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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.

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