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Bridewell Palace

In the civil parish of City Of London.
In the historic county of London and Middlesex.
Modern Authority of City and County of the City of London.
1974 county of Greater London.
Medieval County of City of London.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ31618101
Latitude 51.51277° Longitude -0.10475°

Bridewell Palace has been described as a certain Palace.

There are no visible remains.


Bridewell Palace was a royal palace built in 1515-2? for Henry VIII on the banks of the Fleet River. It was named after a holy well nearby dedicated to St Bride. The building was a large rambling brick structure round three courtyards. 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. Queen Mary Tudor confirmed Edward VI's charter in 1556 and the City took possession, turning the palace into a prison, hospital and workrooms. Most of the buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt in 1666-7. A new prison section was built in 1797. The prison was closed in 1855 and the buildings were demolished in 1863-4 . The site was first covered by De Keyser's Royal Hotel and since 1931 has been occupied by the Unilever Building. (PastScape)

The palace is known to have been built between 1515 and c. 1523. The need for it arose when fires destroyed both the old palace of Westminster and the Royal apartments in the Tower in 1512 leaving the King without a useable residence in his capital city. It remained Henry's principal palace for some years during which time it saw some notable events. In 1522 shortly before the palace was completed it provided accommodation for the entourage of nobles accompanying the Emperor Charles V on his visit to London. Six years later Henry and Katherine of Aragon stayed there while the papal legates deliberated on their divorce proceedings in the house of the Blackfriars on the other side of the Fleet. Most of Act III of Shakespeare's Henry VIII which concerns those events is set in Bridewell. With Wolsey's fall from grace in 1529 his palaces at York Place (Whitehall) and Hampton Court came into the possession of the King and Bridewell was given over to those ambassadors, mainly French, whom the King wished especially to favour. It was at that time that Hans Holoeich the younger painted his famous portrait The Ambassadors there. Its brief history as a royal palace was brought to an end in 1553 by Henry's son Edward VI who gave it to the city as a workhouse. The palace was laid out around two main courtyards: the principal courtyard to the north with the Great Hall along its southern side whence a Long Gallery ran down to "two towers upon Thames". These with a high wall down the eastern side enclosed the southern courtyard. This type of double courtyard layout is typical of Henry's palaces. To the east and north additional domestic buildings fronted onto the Fleet and Bride Lane forming a subsidiary courtyard. (Gadd and Thompson, 1979)

May have been the site of an earlier royal building called 'Tower or Castle on the west of London by Sainte Brides church.; vita Arkenwald' by Stow.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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