Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts





First Advisor

Paul Griffiths


Bridewell house of correction had been essential in dealing with vagrancy and all sorts of petty offending since the day it first took in prisoners in 1555. Its purpose was to clear disorder from streets and monitor virtually all aspects of private and public life. Reforming offenders through work was key to its operation. A royal charter granted in 1553 gave Bridewell sweeping powers to police the city and neighbouring built-up Middlesex. It also set up a court inside its walls that would prove to be very controversial. Bridewell was a faint shadow of its former self by 1800. There was not a single committal to this once full prison in 1791-1800. There were three principal reasons for this. (1) Changes in prosecution that saw a large swing towards summary justice – hearing cases before justices without formal trial – in the Guildhall and Lord Mayor’s Mansion House that took cases away from Bridewell. (2) Increasingly negative attitudes that cast doubt on Bridewell’s rationale and effectiveness. And (3) changing conceptions of female sexualities on the one hand and the treatment of juveniles on the other that made it possible to see ‘fallen’ women as objects of sympathy and reform and wayward juveniles as a potential asset working for the good of the country.

Copyright Owner

Benjamin Nelson



File Format


File Size

79 pages

Included in

History Commons