Little Dorrit, Dickens and debt | The remains of Marshalsea prison in Borough
Discover the history of one of London’s most famous prisons, where Charles Dickens’ father John was jailed.
Up until the late 19th century, there were dozens of prisons in central London. While a few, such as The Clink or the Tower of London – are still standing (albeit without prisoners), most have been long demolished. One of these lost London prisons may have been closed for over 170 years, but its name has been immortalised thanks to Charles Dickens (1812-1870).
The Marshalsea prison stood in Southwark for nearly 500 years. The Marshalsea originally opened at what is now 161 Borough High Street in 1373. The name is adapted from the old English word “marshalcy” which means “the office, rank, position of a Marshal”. In its early years, it housed men accused of crimes at sea, as well as other ‘land’ crimes. Among the famous prisoners of Marshalsea included the playwright Ben Jonson (1572-1637), who was imprisoned in 1597 for his “lewd” play The Isle of Dogs, which caused much offence and was suppressed by order of Queen Elizabeth I. Prior to prison reform in the 19th century, prisons were run for private profit. Prisoners had to pay for rent, food and clothes and furnish their own cells. A community sprung up within Marshalsea, with shops and restaurants being run by prisoners.
By the late 16th century, the prison was already in bad condition, but it wasn’t until 1799 the government decided it was time to rebuild. The new Marshalsea was rebuilt 130 yards at the current site of 211 Borough High street, costing £8,000. When it opened in 1811, it was split into two sections – one for debtors and another for mariners under court marshal. By the 18th and 19th century, debt was responsible for nearly half of England’s prison population. Usually, those in debt only spent a few months in the prison. Conditions were cramped and unpleasant, with sometimes up to four people sharing a cell measuring 10ft 10in by 8ft high.
Aqua Shard review: Brunch with a view at one of London’s highest restaurants
The Shard is home to six restaurants, all boasting amazing views of the capital. I’ve been to the bar in Aqua Shard on several occasions for drinks, but had never dined before. So I was thrilled when my boyfriend treated me to a surprise brunch at the venue for our anniversary. When dining at a sky-high venue, it’s always hit and miss if the weather will be on your side. On the afternoon we visited, London was suffering from questionable weather, but we managed to get a clear enough view for the first hour of our meal before the rain came down. We were fortunate enough to be given one of the best seats in the place, with seats looking out over the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and the rest of the City.
We were opting for the weekend brunch set menu, which features 3 courses and two amuse bouches for £48. I made sure I had eaten a light breakfast to prepare myself for such a big meal early in the day. Our first amuse bouche was pumpkin soup, which was lovely and creamy and tasted sweeter than I anticipated.
To start with, I opted for a brunch favourite – Tor Bay Lobster Benedict (Cackleberry Farm Egg, Roasted Lobster Hollandaise and Sea Greens). The serving had just the right amount of Hollandaise sauce so as not to overpower the egg and lobster. The seagreens were an unusual, but good accompaniment.
For my mains, I went for another fish dish – Crispy Cod Cakes (Pickled Lemon, Samphire and Cucumber Salad, and Spiced Kelp Aioli). As a regular consumer of fish cakes, I was pleased by the quality and the accompanying sides gave the flavour a different approach than usual.
In between the mains and dessert, we had another amuse bouche of Yoghurt Sorbet and Crispy Strawberries, which really cleansed the palate. For my final dishes I decided on the English Bramley Apple Crumble (Toasted Almond Crumb and Nutmeg Ice Cream). When it arrived, it was a very different crumble to I’m used to – sort of a deconstructed twist on a traditional favourite. Although the portion was small, the rich sweetness made it very filling and was the perfect end to the meal.
Overall, we had a fabulous brunch. The weather wasn’t on our side, but we still got to enjoy a decent amount of times with good view before the rain came down. The service was good and the menu choice offered something a little different from the usual brunch offerings.
- Aqua Shard, Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London Bridge, SE1 9RY. Nearest station: London Bridge. Weekend brunch is served from 10.30am-3.30pm. For booking, visit the Aqua Shard website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
British Museum Of Food: A treat for foodies as you explore the history and art of grub
London is home to some of the top restaurants and chefs in the world. We’re able to travel around the world through our culinary choices without leaving the kitchen table. With our love of good food, it makes sense that the capital is the location for a new museum of food.
This October, foodies can rejoice as the world’s first museum dedicated to food is coming to London. Food and drink wizards Bompas & Parr are launching a cultural institution celebrating the history, evolution, science, sociology and art of food.
Initially opening for three months from 23 October, the British Museum Of Food will be based at Borough Market while it seeks a more permanent home. Bompas & Parr will be collaborating with the managers, trustees and traders from nearby Borough Market on the museum, which will span two floors. The new museum will both educate and entertain visitors about food and drink in B&P’s signature quirky and disruptive style.
Visitors will explore the most exciting elements of food through the museum’s exhibits and experiences. There will be plenty of ‘food for thought’ as guests are encouraged to consider what they are putting in their bodies and think about nutrition and health.
Among the exhibits in the initial opening will include:
– Be the Bolus: the Peristalsis Experience
An immersive digital journey into the body, following the path of food along the alimentary canal from the mouth, into the stomach and intestines, using footage obtained working with consultant gastronenterologist Dr Simon Anderson.
A sonic wonderland focused on chocolate where visitors are asked to experience taste against the medium of sound, curated in collaboration with Space Doctors and Nathanael Williams Music with the advice of multi-sensory scientists.
– The British Menu Archive
A selection of historical and beautiful menus, normally an ephemeral part of food culture but actually a revealing historical resource.
– The Butterfly Effect
A walk-through tropical butterfly experience that tells the story of the unsung heroes of pollination in the context of global food security concerns.
– Atelier of Flavour
A gallery showcase of food as art, with a focus on how different artists have used unusual materials to represent the English Breakfast.
Harry Parr, partner of Bompas & Parr and a founder trustee of the museum, said: ’Around the world there are various museums devoted to specific items of food and drink, such as herrings and absinthe, but nowhere has an institution been created that seeks to embrace this crucial part of human existence. This has long been an aspiration of the studio and were delighted to have been able to assemble a stellar cast to help us bring this to life. And where better than the spiritual home of London’s food culture?’
- British Museum Of Food, One Cathedral Street, Borough Market, SE1 9DE. Nearest station: London Bridge. Open Wed-Fri 12-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adults £5, Children £4. The museum will open for three months from 23 October 2015. For more information, visit the British Museum Of Food website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
To find out about Bompas & Parr’s Alcoholic Architecture experience, click here.
Alcoholic Architecture: Travel through the world’s first alcoholic weather system
A new boozy experience is coming to London… and this one doesn’t actually involve drinking at all. Alcoholic Architecture is a new venture from food wizards Bombas & Parr which will please even the laziest drinker. You won’t need to lift a finger to enjoy a cocktail, because you’ll simply inhale it.
Situated in a Victorian basement by Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral, Bombas & Parr have created the world’s first alcoholic weather system. Guests will wear protective suits as they enter a cloud of fine spirits and mixers at a ratio of 1:3. Instead of your traditional mouth entry system, alcohol will enter the blood stream through the body’s mucus membranes, such as the lungs and eyeballs! With the room full of clouds of alcohol and at a humidity level of 140%, it’ll be tricky to see far so slow and steady will be the way to travel. And here comes the science bit – by inhaling alcohol, it actually bypasses the liver, meaning you absorb less calories, but also means you can get the same effect by drinking 40 per cent less than you would do normally. Once inside, you’ll also have the opportunity to order further cocktails from the menu to complement the taste of the breathable mix.
With its location near the historic Southwark Cathedral, Bompas & Parr have drawn on the influence of the Gothic building and its previous site of a monastery with the design, staff uniforms and drinks menu. Guests can enjoy the tastes of spirits and beers created by monks, including Chartreuse, Benedictine, Trappist beer and Buckfast.
Harry Parr, director of Bompas & Parr, said: ‘With Alcoholic Architecture we are going for maximal intensity of cocktail experience. With every breath you take, notice a fresh botanical or flavour in the spirit that can be hard to discern in a regular drink. Taste the cloud, savour the sky.’
Sam Bompas, director of Bompas & Parr, added: ‘Creatively the installation draws inspiration from Borough Market’s produce, medieval history and weather to create a sci-fi fantasy where meteorology and mixology collide. Visiting Alcoholic Architecture will generate the same sort of awe and wonder we have all probably experienced when gazing up at the night’s sky. Imagine Disney meets De Sade in Barbarella’s castle by way of Medieval Times with flagons of ale.’
Guests will be limited to an hour within the cloud to ensure responsible consumption of alcohol. Bombas & Parr have also worked with respiratory scientists and chemists to calculate the safe length of time to remain in the cloud.
- Alcoholic Architecture launches from 31st July 2015 for six months and will take place at One Cathedral Street, Borough Market, Borough, SE1 9DE. Nearest station: London Bridge. Tickets for hourly slots: £10 off peak (Mon, Tues and Wed all day, Thurs & Fri before 5pm), £12.50 peak (Thurs post-5pm, Fri post-4pm and Sat all day). For more information and booking, visit Bompas And Parr’s official website.
To find out about Bompas & Parr’s new British Museum Of Food at the same site, click here.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
Metro Girl’s Must Do Series – Part 2 | Borough Market
Many visitors to London these days may find they are not coming into contact with the ‘real London’. One of pitfalls of tourism – in many cities not just London – is you end up following the usual checklist of sights and sharing them with other non-Londoners.
However, one of the long-running places that has always attracted Londoners in the city is the traditional market. There’s something special about the capital’s markets that make them differ from those abroad. Now of course there are many markets I can highly recommend to visitors – Brick Lane, Portobello and Camden. However, this post is on my favourite, Borough Market. Known as the city’s foodies destination, it draws chefs, amateur cooks, restaurateurs… or just people (like me) with a healthy appetite.
Now located a stone’s throw from London Bridge train and tube station, Borough Market has existed in the area since as far back as the 11th century. The original market lay closer to the actual bridge – then the only river crossing in London – and sold fish, vegetables, grain and livestock. In the 13th century, the market then moved to Borough High Street, just south of St Margaret’s Church. Despite being located on the south of the River – and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the City of London – the boy King Edward VI (1537–1553) changed all this in 1550 when he extended the City’s power to Southwark’s markets.
The market thrived until 1755 when it was closed by an Act of Parliament, as politicians were unimpressed with the congestion in the area. However, some proactive locals in Southwark clubbed together to raise £6,000 to buy a patch of land, then known as The Triangle, in the hope of re-opening the market. In 1756, it reopened on the new site which still forms part of the market today (where Furness Fish & Game is located on Middle Road).
By the 19th century, the market was thriving – no doubt to its location close to the ‘Pool of London’, where most of the wharves were situated. The current building you see today was designed by architect Henry Rose and erected in the 1850s, with the Art Deco entrance at Southwark Street added in 1932. In 2004, the South Portico from Covent Garden’s Floral Hall was installed at the market’s Stoney Street entrance after the Royal Opera House was redeveloped. The market was further enhanced in 2013 with the opening of the Market Hall, a glass structure opening on to Borough High Street which provides a place for shoppers to relax and sample their purchases. Columns reaching up to the roof house pots with growing hops, fruits, flowers, herbs, olives and salad leaves. There also features a demonstration kitchen, with various events taking place throughout the week.
Today, there are over 100 stalls featuring most kinds of food from the UK and further afield. Weekends are particularly busy so it’s worth trying to get there early on a Saturday. As well as a wide range of stalls, the market also contains several restaurants and pubs, including Tapas Brindisa, The Globe, The Rake and Elliot’s Café. On Beadale Street in the market, there is also the old school-style Hobbs Barbers for men in need of a trim.
- Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. Open for lunch from Monday-Tuesday 10am-5pm, or the full market is open Wednesday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Fridays 10am-6pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm. Closed on Sundays. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
Welcome to part 2 of ‘Metro Girl’s Must Do’ series, a guide to my essential sights or activities to do during your visit to London. Many tourists may only spend a few days in the capital before escaping to the likes of Oxford or Bath or jumping over the English Channel to see the continent. So if time is of the essence and you’re torn between where to go, this is Metro Girl’s opinion on London’s top attractions.
For Part 1 of Metro Girl’s Must Do series on the London Eye, click here.
Or to read about Metro Girl’s trip up to the nearby View From The Shard, click here.