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Historic England Research Records

Bridewell Palace

Hob Uid: 404993
Location :
Greater London Authority
City and County of the City of London
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : TQ3161381023
Summary : Bridewell Palace was originally built by Thomas Wolsey from 1510 but was transferred to King Henry VIII in 1515. It was completed in 1523 and provided Henry with an important residence near to Westminster and the capital, after Westminster Palace had burnt down in 1512. The palace was built on the banks of the Fleet River and it was named after a holy well nearby dedicated to St Bride. In 1553 Edward VI gave the palace to the City for the reception of vagrants and homeless children and for the punishment of petty offenders and disorderly women. Bridewell Palace consisted of two brick-built courtyards with the royal lodgings arranged around the three-storey inner courtyard. These were entered by a grand processional staircase from the outer courtyard. The kitchens and gatehouse were on the north side of the outer courtyard and there was a long gallery (240 feet) which connected the inner court with Blackfriars. Bridewell was the first royal palace not to have a great hall and it also had a processional staircase, which was a feature that would continue to be present in the king's later residences.The City of London took full possession of the building in 1556 and converted the palace into a prison, hospital and workrooms and became known as Bridewell Royal Hospital and Bridewell Prison. The majority of the palace was rebuilt in 1666-1667 following its destruction in the Great Fire of London. The prison closed in 1855 and the buildings were demolished in 1863-1864. The site was first covered by De Keyser's Royal Hotel and since 1931 has been occupied by the Unilever Building.
More information : 1.[Name centred TQ31618101]. SITE OF BRIDEWELL PALACE [AT]
['A' Name centred TQ31648104]. SITE OF GATE [AT] (1)

(17) BRIDEWELL HOSPITAL, on the W. side of New Bridge Street, is a modern building but contains from the old building a fireplace, now in the Court Room. (For further details see Inventory). (2)

When the Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire in 1512, Henry VIII was left without a palace in London. To remedy this, in 1515 he began the construction of a new palace at Bridewell, on part of a site owned by Cardinal Wolsey. After Wolsey's fall in 1530, the King gained Whitehall, and Bridewell ceased to be a residence, but it was used for the attendance of favoured ambassadors. In 1522 the entourage of the Emperor Charles V stayed at Bridewell when the emperor visited Henry VIII. In 1556 Queen Mary bestowed the buildings on the City of London for the establishment of a workhouse for the vagrant poor. The whole of the southern portion, including the two towers overlooking the Thames, were destroyed in the Great Fire. The principal buildings formed a four-range structure arranged around a courtyard, with a smaller outer court on the east side. It was finally demolished in 1863-4. (3-4)

Thomas Wolsey built a house at Bridwell from 1510-15 which when he took up Hampton Court and York Place he transferred it to the king. Henry wanted a house between Westminster and the capital especially after Westminster Palace had earlier burnt down.
Bridewell was finally finished in 1523 and it consisted of two brick-built courtyards with a long gallery ending in a Watergate at the Thames. The royal lodgings were arranged around the three-storey inner courtyard (the king's on the south and the queen's on the north). These were entered by a grand processional staircase from the outer courtyard. The kitchens and gatehouse were on the north side of the outer courtyard and there was a long gallery (240 feet) which connected the inner court with Blackfriars. Bridewell had two innovative features: it was the first royal palace not to have a great hall and it also had a processional staircase, which was a feature that would be ever present in the king's later residences. (5)

Henry VIII built a new palace at Bridewell and the Emperor Charles V came to visit Henry and Catherine of Aragon. The Emperor did not lodge at the Blackfriars, but his entourage was entertained and lodged here.
A communication gallery was built from the palace over the Fleet River into the Blackfriars. Henry VIII occupied Bridewell frequently, and it was here that the court was assembled to debate the validity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The King and Queen also lodged here whilst the question was being argued in the Hall at Blackfriars in 1529.
Edward VI alienated the palace and bestowed it on the City of London to be used as a house for the poor, and a place of confinement for idle and vicious vagrants. (6)

The City of London took full possession of the building in 1556 and converted the palace into a prison, hospital and workrooms and became known as Bridewell Royal Hospital and Bridewell Prison. The majority of the palace was rebuilt in 1666-1667 following its destruction in the Great Fire of London. The prison closed in 1855 and the buildings were demolished in 1863-1864. (7)

The National Grid Reference for the former site is: TQ3161381023 (8)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1:1056 1916.
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Figs. :
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Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in London. Vol.IV: the City
Source details :
Page(s) : 160
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The London encyclopeadia
Source details :
Page(s) : 86-7
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2)
Source details :
Page(s) : 53-58
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : The royal palaces of Tudor England : architecture and court life
Source details :
Page(s) : 40-44
Figs. :
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Source Number : 6
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : London online. 2009. Bridewell history, [Accessed 19-MAY-2009]
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 7
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : London Lives, [Accessed 03-JUL-2012]
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:1250, 2008
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Rebuilt 1666-7
Monument End Date : 1667
Monument Start Date : 1666
Monument Type : Prison, Workhouse, Hospital
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Built 1797
Monument End Date : 1797
Monument Start Date : 1797
Monument Type : Prison
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Closed in 1855
Monument End Date : 1855
Monument Start Date : 1855
Monument Type : Prison
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Demolished 1863-4
Monument End Date : 1864
Monument Start Date : 1863
Monument Type : Prison
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Tudor
Display Date : Built 1510-23
Monument End Date : 1523
Monument Start Date : 1510
Monument Type : Royal Palace, Bishops Palace
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Tudor
Display Date : Change in function 1553-6
Monument End Date : 1556
Monument Start Date : 1553
Monument Type : Prison, Hospital, Workhouse
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Stuart
Display Date : Destroyed in Great Fire of 1666
Monument End Date : 1666
Monument Start Date : 1666
Monument Type : Prison, Hospital, Workhouse
Evidence : Destroyed Monument, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Early 20th Century
Display Date : Change in function pre 1931
Monument End Date : 1931
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Hotel
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Early 20th Century
Display Date : Change in function 1931
Monument End Date : 1931
Monument Start Date : 1931
Monument Type : Office
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 38 SW 469
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, 9-12 BRIDEWELL PLACE, 13-16 NEW BRIDGE STREET
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1978-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 1-3 TUDOR STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1979-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ST BRIDE'S HOUSE, 10-12 SALISBURY SQUARE/COURT, 1-4 DORSET BUILDINGS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRIDEWELL PLACE, NEW BRIDGE STREET
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: DISABILITY IN TIME AND PLACE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT 1 DORSET RISE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31