Knocking at the prison door
There has been a prison on the site of Tothill Fields, Westminster since 1618. Known as the Bridewell, the prison was illustrated by Hogarth in his famous series of drawings, The Rake's Progress. In 1834 the original Bridewell was replaced by a larger prison. The design was circular so that the guards could supervise prisoners from a central point. This bronze door knocker comes from this later prison.
Originally the Bridewell housed three separate gaols for untried male prisoners and debtors, male convicts and women. However, because it was poorly managed, the prison was changed so that it would house only women and convicted boys under the age of seventeen.
From prison to cathedral
The prison was closed and demolished in 1884. Westminster Cathedral now stands on the site. The foundations of the prison were re-used for the cathedral.
Museum number A28552