diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reviewing the Fleet

1515-1520: After the Royal Apartments at Whitehall are destroyed by fire, Henry VIII spends £39000 establishing a royal palace on the western bank of the Fleet, close to its mouth with the Thames. The palace is named Bridewell after the nearby well of St Bride, and is opulent enough to host a visit by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
1528: Henry invites papal representatives to Bridewell to discuss divorcing his wife, Catherine of Aragon. UK religion will never be the same again.
1531-39: Bridewell is leased by the French Ambassador - later immortalised in Holbein's most famous (and dead clever) painting.
1553: Henry's son Edward VI gives the palace over to the City of London, becoming a school for homeless children and a workhouse for the poor. Bridewell slowly evolves into a house of correction and prison for petty offenders, and other jails start to become known as 'Bridewells'.
1666: Great Fire Of London - burnt down - rebuilt (you know the drill by now)
1732: The fourth plate of Hogarth's Harlot's Progress is set in the Bridewell Prison (where Moll is imprisoned for prostitution).
1863: The old prison is demolished, and the Royal Hospital School moves to deepest Surrey. A new building is constructed on the site, retaining the 1802 gatehouse (which still stands and is occupied by Bark & Co Solicitors). Above the door is a keystone commemorating young King Edward (pictured).
2005: Don't bother visiting - Bridewell's a bit dull, the theatre's closed, and the rest of New Bridge Street is bland and featureless.

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