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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
King's Bench Debtors Prison
The Massacre of St George's Fields was started here
Location: Borough, Southwark, London
Description: The King's Bench Prison was a prison from medieval times until it was closed and demolished in 1880.
It took its name from the King's Bench court of law in which cases of defamation, bankruptcy and other misdemeanour's were heard; as such, the prison was often used as a debtor's prison until the practice was abolished in the 1860s.
Although one of the largest London prisons at the time, it still gained a reputation for being dirty, overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of typhus.
On 10 May 1768 the imprisonment here of radical John Wilkes for writing an article that severely criticized King George III prompted a riot - the Massacre of St George's Fields - in which five people were killed.
Also, this prison was also badly damaged in a fire started in the 1780 Gordon Riots.
In 1842, it was renamed the Queen's Prison, and later became the Southwark Convict Prison.
Notable inmates included English dramatist Thomas Dekker, Emma Lady Hamilton, Marc Isambard Brunel, John Mytton, John Pell, and John Wilkes.