Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Westminster Gate House

From Nancy Bilyeau:
The Tower of London holds claim to being the prison of greatest tragic renown, where queens were feted and beheaded and Jesuit priests screamed on the rack. But the Westminster Gate-House has many stories to tell too, holding errant clerks, poets, legendary Englishmen such as Sir Walter Ralegh and Samuel Pepys and a great many anonymous debtors.

In a description of the Gate-House Prison written in 1768, it "is situated near the west end of the abbey, entering into Tuttle Street, and the is the chief prison for the City of Westminster liberties, not only for debt, but treason, theft and other criminal matters."

In the beginning, the prison was more connected to Westminster Abbey, which makes sense. Some say it was a powerful abbot who transformed the gatehouse into a prison, but documents point to William Warfield, the cellarer of Westminster Abbey. In 1370 he arranged for the gatehouse’s upper storey to house a jail.

But why? (Read more.)

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