views updated May 18 2018

Bridewell. The London Bridewell, set up in 1555, was the first ‘House of Correction’ and the term was often used henceforth to describe such institutions. The 16th cent. saw a massive increase in the numbers of poor and indigent, and houses of correction, with stern regimes of hard work, were used for the punishment and reformation of petty offenders or groups who were regarded as anti-social or idle, such as players of unlawful games, fortune-tellers, minstrels, tinkers and pedlars, hedge-breakers, vagabonds, and gypsies. In 1610 houses of correction were set up generally throughout England. The distinction between them and prisons was abolished in 1865.

Maureen Mulholland


views updated Jun 11 2018

bridewell archaic term for a prison or reform school for petty offenders. Recorded from the mid 16th century, the word comes from St Bride's Well in the City of London, near which such a building stood.