Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
The Court and Prison of the Marshalsea: In High Street in the Borough of Southwark.
At that distant period of English History when Courts were held in the , or Hall of the , and followed the Sovereign in all his progresses and change of residence,— of those tribunals was placed under the authority of the Lord-Steward of the Royal Household; the process being executed by the Earl-Marshal. The jurisdiction exercised by the Lord-Steward in person, was very general; since it extended to real, personal, and mixed actions, and even to Pleas of the Crown, as Justice in Eyre and Vicegerent of the Lord Chief Justice: it is supposed by Sir Edward Coke,[a] however, that this general power ceased on the passing of the Statute called , in the year of Edward I., -, Stat. iii. chap v.;—by which the Judges of the King's Bench were ordered to follow the person of the King.[b] Beside this general jurisdiction, there was also particularly belonging to the Marshalsea of the King's House.[c] peculiar to, and inseparable from, the King's person; namely, to decide differences and to punish criminals within the Royal Palace, or the Verge thereof, which extended to miles around it.[d] Of this Court the Lord-Steward was also the real head and president, but it was holden before the Steward of the Court of Marshalsea and the Marshal of the King's House; the former being deputy to the Lord-Steward, and the latter to the Earl-Marshal.
The civil jurisdiction of this Court, required that at least of the parties appearing before it in any cause, should be a member of the King's Household, and from this circumstance having been established in an action in the reign of James I., the practice of the Court was nearly annihilated; in consequence of which he erected a of Record, entitled , or the Court of the Verge of the House of the Lord the King: whereof Sir Francis Bacon, then Solicitor-General, and Sir Thomas Vavasor, then Marshal of the Household, were constituted the Judges. It continued to exist only until , in the year of Charles I., , when another was established by Letters Patent, and called , the Court of the of ; the Judges of which were the Steward of the King's Household, Sir Edmund Verney, Knight, then Marshal of the Household, with the Steward of the Court, to which office Edward Herbert of the Inner Temple was thereby appointed. The legality of this Patent was soon questioned upon a Writ of Error in the King's Bench; but the Court appears to have existed until the commencement of the Civil War, when it probably ceased with the Royal establishment. Upon the Restoration the sittings of this tribunal were resumed, but the legality of the Patent was again doubted by of the Judges of the King's Bench in ; for which cause, probably, other Letters Patent were issued, dated in that year, devoid of all the former objections, constituting a with the same title, which has since been commonly known as "the ." After reciting the inconveniences arising from the limited power of the Marshalsea, the Patent conferred upon the Court authority for trying all Personal Actions, of any amount, arising within miles of the Palace of : with exception, however, of the City of London, and of such pleas as already belonged to the Court of Marshalsea The Judges of the were the Lord Steward, the Marshal of the Household, and the Steward of the Court; all of whom should attend every court-day, excepting upon a reasonable cause of absence; and to practice in the Court there were to be Counsel, Attornies, and a Prothonotary, all nominated for life.[e] Of the officers, the Steward of the Court is now appointed by the Lord- Steward of the Household: the Counsel and Attornies by the Lord-Steward, and the Knight-Marshal,[f] jointly; and the Prothonotary, the Crier and the Deputy-Marshal, and Keeper of the Prison, by the Knight-Marshal.
The proceedings conducted before this tribunal are very considerable, but are carried on entirely in the Palace-Court, though the Court of Marshalsea is still formally opened. They are generally expeditious; since the Court sits every Friday, the postponements are from week to week, and judgment is usually given in or hearings. The peculiarities of the various causes and attachments pursued in the Court, may be seen in , by the Rev. Owen Manning and William Bray, Esq, Volume iii. London, . folio Appendix, pages xxv, xxvi. The suits embrace actions for trespasses and assaults committed within the jurisdiction of the Court, and for debts, not under : the proceedings are instituted by either an attachment or a Writ of Capias.[g]
The ancient Court of the Marshalsea was for many years established in , ; and its existence there is indicated in an order from Edward III. dated in his year, , empowering the good men of to " in our Royal
|Street, which extends from the Church of the Blessed Margaret towards the south in the same town, a certain House, &c. to hold in the same House, as well the Pleas of the Marhalsea of our Household, and for the safe custody of the prisoners in the same Marshalsea for the time being, in the same town,—as to hold in the aforesaid House all other Courts of us and our heirs, which shall be held in the same town for the time to come, by reason of the Assizes, Juries, Inquisitions to be taken , and by any other Court whatsoever." In , however, the year of the same King, the prisoners of the Marshalsea appear to have been kept in London. Sir Henry Piercy, the Marshal, having committed a man contrary to the City privileges, the Citizens, being persuaded by their Standard-Bearer, the Baron Fitz Walter, took up arms, and ran to the Marshal's Inn, where they brake open the gates and brought away the prisoner; intending also to have burned , in which it is to be supposed that he had been confined. About the following Easter John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, having brought a great number of ships to London, of the sailors was killed by an esquire. in a fray, and he was committed to the , where the other mariners prosecuted him; but upon his being pardoned they broke into the prison, stabbed him, and hung up his dead body. In the Kentish rebels under Cade broke down the house of Sir John Imworth, then Marshal, and that of the King's Bench in , and took away the prisoners. In , the prisoners of the Marshalsea in brake out, and many being taken were executed; especially of those committed for felony and treason.[a]|
In a charge of extortion and vexatious proceedings was made against the Prison of the Marshalsea, in a petition presented to the from the inhabitantss of the Cities of London and , and of the Counties of Middlesex, Kent, Essex, and Surrey: for the redress of which, as well as for the regulation of the Court, several bills were brought into Parliament, though they were never carried through. At length on -, the cruelties practised upon Mr. Castell in the having caused his death, an enquiry into the state of the Gaols of the Kingdom was moved in the , by James Edward Oglethorpe, Esq. Member for Haslemere, in Surrey. After having effectually redressed the oppressions of the Fleet, a Report, dated , states that the custody of the Marshalsea Prison had been committed for life to John Darby, the Deputy-Marshal and Keeper, by Sir Philip Medowes, Knight-Marshal, on ; with the stipulation that the latter should not let his offices or fees to farm without the consent of the former. On , however, Darby, without such consent, disposed of those profits to William Acton, Butcher, for . yearly; and of the benefits of lodging the prisoners, &c. for . yearly. To raise this rent oppression, extortion, cruelty, and even torture, were exercised; the prisoners being kept in close crowded rooms, from to being placed in an apartment not feet square, and persons being allotted to every bed, each paying per week. When the Committee met at the Marshalsea on in the Women's Ward many were found lying on the floor without beds and dying for want, and the Male Ward was even worse. Upon giving food to the captives, with even the greatest caution, died from the loss of tone in his digestive powers, his stomach having become contracted for want of use. Most of the others recovered, only dying between and , though previously a day had seldom passed without a death; and upon the advance of spring or died usually every hours; but, though required by law, a Coroner's Inquest had not been for many years held in the Prison. Upon the receipt of this Report, the House came to very strong resolutions against Darby and Acton; and Mr. Oglethorpe having stated that he was directed to move an Address to the King for their prosecution, it was unanimously agreed to. It has not been ascertained whether the former were prosecuted, but the Attorney-General caused Bills of Indictment to be preferred against the latter for the murder of as many persons. They were tried at the Spring-Assizes at Kingston in , before Baron Carter, but Acton was acquitted on each from some contradictory evidence and discharged. He was immediately after taken up on the charge of a murder, and refused bail; but after lying in prison until the Winter-Assizes, the Grand- Jury threw out the Bill of Indictment.
The Prison of the Marshalsea is now situate on the eastern side of Hill, or , , a very short distance from the Church of St. George the Martyr. It previously stood, however, close to , as exhibited in the Plan inserted beneath the present View. The old entrance to it was by a large and close arched gate, with heavy wooden panels and a semicircular pediment, in the front of a building level with the street; whence a narrow passage led into a long and spacious court-yard, surrounded by several irregular buildings, the northern side of which is represented in the annexed Plate. These structures constituted the dwellings of the Prison, and contained between and rooms; the peculiar names and purposes of which are also given in the references to the View. Of those apartments only were appropriated to Common-side Debtors; but if there were more of them than could be accommodated at in a room, they were received into others on the Master's Side. The aparments called "the Oaks" were allotted exclusively to females; but there was only yard for all the prisoners. A more particular statement of the dimensions and appearance of the rooms in , may be seen in Mr. James Nield's account of his visit to the Marshalsea in his London, , to.;[b] and other Views of the Court-Yard of this place, with the interior of the Court Room, are inserted in Mr. Bray's , Volume III. Appendix, page xxix; and the for , vol. lxxiii. part ii. pages , , and for , vol. lxxiv. part i. page . The Court-Room appeared to be the work of Inigo Jones, and was extremely rich within; being decorated with panels on the walls, and a very fine compartment coved ceiling, ornamented with carved wreaths of flowers, cartouche-shields, and the royal badge of the portcullis, with crowns and sceptres. At the upper end was the Judge's seat, surmounted by a finely carved pediment, and a large decayed painting in a frame behind it.[c] Beneath the Court were formed lodging-rooms, with as many strong cells in the centre for refractory prisoners; the latter having a small court-yard behind separated by a high wall from the rest of the inhabitants.
The Borough of originally contained general prison for the whole County of Surrey for the confinement of all criminals which was called the White Lion, and which stood upon the site of the present Marshalsea. Very early in the last century that edifice was "an old decayed house," and the county-prisoners were removed to the old Marshalsea, which was used until they were removed to the New Gaol at , . The old White Lion was afterwards bought by the government for ; and the of the Marshalsea was built and fitted up on the site of it, which is also described by Mr. Nield. The entrance is now from the street through an iron gate into a small open area leading to the Keeper's house. Behind it is a brick building, the ground floor of which contains rooms in a double row, with similar upper stories, each apartment being about feet square, and feet high; having boarded floors, glazed windows, and fire-places, all intended for male debtors. Nearly adjoining is a detached building called "the Tap," which comprises on the ground-floor a beer-room and a wine-room. The story is appropriated to the tapster and turnkey, the windows of whose rooms look into the yard of the Admiralty prisoners. The upper floor has rooms for females; and between this building and the Admiralty prison are solitary cells for refractory debtors, with gratings looking into a small court. There is also a good bath with a large copper; and at the extremity of this range of buildings is a heat chapel, in which prayers are read once every Sunday, with pews and forms for the debtors, separate from the Admiralty prisoners. The prisoners were removed into the present Marshalsea at Christmas .
[a] The Reports of Sir Edward Coke, Knight; Edit. by George Wilson, Serjeant at Law, 8vo.
[b] Chapter iii. of the same Statute ordains "of what things the Marshal of the King's Household shall hold Pleas."
[c] The derivation of the term Marshalsea is not stated in the larger English Dictionaries; though the name appears to be very naturally composed from Marshal and See, the seat of the Marshal: the latter word being a corruption of the French Siége, a seat.
[d] The precincts of the Royal Court appear to have been peculiarly honoured and protected at a very early period of English History: since, in the times of the Saxons, if a quarrel took place in a Church, the crime was redeemable for 120 shillings: but if any fought in the King's House, he was to forfeit all his property, and the Sovereign might take his life or not. A very ancient Saxon constitution provides that the Pax Regia, or Royal Peace, and privilege of the King's Palace, should extend 3 miles, 3 furlongs, 3 acres, 9 feet, 9 palms, and 9 barley-corns, beyond the Palace-gate.
[e] The Report of the Committee of Enquiry concerning the Marshalsea Prison, &c. presented to Parliament in 1729, states that it was the custom of that Court to sell all the places belonging to it; and that those of the Counsel were usually bought for 1000l. and those of the Attorneys for 1500l. The inferior practice in the Marshalsea, however, was very much reduced by the establishment of Courts of Conscience, or Request, in and near London, by the Act of the 23rd year of George II., 1750; chap. xxvii. sect. xxii, of which assigns those Courts to pay 20l. yearly, in consequence, to each of the four Counsellors of the Marshalsea. In 1806, a Bill was introduced in Parliament to extend the powers of those Courts to debts not exceeding 5l. in amount, which occasioned a petition from the Knight-Marshal, the Steward, and the Prothonotaries, of the Marshalsea. The Act passed, however, 47th George III. 1807, Session 1., cap iv. Local Acts; but the Courts of Requests are directed by it to pay 50l. yearly to each of the Marshalsea Counsel. Hist. of Surrey, Vol. iii. Appendix p. xxvi.—In the same authority the salaries of the other offices are stated to be as follow. The Knight-Marshal 500l. per annum, fixed at that rate in 1811; the Deputy-Marshal, 60l. the Deputy of the Chaplain and the Surgeon, each 1s from every debtor on his discharge; which fees produced a stipend of about 34l. 7s. for three years. These fees were allowed by table May 17th, 1765, signed by two Chief-Justices and the Lord Chief-Baron
[f] Mr. Bray observes that the real title of this officer is only Marshal of the Household, and that the term Knight-Marshal, at the present time so uniformly assigned to him, probably arose from the omission of a comma after the dignity of Knighthood attached to the name of the person who held the appointment; thus reading Sir Thomas Vavasor Knight Marshal of the Household. History of Surrey, vol. iii. Appendix p. xxiv. Note k.—The dignity of the office is shewn by the circumstance that in 1519 Sir Henry Wyatt attended the King on his interview with Francis I. at Calais, and was allowed an attendance of six men and six horses more than a Knight-Banneret. Ibid. p. xxvi. Until the year 1800 there were six Marshal's men, who were probably the successors of those now referred to; and who bought their places from the Knight-Marshal. They were accustomed to attend in a full uniform dress of scarlet and gold, at St. James' Palace and the Houses of Parliament upon all public days; and on May 17th, 1661, it was ordered by the House of Commons, "That the Marshal do clear the lobby-stairs, and Court of Requests, and other passages to this House, of the lacqueys and other persons that give disturbance to the Members of this House." The salaries of the Marshal's men were 20l. each, from the Lord Steward's Payment, beside fees from noblemen, &c. frequenting the Court; and they were subject to the control of the Board of Green Cloth which suspended them for misbehaviour. In 1800 Sir James Bland Burges added two to their number. Ibid. p. xxv. note 1. In June, 1592, the conduct of one of the Marshal's men was productive of an insurrection in Southwark, the inhabitants complaining that they were un-neighbourly and disdainful to them, and refused to pay scot or lot to either the Church or the Commonwealth. Ibid. p. xxvi.
[g] The following curious, though probably erroneous, account of the purposes of the Marshalsea Prison, is given by Sign. Lorenzo Magalotti, in Travels of Cosimo III. Grand Duke of Tuscany, through England, during the Reign of King Charles II. 1669. Lond. 1821. 4to. p. 318. "Near the Bridge is the place where persons of quality are confined; not only for debt, but also for criminal offences. The government or superintendence of it, is given by the King as a mark of favour to some gentleman; who, if a prisoner make his escape, is himself obliged to pay the debt and also the penalties annexed to the crime; and there is therefore an established rate, varying according to the rank and quality of the individual, which must be paid to the superintendant on entering the prison. For Dukes it is fixed at the sum of 40 crowns, for Earls at 30, and for others at a smaller sum; beside the rent of apartments and the expense of victuals: whence the annual value of this office is estimated at about 20,000 crowns, to the superintendent. The prisoners are not kept under confinement, but have liberty to take a walk over the Bridge; a promise being first exacted from them not to pass the limits, and to return to their post, which they generally observe; and it very rarely happens that they infringe upon the privilege."—In the Marshalsea prison are also confined such as are to be tried in the Admiralty Court, and until 1789 persons were committed thither for Piracy.
[a] The Survey of London, by John Stow, Edit. by the Rev. John Strype. Lond. 1720. Fol. Vol. II. book iv. chap. i. pp. 19, 30. See also Stow's Annales, Edit. by Edmund Howes, Lond. 1631. fol.
[b] See also the State of the Prisons in England and Wales, by John Howard, F. R S. Warrington. 1784. 4to. p. 250.
[c] The Court-House of the Marshalsea having fallen into a very ruinous state, in 1801 the Earl of Aylesford, then Lord Steward of the Household, solicited the Treasury to remove the sittings of the Court into Scotland Yard, Whitehall, as being the site of a Royal Palace; in which also the Crown possessed many old houses. His request was complied with, and a new and convenient building was erected there, at an expense to the government of about 1500l. By permission of the Surrey Magistrates, the Marshalsea Court met in the interim at the Sessions House, Newington. Hist. of Surrey, vol. iii. Appendix, p. xxv.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.