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More from Emma Bryning

Graffiti of Wellclose Prison Debtors’ Cell at the Museum of London

Wellclose Prison, also known as Neptune Street Prison, was located off Wellclose Square near to the Tower of London. The 18th-century small prison was run on a commercial basis and the majority of inmates were insolvent debtors who were either imprisoned until they could repay their debts or were awaiting transfer to Newgate Prison. The prison was below a public tavern which was connected to a courthouse, where the tavern’s landlord acted as gaoler. By the 1790s, the prison was empty and in a state of disrepair. The prison was finally closed in the 19th century and the building it was housed within was turned into a lodging house. When the building was demolished in 1911, two cells from the prison were dismantled and transferred to the London Museum at Kensington Palace and elements of both cells can now be found on display in the Museum of London. Prisoners in the cells were known to scratch and carve their names and initials or write messages or draw pictures onto the walls of the cells and many of these marks can still be seen today. 

Shakespeare’s ‘The Theatre’ and the Romeo & Juliet Street Art Mural

On New Inn Broadway in Shoreditch you can find a mural paying homage to two of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, Romeo and Juliet, located near to the site where it is believed that the play was first performed. In 2018, a team of archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) excavated the site of Shakespeare’s playhouse, ‘The Theatre’, building on evidence uncovered in their 2008 excavations. The street art piece on the outside of the building depicts the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet in a fresco-style mural and was created by the Global Street Art Agency. 

Prison Graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London

The Tower of London is home to some of the most well-known historic graffiti in the city, and many of the marks are located in the Beauchamp Tower. The Beauchamp Tower was built between 1275-1281 during the reign of King Edward I and was later used as a state prison, housing high-ranking prisoners including Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley. This former prison contains over three-hundred graffiti inscriptions which were created over four centuries by the imprisoned inhabitants to help alleviate their boredom during their confinement and so that they could make sure that they would be remembered. 

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The Tower of London

Although never officially a prison, the Tower of London has held hundreds of London’s most dangerous prisoners. Like the story of the Tower itself, its role as prison is a varied one.