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Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 8 / 25





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gentlemen on the Master's Side:39 they pulled down a fence, set fire to the poles and threw firebrands and stones at the

hapless constables and watch who had been called out to quell the riot. Oftentimes, too, the threat of violence came from

outside the prison. The 1552 riot outside the Marshalsea has already been noted. In 1628 a group of sailors threatened to

break in or set fire to the White Lion prison if certain prisoners were not released. The White Lion was threatened again in

1662 when, as Pepys reports, a group of Quakers (they may actually have been Anabaptists) were seized upon, "that would

have blown up the prison in Southwark where they are put."40 Even without the threat of violence, the prisons were

notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary and many of the inmates were often near to starvation, so that gaol fever spread

quickly and was often the only "delivery" that could be expected. Recurring epidemics must have alarmed even those

outside the prison walls, particularly in a borough which, because of its population profile, received more than its share of

disease and death in times of contagion.

* * * * *

It seems reasonably clear that Southwark's disreputable reputation in late Tudor and early Stuart times was in part the

product of metropolitan expansion and of a particular migrant class' drift to the area south of the Thames. Some of these

features, naturally, it shared to a lesser degree -- though rarely to a greater degree -- with other London suburbs, particularly

in the eastern parishes. Yet the borough also enjoyed a distinct character all its own, the origins of which almost universally

predated the jurisdictional and demographic developments of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus, for all its

poverty and lawlessness, Southwark in 1598 was more creditably famed for "many fair inns for receipt of travellers,"41

situated especially on the road from London Bridge, and this

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distinction was not lost until the middle of the nineteenth century. Travellers from the southern counties and the continent

stopped to refresh themselves before entering the City, whilst others stayed to collect provisions for their outward journey.

Too, at nightfall, when Bow Bell sounded, the huge doors of the City gates were shut, so that late arrivals and early starters

were obliged to spend the night south of the river. The resulting growth of inns and taverns, together with the omnipresence

of suppliers of purveyance -- such as brewers -- ensured that the largest industry in Southwark during the early modern

period was the catering industry. In September 1618, the Privy Council drew the attention of the Lord Mayor to the fact

that, although an ancient regulation limited the number of taverns in the City of London to forty, there were now more than

400 in the City. London magistrates also spoke of "the multitude of alehouses and victualling houses within this city

increasing daily."42 Yet while one in every 30 or 40 houses might be a drinking establishment in the wealthier central areas,

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