Bridewell Precinct - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

Bridewell Precinct

• Bridewell Palace was originally a residence of King Henry VIII. The palace was built on the site of the medieval St Bride's Inn at a cost of £39,000 and the king lived there between 1515–1523. Standing on the banks of the River Fleet, it was named after a nearby well dedicated to St Bride.

• In 1553, Edward VI gave the palace over to the City of London for the housing of homeless children and for the punishment of "disorderly women". The City took full possession in 1556 and turned the site into a prison, hospital, and workrooms. It was both the first house of correction in the country and a major charitable institution (reflecting the early modern definition of a "hospital").

• Its records provide valuable evidence of both petty crime and pauper apprenticeships in the eighteenth century. Bridewell hospital was established to provide a home and training for deserving children. Unlike parish apprentiships, those at Bridewell were considered highly desirable as their successful completion ensured both the freedom of the City and payment of a substantial charitable contribution (ten pounds, from the charity known as Lock's Gift) towards setting up as an independent master.

• The boys were given a basic education and, depending to whom they were apprenticed, they were taught one of a number of trades, including weaving, shoemaking and glove making. Eventually, the site of became a school known as Bridewell Royal Hospital. Most of the palace was destroyed in the Great Fire, and rebuilt in 1666–1667. The prison was closed in 1855, and the buildings demolished in 1863–1864.

The school moved to a new site in Surrey, and changed its name to King Edward’s School, Witley. It celebrated its 450th year in 2003.


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