On 1 August 1772, for instance, The Craftsman reported that "a well dressed man was detected, near Lombard-street, in an unnatural crime, and immediately committed to the Poultry Compter." On 5 July 1799, a Friday evening, at 7 o'clock, a naked man was arrested at the Mansion House and sent to the compter. He confirmed that he had accepted a wager of 10 guineas (equal to £873 today) to run naked from Cornhill to Cheapside.
The prison became notorious for its poor conditions. A contemporary account describes the prison in the late 18th century:
- "the mixture of scents that arose from mundungus, tobacco, foul feet, dirty shirts, stinking breaths, and uncleanly carcases, poisoned our nostrils far worse than a Southwark ditch, a tanner's yard, or a tallow-chandler's melting-room. The ill-looking vermin, with long, rusty beards, swaddled up in rags, and their heads—some covered with thrum-caps, and others thrust into the tops of old stockings. Some quitted their play they were before engaged in, and came hovering round us, like so many cannibals, with such devouring countenances, as if a man had been but a morsel with 'em, all crying out, 'Garnish, garnish,' as a rabble in an insurrection crying, 'Liberty, liberty!' We were forced to submit to the doctrine of nonresistance, and comply with their demands, which extended to the sum of two shillings each."
Certainly, the state of the prison was giving considerable cause for concern and, in 1804, an official report said the prison was:
- "in such a state of decay, as to become inadequate to the safe custody of the debtors and prisoners therein confined, and extremely dangerous, as well to the lives of the said debtors and prisoners as to other persons resorting thereto."
This report was contained in a preamble to the London Debtors' Prisons Act 1804 enabling the City's authorities to move inmates to another City prison (Giltspur Street Compter), although this purpose was not achieved until 1815, following the passage of the Debtors Prison for London and Middlesex Act 1815. The Poultry Compter was eventually demolished in 1817.
The fight against slavery
The Poultry Compter was connected with early struggles against the slave-trade; several slaves released by Granville Sharp were confined in the compter. For example, in 1765, Sharp helped a mistreated and abandoned slave, John Strong, recover from serious injuries and found him employment with an apothecary. Strong's owner sought the help of John Ross, keeper of the Poultry Compter, and William Miller, an officer under the Lord Mayor of London, to kidnap him, and Strong was then imprisoned in the compter and subsequently sold for £30. Sharp appealed to the Lord Mayor, Robert Kite, and Strong was released on the grounds that no warrant had been issued for his arrest and confinement.
- Samuel Boyse (1708–1749); a poet and acquaintance of Dr. Johnson
- Reverend John Bradford; martyr
- William Carter (c. 1548–1584); a Roman Catholic English printer and martyr
- Thomas Dekker (1570–1632); dramatist and rival to Ben Jonson, imprisoned for debt in 1599
- John Gerrard (1564–1637); an English Jesuit priest
- Captain James Hind; highwayman
- John Penry (executed 25 May 1593); Welsh martyr
- Rowland Taylor; martyr
- John Traske; sabbatarian
- The Poultry, Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 416–24 accessed: 9 January 2007.
- Homosexuality in 18th century Britain: Newspaper reports
- The Times, 8 July 1799, Official Appointments and Notices
- Law Commission paper: STATUTE LAW REVISION: Gaols: Repeal Proposals, April 2006
- Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section: Strong, Somerset and Sharp – liberating black slaves in England
- FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS, CHAPTER XVI, Persecutions in England During the Reign of Queen Mary
- Life of Master John Bradford
- Complete Newgate Chronicles, Vol.1
- Dead Sailor or Imprisoned Writer? ]