Bocardo Prison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Bocardo Prison in Oxford, England existed until 1771. Its origins were medieval, and the most celebrated prisoners were the Protestant martyrs Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley in 1555.[1]


It was located near the church of St Michael at the North Gate; the prison consisted in fact of rooms in a watchtower by Oxford's North Gate, the tower being attributed to Robert D'Oyly, a Norman of the eleventh century,[2] though also said to be originally a Saxon construction of 1040;[3] the gate itself was called also Bocardo Gate.[4] The rooms were over the gate and in the tower of the church, and there was a box in the church for charitable contributions to the prisoners.[5] John Powderham, who claimed to be the real king in the reign of Edward II of England, was imprisoned there in or shortly before 1318.[6] The prison was demolished in 1771, for a road construction scheme, following an Act of Parliament in 1770, and as part of the wider city redevelopment in Oxford under John Gwynn.[1][7]


Venn diagram representation of Modus Bocardo

Bocardo is also a mnemonic for a traditional syllogism in scholastic logic. An example:

    Some cats have no tails.
    All cats are mammals.
    Some mammals have no tails.

There is a folk-etymology for the name: because Bocardo was found to be one of the harder forms of valid syllogism for students to learn, it was said to be the name of a prison that was hard to escape from. One of the rooms in Newgate Prison was also named bocardo.[8]