Ludgate – London City Walls

This description is paraphrased from the 1712 description of the prison made by A Baldwin.

At Ludgate, next to the postern gate for the foot traffic on the southern side of the Gate was a door. Once inside you ascended 6 steps. A large box was located to the right and a plaque over the top of it read,

These are to satisfy all that are willing to give their charity to this house, that the money is put into this box, which hath three locks; One key being kept by the Keeper, another by the Master of The Box and the third by the Assistant of The Day; and no money is to be taken out without their mutual consent, to be jointly distributed among the prisoners.

At the top of the stairs was a room where the prisoners first entered when being taken into the prison. This room also included a drinking room which was available to both guards and prisoners; there was also the stock roon and a window where one of the prisoners had to stand every day and beg for money from the passers-by.

Next there were some stairs descending to the cellar, where the alcohol and a water cistern were located. There was also an iron gate leading to the postern where another prisoner stood and begged for money.


Grate at Fleet Prison which was the same as the one at Ludgate.

By the grate is a staircase and going up there is a small room above the postern and two other rooms. The first room was a drinking room and the other two used by the guards.

On the first floor was The White Room which included long benches and table and a chimney. This was where the inmates would receive their Sunday meal if they could afford to pay for it. Also, on this floor, was the Lower Ward which included 6 beds a large window and a chimney.

Further up the stairs was a passage leading to the Master Side

The second floor included the Chappel [sic] Ward which also housed 6 beds and had a chimney; the Chapel looked after and presided over by a Chaplain who ensured that there were fresh flowers in there each day; A Gallery in the chapel where prayers could be heard. You entered the gallery by stairs leading down from the third floor; and lastly a room called the Odd Man;s Room which included 3 beds, a window overlooking Ludgate Street but there was no chimney so it would have been really cold in the winter months.

The stairs then led up to the Charity Ward where were incarcerated the prisoners who had to beg each day for money. There was no chimney here so it would also have been cold during the winter months; and a door leading to the women’s gallery.

Further up the stairs was the Master’s Side Passage.

On the Upper Floor was the Women’s Ward separated into two apartments but only 1 had a chimney, and there were never enough beds for everyone. Here is a description of the type of women they had stay,

“Among the criminals’ Says Mr. Strype, ‘that this prison used to be filled with were formally abundance of lewd women that had murdered their children, either by throwing them into houses or office, or otherwise”. (Strype, Vol.1, p. 19, cited in Smith 1833).

There was also the Upper Wardroom which had a very low ceiling and again not enough beds.

The stairs then lead up to the Leads which was a large platform type of area with wooden planks which was used as an exercise area.

Back down to road level and on the right-hand side the entrance was from the left-hand side at the first-floor level. On this level, on this side, there were 4 rooms with a bed and a chimney in each, used for the prisoners, and at the end of the passage was the Green Room where men used to be able to continue their trades, but which was later turned into 2 apartments and for the use of the Deputy Keeper. These rooms have really good light.

Up the stairs to the second floor there were 6 individual rooms again with a chimney and bed in each.

Ascending again there is the other side of the passage coming across from the other side. And once more going up the stairs is a floor with 2 rooms, opposite each other.

Now the names are interesting to say the least, Clap A…se Hall and Puppy’s Parlour (I will leave this to your imagination!) and then there is also a cloakroom on this floor.

So, there you have it, a great description from the inside of Ludgate. Very seldom do we have a full description of an old place, especially a fortified one, so this is a real gem. To read the full version of the old English description Click HERE




Baldwin. A. 1712. The Present State of the Prison of Ludgate: Fully Discovering All Its Customs, Priviledges, and Advantages, … To which are Added, Useful Remarks and Pertinent Observations on the Former State Thereof. Interspers’d with Divers Pleasant Relations of the Humours of the Prisoners of Both Sexes Therein. A Baldwin.

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