Marshalsea - Second Marshalsea (1811–1842) - Admiralty Prisoners

Admiralty Prisoners

The Admiralty division housed a few prisoners under naval courts-martial for mutiny, desertion, piracy, and what the deputy marshal preferred in 1815 to call "unnatural crimes". Unlike other parts of the prison that had been built from scratch in 1811, the Admiralty division—as well as the northern boundary wall, the dayroom, and the chapel—had been part of the old Borough gaol, and were considerably run down, the cells so rotten they were barely able to confine prisoners. In 1817, one actually managed to break through his cell walls. The low boundary wall together with the irregular use of spikes meant that Admiralty prisoners were often housed in the infirmary, chained to bolts fixed to the floor.

They were supposed to have a separate yard to exercise in, so that criminals were not mixing with debtors, but in fact the prisoners mixed often, and according to Dickens, happily. The parliamentary committee deplored this practice, arguing that the Admiralty prisoners were characterized by an "entire absence of all control," and were bound to have a bad effect on the debtors. The two groups of prisoners would retreat to their own sections during inspections, or as Dickens put it in Little Dorrit:

" certain constitutional moments when somebody came from some Office, to go through some form of overlooking something, which neither he nor anybody else knew anything about ... On those truly British occasions, the smugglers, if any, made a feint of walking into the strong cells and the blind alley, while this somebody pretended to do his something; and made a reality of walking out again as soon as he hadn't done it—neatly epitomizing the administration of most of the public affairs in this right little, tight little, island."

Read more about this topic:  Marshalsea, Second Marshalsea (1811–1842)

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