Talk:Marshalsea/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2



Would any reader who owns the copyright on images of any part of the Marshalsea (older images in particular), or who has copies of maps (again, old ones in particular), ground plans, or images of prisoners, please leave a note here, or e-mail slimvirgin at gmail dot com, if you'd be willing to release them for use in this article. Many thanks, SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:39, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Wikiproject Prisons

If anyone's interested, I've proposed a new wikiproject for the creation of articles regarding specific prisons here. --Cdogsimmons (talk) 01:49, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for letting us know, CD. SlimVirgin talk|edits 18:00, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Stewards of the Marshalsea

I was curious as to what the designation "Steward of the Marshalsea" meant. I have come across evidence that at least one such Steward was Levett Blackborne, a prominent Lincoln's Inn bencher and grandson of Sir Richard Levett, Lord Mayor of London. Blackborne also served as a Steward of the Palace Court.[1] In his role at the Marshalsea, was Levett a contributory cause to the deplorable conditions therein? Would he have had any influence, or indeed would he even have been familiar with those conditions? (It seems to me that anyone in a 'steward's role' should certainly have been aware of what was going on, if he was doing his job.) In any case, I did want to post something here about it, but I wanted to run it past the Marshalsea experts first. Any advice or observations would be *much* appreciated. Regards,MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:41, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

Hi Marmaduke, the steward of the Marshalsea would have been with the Marshalsea court, not the Marshalsea prison — the prison was set up to service the court — and it's extremely unlikely he would have known or cared much about conditions for the prisoners. SlimVirgin talk|edits 19:47, 5 November 2008 (UTC)
Ah, okay, that makes sense. Many thanks for clarifying that. Regards,MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:51, 5 November 2008 (UTC)


We have a dispute about what the etymology section should say regarding the origins of "Marshalsea." I'm hoping other editors might weigh in.

The two versions are:

1. Marshalsea (historically the same word as marshalcy, "the office, rank, or position of a marshal," both deriving from Anglo-French mareschalcie) originally referred to the court described below; it came to be used for a prison also under the control of the Knight Marshal.[1]


2. "Marshalsea" means the seat or court of a marshal, or keeper. "Marshal" is derived from the Old Germanic marh ("horse") and scalc ("servant"). It originally meant "stable keeper," and came to refer to those presiding over the courts of Medieval Europe. [2] The Old English word "sea" means "seat."

I'm guessing both are correct in some form, but it's a question of finding accurate wording and the most knowledgeable sources. Any help would be much appreciated. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:05, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

  • They're both right, the court originally came under the jurisdiction of the Knight Marshal, and steward of the king's household. By 1770,

... is the Marshalsea prison and court; in which are confined all persons committed for crimes at sea, as pirates, &cc. and for debt by land. The judges of the court are, the lord steward of the king's houshold; a steward of the court, who must be a barrister at law; and a deputy steward. In all civil actions, tried in this court, both the plaintiff and the defendant must belong to his majesty's houshold. The persons confined in this prison for crimes at sea are tried at the Old Bailey. In the same prison is the Palace court, with a jurisdiction that extends 12 miles round the palace of Westminster, the city of London excepted: and debtors within any part of Westminster, and 12 miles round, may be arrested and carried to this prison for a debt of 40s. Actions for debt are tried in this court every Friday; and there are the same judges as in the Marshalsea-court. But in this court neither plaintiff nor defendant must belong to his majesty's houshold. The buildings are run much to decay: but there is a spacious and convenient court room.[3]

  • doesn't give the derivation, but both the cited definitions fit. Kbthompson (talk) 16:22, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Marshalsea.
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick, E.M. (ed). Chambers 20th Century Dictionary. , W & R Chambers, 1983; also see Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Deutsches Wörterbuch. Leipzig 1854-1960, Vol. 12 Col. 1673.
  3. ^ Book 3, Ch. 1: Southwark, A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 678-690.
The first sounds much more plausible as the original etymology. But it seems also plausible that there was a long period of time where people believed the second and that this influenced the meaning. --Hans Adler (talk) 16:19, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
Good point. The word "Mareschal" had been in wide usage since Anglo-Norman times, when there were various folks who went by that designation, as in William le Mareschal, son-in-law of Strongbow. Eventually that designation evolved into the surname Marshall in Ireland and elsewhere in the British Isles, I believe. So the derivation of Marshalsea, it seems to me, probably does go back to the original Anglo-French word. Just my two cents. MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:18, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
The word "marshalsea" definitely did mean "stable" back in the 14th century. For example, "... in 1300, most members of the great household, with the exception of the grooms and pages of the marshalsea (stables), ate within the household ..." From The Great Household in Late Medieval England: A life by C. M. Woolgar, p. 9. [2]
This reference to stable from earlier still. [3] More. [4] SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:29, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
This article from JSTOR (English Historical Review) may address this question (can't access the entire text). What it appears to suggest is that one of the duties of medieval sheriffs, or marshalls (mareschals), was to preside over the royal stables, which may be how the terms came to overlap. [5] Just a thought. LIke most linguistic discussions, this is interesting. MarmadukePercy (talk) 20:17, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
Very interesting. I found a law dictionary that seems to say "marshalsea" (defined as the court or seat of the marshal) derives from the Latin "marescallia," [6]. Marescallia and marshalsea are also used synonymously here. [7] SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:42, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
"marescalcia, marescallia, marescaltia: the right of taking fodder for horses; the office of marshal; the Marshalsea, London; a stable." [8] SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:47, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
I am sorry I wasn't clear at all. Actually I have no problems with the stables aspect, and I would even guess that that came first. What I really meant was that the part about the marshall's "sea" (modern spelling wiktionary:see#Noun) is very likely (in my non-expert opinion) a folk etymology. (By the way, I think it's interesting that the Dutch equivalent to the gendarmerie is still called the Royal Marechaussee.) --Hans Adler (talk) 22:21, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
PS: Going all the way back to the stables is probably not relevant for this article, so the first derivation alone seems to be sufficient here. --Hans Adler (talk) 22:34, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

layout issues

All the floating elements next to the marshalsea infobox, including those floated left get forced down below the bottom of the infobox. This is why the dickens quote which should appear in "Southwark" (left-aligned) shows up in "Debt in England." Not quite sure how to fix it; floating issues are pretty rough and since we're dealing with a bunch of disparate templates and css classes it gets pretty ugly. KellenT 12:18, 1 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing this out — I couldn't see it on my browser. I've removed the tag until we can work out how to fix it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:35, 1 April 2009 (UTC)


This is a problem that constantly comes up with London history articles; is it misleading to describe it as "in London", as the lead currently does, instead of some formulation like "in what is now part of London"? Southwark at this point was a town in Surrey that happened to be across the Thames from London (and the Corporation of London and City of Westminster in this period bitterly opposed any moves to include Southwark, with its slum tenements, crumbling infrastructure and social problems, in any Greater London). The Metropolitan Board of Works, the first official piece of cross-river cooperation (in the very limited field of large-scale infrastructure projects) wasn't introduced until 1855, while Southwark was only transferred from Surrey to the new County of London in 1889, and the modern structure of a single city split into boroughs was only introduced with the London Government Act 1899 – and all three dates are after the Marshalsea (and its close cousin The Clink) closed; in the context of the time, describing Southwark as part of London is equivalent to describing Gateshead as a part of Newcastle or Gatineau as part of Ottawa. – iridescent 11:22, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, Iridescent, I just saw this. Thanks for pointing it out. I've changed it to: "The Marshalsea was a prison near London Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, then part of the county of Surrey, now part of London. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:21, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Copy edit

I was planning to do a copy edit today, but we're getting lots of edit conflicts, and edits are getting lost or being undone. Would it be all right if I were to put the in-use tag on it to make a final check? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:13, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

On second thoughts, I think I'll wait till tomorrow now, so cancel the above. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:25, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Fowler&fowler's detailed FAC comments

Hi SlimVirgin, Here are my detailed comments on the article's prose. They cover about a third of the article. I will add the remaining comments tomorrow.

More soon. Fowler&fowler«Talk» 01:44, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

More comments

Here are the remaining comments (up to the end of Dickens's section):

All the best, Fowler&fowler«Talk» 13:55, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

A couple of comments on the comments, principally relating to points 7 and 8. The transportation of prisoners to the American colonies did stop suddenly - prompted by their independence. I recall reading somewhere (don't remember where offhand), that British authorities tried to send one lot over after independence, and surprisingly enough, they were turned away post-haste. Regarding the attribution to The National Archives, the source cited is a research guide created to guide new users of the archives to relevant sources, rather than being taken directly from archival sources. David Underdown (talk) 09:04, 29 September 2009 (UTC)


Well deserved. I learned that when they threw you in the clink they really threw you in The Clink, terrific and timely article. Well done...Modernist (talk) 03:11, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Thank you. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:08, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
More congrats!
What "scintillating prose"! Well done!
Amandajm (talk) 15:35, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

"Winter of 1849" is ambiguous

"Winter of 1849" is ambiguous. Which is intended here: 1848-49 or 1849-50? -- B.D.Mills  (T, C) 03:52, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

St George's Gardens

The remaining wall is not next to an unkempt public garden as stated. The park is in a well maintained condition as anyone can see. (talk) 07:25, 3 February 2010 (UTC) Tony S The photograph at te bottom of the article shows the Garden is well-stocked and kept. (talk) 08:09, 3 February 2010 (UTC) Tony S


I have really enjoyed reading this article - congratulations and thankyou to everyone concerned. Having seen the recent BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit I was interested in Marshalsea: thanks for filling me in. (talk) 08:13, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

I concur - It's a great article. Well done all. Spanglej (talk) 11:17, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Agreed! I have been interested in the Marshalsea ever since I read Little Dorrit, and have often stood and admired the old wall that remains there, just off Borough High Street, facing the church of St George. I have plenty of modern photographs that I have taken, but there doesn't appear to be any need for any more on this article. Congratulations to all those that have worked hard on it! Orphan Wiki 12:38, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Kudos all around. Nice piece. MarmadukePercy (talk) 12:39, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Dimensions of rooms

One size of room given for the second Marshalsea is '10.5 feet square (0.95m2)'. Could this be clarified? Is the room 10.5 feet by 10.5 feet? If so this equates to 110.25 square feet, or 10.24 square metres (i.e. 10.24m2). ObviousOldy (talk) 09:24, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

10.5 feet square means a room 10.5 feet on each side, or 110.25 square feet. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 14:56, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

MoS issues in article

  • Deadlinks
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  • There are a few occurrences of weasel words in this article- please observe WP:AWT. Certain phrases should specify exactly who supports, considers, believes, etc., such a view. Apparently might be weasel words, and should be provided with proper citations.
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  • The script has spotted the following contractions: don't, if these are outside of quotations, they should be expanded. — GabeMc (talk) 20:15, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Confusions between Names of the Southwark gaols

Excellent article; however, the Note on the names of the Southwark gaols does not clarify the confusions - I'll attempt to do so here and the author can revise his Note.

"There is some confusion regarding the names of the prisons in Southwark in the 18th century. Charles Knight (1841, p. 325) writes that there were five prisons in 1796: the Marshalsea, Clink, King's Bench Prison, Horsemonger Lane Gaol, and the Borough Compter. Trey Philpotts also writes that there were five, but lists them as the Marshalsea, Clink, King's Bench Prison, the White Lion, and the Borough Compter. (2003, p. 90). This article uses Philpotts's list"

In 1796 the five gaols in the area were 1) The Clink (not in the Borough of Southwark but in the Clink Liberty). 2) the Marshalsea (at first site) 3) The King's Bench 4) The Surrey County at Horsemonger Lane. 5) Borough Compter at Tooley Street.

However Philpotts lists the prisons at an earlier date; 1) Clink 2) Marshalsea 3) King's Bench 4) Borough Compter 5) The Surrey County at 'the White Lion' which was often called the Borough Gaol but this was shorthand for 'County Gaol at the Borough' (it moved to new premises at Horsemonger Lane and the White Lion became the second site for the Marshalsea.) Tony S (talk) 18:13, 1 January 2012 (UTC)


Hi Jennifer, I'm going to remove this from the lead, because this is a featured article, and it's not clear what you mean by " outlaws seeking a special pardon". Could you give an example of the kind of Marshalsea prisoner (or offence or special pardon) you have in mind, along with a source? (Also, we would have to judge whether it's something that's worth including in the lead, which is a separate issue.) Many thanks, SlimVirgin (talk) 19:29, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

Looking again at the source you used, I think it was referring to the Marshalsea Court. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:07, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

This sounds logical. Given you are a lawyer familiar with modern writs of outlawry, I would yield to your wisdom and experience. Jennifer2013 (talk) 14:40, 4 August 2012 (UTC)


The article's stated date (1849) for the "demolition" of the Marshalsea is likely in error.

In the preface to the 1857 edition of Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens himself confirms that "the great block of the former prison" still stood on May 6, 1857 and describes other then-still-standing portions. Also, the article's own external link site states that the prison was "closed in the late [emphasis added] 19th century and demolished sometime afterwards," though this too may be in error, and a substantial wall framing the entrance arch still exists (see modern-day views at "external link" site and here). So the actual demise of the structure itself may have been due simply to over a century of decay and neglect rather than to any specific or definitive destruction, as suggested by the word demolish.

The 1849 date may be the year of its being rendered functionally inoperative as a prison, or when it was "abolished" according to Encyclopedia Britannica. But a website on early English prisons says the prison was "closed" in 1842 — a date which agrees with other sites — and mentions the subsequent sale of the buildings rather than their destruction, referring to 1930s illustrations of a converted building and expressly stating that "some parts survived until the 1970s."

Therefore, the article's reference to "finally demolished in 1849" should be changed to --ceased to serve as a prison in the mid-nineteenth century but survived as a structure, at least in part, well into the twentieth century--.