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16th century Southwark - again?!

Friday's Prison Break Run takes us back to 16th century Southwark.

It's not the first time we've been there - and it probably won't be the last.

What has go us so potty over Southwark?

The Liberty of the Clink.

Clink Bollard

For about 500 years until the 1600s, the area roughly between today's London Bridge and Southwark Bridge operated in a separate jurisdiction outside of the laws of the City of London. This area was known as the Liberty of the Clink.

This separate little state is the setting for some of history's most incredible tales.

Here are just a few:

1. Claiming Sanctuary

Villains could flee to the sanctuary of the Liberty of the Clink - if they lived here peacefully for a year and day, they were absolved of their crimes! You can still see some of the bollards marking the boundaries pictured left, Keppel Row)

Winchester Palace

2. Brothel-ville

The Liberty of the Clink had its own set of rules - so although prostitution was

very much illegal in the City of London, it was permitted and regulated in the Liberty of the Clink. The Bishop of Winchester, who ruled over the Liberty of the Clink from his Bankside Manor (pictured right), upheld 39 rules to regulate the prostitution. And to profit from it. Men from the City of London would often catch a wherry over to the Liberty of the clink for a night in its pleasure gardens.

3. A Poingnant Memorial

Crossbones Graveyard

And though the church benefited financially from legalising prostitution, the women involved were refused a Christian burial. Instead, it's thought they were buried in unconsecrated burial grounds such as the Crossbones Graveyard, only discovered in the 1990s, and thought to hold 15,000 forgotten dead.

The Crossbones Graveyard now has a beautiful memorial (pictured left), a dedicated garden and a monthly vigil on the 23rd of each month to remember those buried here.

4. Bear Baiting

Bear Baiting

Bears had their teeth filed down, were chained up, and had a number of dogs let loose on them, whilst men gambled. This was legal and popular in the Liberty of the Clink, and the neighbouring Bishopric, Paris Gardens. In Bankside: A District of Sin, I read about an incident where a bear broke free from its chains and dived onto a wherry in the Thames. The passengers didn't know whether to dive into the disease-ridden, faeces-filled Thames and risk drowning or stay on the boat with a huge angry bear.

The Clink

5. Thrown in the Clink

With all these activities in the Liberty of the Clink, it's no surprise that the Bishop of Winchester needed a prison to regulate it. The Clink Prison was inside the Bishop's Manor and was his own private prison for those who disobeyed the rules of the Liberty. As one of (if not the) oldest prisons in England, the phrase 'to get thrown in the Clink' means 'to go to prison'.

The more I read about the Liberty of the Clink, the more I want to know. But I hope I've given you enough to whet your appetite and want to know more.


There are plenty of opportunities to find out more...

Book a private tour for In the Shadow of the Shard and your own tour guide will take you through the Liberty of the Clink.

Brush the dust off your detective hat, and join us on Friday for the Prison Break Run. We'll need as much help as we can to find the escaped criminals from the Clink and bring Southwark to safety.

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