King's (Queen's) Bench, Fleet, Marshalsea and Queen's Prisons: Miscellanea. Records of the King's Bench, Fleet, and Marshalsea prisons, Series PRIS 10. The National Archives, Kew, England.
Until several acts passed in the 1860s, it was common for individuals to be jailed for debt or bankruptcy in debtors’ prisons. Those who faced insolvency often found themselves in prison indefinitely. They had to pay their debts to be released, and since they also had to pay for their keep and could pay for extra freedoms, such as living in the “Rules”—areas just outside the prison walls—their stays could be lengthy unless they had family to pay the debts.
This collection includes records from London’s Fleet Street and King’s Bench prisons. Fleet prison closed in 1842, and the King’s Bench prison was renamed Queen’s Prison in 1842 and remained open until 1862.
The provenance on some of these records is unknown because they were unmarked when the records of all three institutions were combined in 1842.
The National Archives lists the following collections in this series:
- account books (including room rent and turnkey's and watchmen's wages)
- chummage registers (recording cell occupancy numbers at weekly intervals)
- class books (containing statistics on the financial status of individual prisoners in the Queen's Prison and on the accommodation situation)
- commitment books (rough copies of those for the Queen's Prison for the relevant period)
- abstract books (condensed versions of certain Fleet Prison commitment books)
- day books (recording daily deliveries, discharges and final settlements of debts of prisoners, along with the names of the attorneys concerned)
- Deputy Keeper's journals of prison inspections of the Queen's Prison (a daily record of the state of the prison buildings, cells, and number of prisoners detained)
- Fleet Prison entry books for discharges (recording the dates of discharges of debtors)
- Queen's Prison discharge book (the Keeper's own condensed version of discharge records for the relevant period)
- account books used as exhibits from bankruptcy cases (accounts of private companies relating to two sets of debtors)
- habeas corpus books for Fleet Prison and Queen’s Prison (recording transcripts of the writs sent to the prison keepers ordering them to deliver prisoners to be charged at various courts)
- Marshal’s day or note books (containing jottings and reminders by the prison marshal)
- Memoranda books (on a variety of subjects relating to discipline in the prison and on visitors allowed or forbidden within the prison precincts)
- Documents relating to the release of prisoners during the Gordon Riots, June 1780 (during the riots prisoners from the King’s Bench and Fleet Prisons were set at large by the rioters; the records relate to the recapture of the freed debtors in accordance with the Release of Prisoners by Rioters Act of 1780 and the Destruction of Prisons by Rioters Act of 1781)
- discharge books arising from insolvency acts
- letters to the Governor, Queen's Prison
- Fleet prison registers (recording the name and number of the prisoner, when and by whom he was committed, the amount of debt he owed or a note of his imprisonment for contempt, the date of discharge and other remarks)
- indexes to unidentifiable books (listing names of prisoners; undated, possibly from Marshalsea Prison)
- prisoners committed and discharged (containing rough lists of names of prisoners and dates of commitment or discharge)
- nightly report books, Queen's Prison (recording the number of watchmen on duty, their state of sobriety, the name of the superintendent and further remarks)
- day rule books (function unclear, but listing names of prisoners, some in receipt of regular money payments), most probably relating to the Fleet Prison
Look for the prisoners’ commitment numbers or dates of discharge, as they can be used to trace records in other series.