.

Tothill Fields Bridewell (also known as Tothill Fields Prison, Westminster Bridewell and Westminster House of Correction) was built in 1618 and was, originally, a House of Correction. The buildings were expanded in 1655 and by the early 1700's it had become a prison proper.

In 1834 the original prison was replaced by a much larger one, on a different site, with the original prison being demolished in 1836. This gateway is the only physical piece of the original Tothill Fields Bridewell.

In 1877 the second larger prison was closed, with its prisoners transferred to Millbank Prison, and was finally demolished in 1885.

Ten years later, in 1895, construction began on Westminster Cathedral which reused the prisons foundations.

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