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Southwark debtors prison records published on genealogy website

London SE1 website team

Records of thousands of prisoners held in the Marshalsea and King's Bench prisons in Southwark have been digitised by a family history website.

Digitised by Ancestry.co.uk from original records held at the National Archives in Kew, the Debtors' Prison Registers 1734-1862 detail more than 70,000 criminals detained in Marshalsea, King's Bench and Fleet Prisons over a 128 year period, often for offences relating to debt.

"These records shed light on what life was like in the lesser known debtor prisons of Victorian London, where living conditions were appalling," said Miriam Silverman, UK content manager of Ancestry.co.uk.

Users of the subscription-only online service can now search the records for details of their ancestors.

The collection includes the prison record of John Dickens, father of Charles Dickens, who was sent to Marshalsea after falling in debt to a local baker.

His son later included reference to the prison in his literary works, with one of his famous fictional characters, Amy Dorrit, also having a father in the gaol.

George Morland known best for his paintings of rustic scenes and animals – was sent to the King's Bench Prison as a debtor in 1779 and then discharged and allowed to live in the area outside the prison (known as 'the Rules').

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