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The Bishop’s Palace
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In 816 a church council ordered that all ecclesiastical establishments must have a place to confine offending monks who might have been neglecting their pious duties through laziness, quarrelling or drinking. In 1076 an archbishop listed the types of punishments that could be used, which included scourging (whipping) with rods and silent solitary confinement.

From a 21st century perspective, it is difficult to imagine the power of the medieval church. Belief in God was undisputed and God’s highest representative on Earth was the Pope, who dispensed his word through his cardinals, bishops and priests. Clerics held some of the most powerful positions in society. Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen (both grandsons of William the Conqueror), was invested Bishop of Winchester (Winchester being the old Saxon capital) in 1129 and by 1134 was second in power only to the King himself. In 1144 he completed work on his new residence, Winchester Palace. It fronted onto the south shore of the Thames along ‘a fine broad terrace behind which was a great park and gardens’. Along with fish ponds for the royal pike, there were two prisons within the palace rounds - one for men, one for women. The prisons were simple, modestly-sized and timber-framed. The site of these two early lock-ups is believed to be just south of Winchester Walk, opposite Cathedral Street, where the Jubilee Market now stands.


The Bishop’s Palace

The ruins of Winchester Palace on Clink Street.



At this time, prison was not generally used as punishment. It was used to confine a prisoner before his or her trial. Punishment followed, which could be a spell in the stocks, or pillory (that stood on Bank to the west of the palace) or a beating while tied to the whipping post (that stood nearby) or worse, hanging at the County Gaol.


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