Kings Bench Prison.
London. Pub1.st Dec.r 1808, at R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts 101, Strand.
Hand coloured aquatint with large margins. Platemark: 240 x 285mm (9½ x 11¼"). Few nicks in margins.
The courtyard of the King's Bench Prison in St George's Fields, Southwark, London, with inmates playing a game of rackets on the far left. The prison, which took its name from the King's Bench court of law in which cases of defamation, bankruptcy and other misdemeanours were heard, was mainly occupied by debtors, some of the most famous of whom included King Theodore I of Corsica and Tobias Smollett. In 1768 the imprisonment of John Wilkes (for libel) triggered riots in which several people were killed. This building was burnt to the ground in the 1780 Gordon Riots, and quickly rebuilt. By the time this print was made, the prison had become notorious for the laxity of its rules (an 1828 description would call it 'the most desirable place of incarceration in London' and by that time there were thirty gin shops and a host of trades being practiced in the courtyard). The prison was demolished in 1880. Published in Ackermann's famous work, the 'Microcosm of London', which probably selected the prison to depict because of its comparative comfort. The figures were drawn by the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson and the architecture by Augustus Pugin.
Abbey, Scenery: 212; for the burning of the old prison in the Gordon Riots see ref. 25017.
[Ref: 37368] £260.00