The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:
Open location in Google Maps: 51.499121, -0.129158
Paul Brewster • Link
Wheatley does add the note that the Gatehouse was a prison.
vincent • Link
it had some very famouse residents:
Transferred to the gatehouse at Westminster, he was so abominably treated that his father petitioned Elizabeth that he might either be brought to trial and put to death, if found guilty, or removed in any case from that filthy hole. Southwell was then lodged in the Tower, but he was not brought to trial until February 1595
list of famouse residents including Hartlibb the sonne
Gate House, a prison near the west end of Westminster Abbey, by the way leading into Dean's Yard, Tothill Street, and the Almonry.
[SPOILER ALERT] In June 1690 Samuel Pepys was committed to the Gate House on a charge of being in communication with the exiled James II.; but in consideration of his ill-health, he was admitted to bail, and does not appear to have been troubled again.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.
In the reign of Edward III a gatehouse quite close to Westminster Abbey was converted into a prison. A description of it written in 1768, says it "is situated near the west end of the abbey, entering into Tuttle Street, and the Almery ... it is the chief prison for the City of Westminster liberties, not only for debt, but treason, theft and other criminal matters."
The prison was originally connected to Westminster Abbey. Documents point to William Warfield, the cellarer of Westminster Abbey, who transformed the gatehouse into a prison. In 1370 he arranged for the gatehouse’s upper storey to house a jail.
By the reign of Edward III, Westminster was in full medieval throttle. William Rufus' majestic Great Hall (where Parliament met and kings sat on marble thrones), was raised near the spectacular Westminster Abbey, founded by Edward the Confessor in 1065.
In Walter Thornbury's Old and New London (1878), he speculates about the preeminence in Plantagenet times of Westminster Abbey: "A magnificent apex to a royal palace, the abbey church was surrounded by its own greater and lesser sanctuaries and almonries; it's bell towers (the principal one 72 ft 6 ins square, with walls 20 ft thick), chapels, gatehouses, boundary walls, and many other buildings, which we can cannot imagine today.
In addition to all the land around it, extending from the Thames to Oxford Street, the Abbey possessed 97 towns and villages, 17 hamlets and 216 manors.
Its officers fed hundreds of people daily, and a priests (not the Abbot) entertained the king and queen, with so large a party that 700 dishes did not suffice for the first table, and even the abbey butler, in the reign of Edward III, rebuilt at his own expense the stately gatehouse which gave entrance to Tothill Street."
(The "butler" was probably the same William Warfield.)
Tudor-era historian John Stow wrote that the eastern part of the north gate was used as the bishop of London's prison for "clarks convict."
So was it originally an ecclesiastical prison?
That's contradicted by a report that, during the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, rioters set the Westminster prisoners free. It's hard to think peasant rebels were fired up about liberating errant clerks.
A 16th century prisoner of opposite views was Nicholas Vaux, a chorister of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, imprisoned for "propagating the Romish religion." He died in the Gatehouse "of cold and hunger" in 1571.
In 1596, a Southwark preacher confined in the Gatehouse wrote an abject letter to Lord Burghley "for keeping Wednesday a fast, and transferring the observation of it unto Thursday." Hardly a violent felon.
Another Tudor troublemaker, Giles Wigginton, a Cambridge-educated clergyman, was twice confined in the Gatehouse Prison, Westminster, once for refusing to swear he was not the author of "The Marprelate Tracts" (pamphlets attacking the kingdom's traditional Anglican leaders).
While imprisoned in the 1590s, Wigginton was joined by other Puritans (e.g. William Hacket, who claimed to be the Messiah), called for the removal of Queen Elizabeth, and on the way to his execution insulted the clergyman trying to comfort him.
The first "celebrity" prisoner of the Westminster Gatehouse was Sir Walter Raleigh. After a lengthy imprisonment in the Tower under King James, he was released to lead a disastrous expedition to Venezuela to find gold. On his return, he was re-imprisoned in the Gatehouse, perhaps because he was to be executed in the Old Palace Yard in Westminster.
Tradition has it that Raleigh wrote this poem shortly before he met his end on Oct. 29, 1618, which was found later in his Bible in the Gatehouse at Westminster:
"Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust."
On the scaffold, Ralegh was shown the ax, and he said, "This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries." Ralegh was buried in St. Margaret's Church nearby, without his head, which wasa taken by his wife, and never moved.
Another poet held at the Gatehouse prison was Richard Lovelace, a wealthy knight's son who at the age of 13 became a "gentleman wayter extraordinary" to King Charles.
In his 20s, Lovelace was arrested for destroying a pro-parliamentary petition. During his several months' stay in the Gatehouse, he is believed to have written his most famous poem:
To Althea, From Prison
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
and in my soul am free,
angels alone that soar above,
enjoy such liberty."
Ruined by his undaunted support of the Royalist cause, Lovelace died in poverty in 1658.
In October 1633, Lady Eleanor Touchet Davies Douglas was imprisoned and fined £3,000 for illegally publishing some of her books abroad and smuggling copies into the country. Lady Eleanor was released from the Gatehouse Prison in June 1635 but within the year had created new trouble in Lichfield, where she sprinkled her own version of holy water (made with tar) on the hangings in the Cathedral.
In 1634 Frances Coke Villiers, Viscountess Purbeck moved to Westminster, and openly continued her relationship with Sir Robert Howard. The defiant couple were imprisoned; Lady Frances at the Gatehouse prison and Sir Robert at the Fleet. Astonishingly, Lady Frances escaped, dressed as a man, fled to Jersey and France where she lived in exile in Paris for several years.
In 1663, Mary Carleton went on trial for bigamy. Born in Canterbury of humble parents, she married a shoemaker and gave birth to 2 children before disappearing to Cologne. There she had a torrid affair with a nobleman, turning down his offer of marriage but kept his rich gifts and some money besides.
Mary returned to England, claiming to be an orphaned German princess and married John Carleton. A discovered letter betrayed her first marriage and she was arrested.
Mary was acquitted of bigamy after a spirited defense and went on to marry, steal from, and abandon a string of new husbands before being transported to Jamaica and, finally, hanged for theft in 1673.
In the late 17th century, there were two famous prisoners condemned to the Gatehouse Prison:
The former court dwarf, Sir Jeffrey Hudson. As a child of 18 ins., he was given to Queen Henrietta Maria as a surprise by George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham: he emerged from a pie, dressed in armor.
Hudson became a cherished member of the royal household and traveled with the Queen to French exile.
Hudson tired of jokes about his size and responded to a taunt from the queen's master of horse, he entered a duel and shot his opponent in the head. He then fled France.
Sometime later, Hudson was on a boat seized by Barbary pirates and it took him many years to escape and make his way to England. He returned during The Popish Plot, and Hudson was arrested for being a "Roman Catholic."
He died in 1682, 2 years after being released from the Gatehouse.
The last illustrious prisoner of the Gatehouse prison was Samuel Pepys, jailed in 1690. A longtime civil servant, wit and bibliophile, he fell foul of anti-Catholic paranoia. He was suspected of being a secret Jacobite in contact with the exiled James II; because of his poor health, he was given bail.
Mostly excerpted from
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.