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London bridge (part six)

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After the Clink – Prison ReformBy the end of the 18th century prison was coming to be seen as place to correct the prisoner, rather/than merely avenge the crime. Since it was now the soul rather than the body that was to be punished, prisoners’ welfare came to be seen as more important than their discomfort. Gaol Fees were abolished in 1815 and food began to be provided. With the Debtors’ Act of 1869 imprisonment for debt was finally abolished. The two worst causes of misery in the old Clink were finally banished from British prisons.
The Gordon RiotsHarsh laws against Catholics had followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688, but 90 years later Parliament was changing its mind. The American War of Independence was so unpopular that few Englishmen would join up to fight in it, but the men of Ireland would make ideal soldiers - providing the anti-Catholic laws were altered and relaxed. Furious at the favours granted by the new ‘Papists Act', Lord George Gordon assembled ‘The Protestant Association’. On 2nd June 1780 they marched a petition to Parliament. When this was defeated (by 102 votes to six), they rioted, attacking Catholics and Catholic property.
DebtorsAccording to the law under the Statute of Acton Burnell 1283, if one was owed money, the debtor could be imprisoned until the debt was paid. Since the debtor could not easily work, this meant that his or her friends would have to pay the debt. If they turned out not to be able to (or just not such good friends), the debtor would have to stay in gaol.
The Civil WarLancelot Andrews, the last bishop of Winchester to live in Winchester Palace, died in 1626 and The Clink might have declined into a minor and unremarkable manorial lock-up but for a major national upheaval. King Charles I quarrelled with Parliament from the very start of his reign. He dismissed the MPs and ruled alone from 1629 to 1640. When the MPs were finally recalled to raise taxes in 1640, they demanded a Bill of Rights. Charles refused and attempted to make people obey by military might. The resulting civil war cost Charles his throne - and his head.
The Pilgrim FathersBy 1584, Queen Elizabeth had become very conscious of Puritan agitation and many ‘Brownists’ - who wanted to worship in their own very simple ‘pure’ way - were thrust into The Clink. Brownist leaders, John Greenwood and Henry Barrow and a host of their supporters, were given the harshest treatments by the Queen’s order because they were ‘political irreconcilables’. With heretics - both Catholic and Puritan - added to the usual debtors and petty criminals, this was the busiest period in The Clink’s history.
TortureWhen Bloddy Mary died in 1558, her sister Elizabeth came to the throne and resumed Protestant reforms.. This prompted the Pope to declare that she was his enemy and that any Catholic to assassinate her would go straight to Heaven. In Elizabeth’s England, Catholics were not merely heretics, but traitors - probably in league with the arch-enemy Catholic Spain. From 1585, no Catholic priests were allowed in England.
The HereticsHeresy is a controversial or novel change to religion that conflicts with established thinking. People that advocate or commit heresy are known as heretics. The Roman Catholic Church had dominated Europe for a.thousand years. By the middle of the 16th century a growing number of people were complaining that the church was not help¬ing God’s people to live better lives, but helping itself to their money - over-complicated, corrupt and (above all) expensive. These protesters became known as Protestants - Catholics called them heretics.
Plague and RebellionIn 1450 Jack Cade and his rebels, angry at forced labour and high taxes, marched on London from Kent, destroying churches and killing clerics. Winchester Palace had been restored, so they looted it and freed all the prisoners from The Clink.
Black Death and RebellionEngland has never seen a worse catastrophe than the Black Death of 1348. It decimated the ruling class, harrowed the towns and cities and removed 50% of the rural working poor. Whole villages vanished and London’s population diminished by at least a third - it was as if God had betrayed the world and if He couldn’t be trusted, who could be?
Gaol FeverIn 1375, a man named William de Rakyer (probably his job title rather than family name - William the |muck| raker) was appointed to clean the lock ups and remove dung from the palace stables. In 1376, Bishop William de Wykeham demolished some older buildings and doubled the length of the hall to the west, using part of the cellar vaults to hold wrongdoers. While the men's and women's gaols had undoubtedly been bad, this new subterranean location was worse. The prison had no sanitation and certainly no washing facilities. The stench inside would have been truly atrocious.