Wells, Charles Thomas: documentsconcerning insovency and imprisonment in the Fleet.

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the insolvency and committal to the Debtors Prison ofCharles Thomas Wells, tailor, of Newcastle Court, Strand, London.

The papers include balance sheets, schedule of possessions, creditors anddebtors.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Fleet Prison, situated off Farringdon Road in London, was built in 1197. Itoriginally served as a place of imprisonment for persons condemned by theCourt of the Star Chamber. With the abolition of this court in 1640 it becamenotable as a debtor's prison. It was destroyed three times: Peasant's Revolt(1381), the Great Fire (1666) and the Gordon Riots (1780). Fleet marriageswere clandestine and irregular ceremonies performed at the prison by debtorclergymen. Although not illegal, the system was so abused that it wasabolished in the reign of George II (1683 - 1760).

The prison usually contained about 300 prisoners and their families. Someinmates were forced to beg from their cells that overlooked the street, inorder to pay their keep. Fleet Prison featured in The Rake's Progress by William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) and was described by Charles Dickens (1812- 1870) in his novel The Pickwick Papers (1836). It was demolished in 1846, andits site is now occupied by Caronne House.


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