My Time in the Marshalsea

Since Amateur Reader is busy reading Little Dorrit, I thought it time to polish up my investigations into the Marshalsea Prison.

I’d a vague idea of tracking down the remains of the Marshalsea many years back. I can’t think for the life of me why now, but I read somewhere that there was still something to be seen – a wall, at least. – Anyhow, for the last few years I’ve been doing a course for my job, down just south of the river, and I noticed one day that the road right next to where I was being taught was called Marshalsea Road; – and it occurred to me then that there might be some connection; so I imagined one lunch-time, I might take the opportunity to track down what remnants there might be. So I had a look on the internet at some old map of London back in the middle of the c19th, and lo and behold, not merely was it close by, but the actual building where I was doing my course was built on the site of the Marshalsea Prison – and indeed, it was true, if you went round the back, there’s a narrow alley – between it and some Southwark library – and indeed a wall which used to form a part of the prison – and a plaque on that wall informing you of this. – The church, which I walk past every time I go there, is apparently the church upon whose steps Little Dorrit slept for some reason (it’s a long time since I read the book – I don’t remember much about it).

So there you are: like Little Dorrit’s father (and Dickens’) I have spent many a tedious hour locked in the Marshalsea . Luckily I am due for parole in June, when my sentenced is due to be commuted instead to two years’ indentured labour.

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3 thoughts on “My Time in the Marshalsea

  1. Little Dorrit was also baptized and married in that church. Just some trivia to add to your heart-rending post. I had thought debt peonage was abolished. Now I see why you are not buying books.

  2. I used to eat my lunch in that same churchyard; it’s a fine wall. The building where I worked at the time – a stone’s throw away from the remains of the Marshalsea – is called Chaucer House, as the site of the inn that features in The Canterbury Tales is close by. It was comforting to think on such things when confronted with another day of office drudgery.

  3. Hmm, when I go out to lunch, I’ve tended to go to Southwark Cathedral and sit in the gardens there (I’m not sure if c19th prisoners were allowed to do the same). Yes, there’s a lot of history in the region, but it’s good they knocked down all those historic buildings and built some decent office blocks on top of them.

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