Deddington man released from Newgate

Geoffrey Hindley 


The headline could have come from the Deddington News for July 1379. The records show that on 16 June Thomas Bereford (possibly Barford?) of Dadyngton was set free at the petition of Edmund Brudnell, two Oxfordshire gentlemen and Peter Sampson, a London taverner.  Bereford had been sent to gaol for using threatening behaviour against John Bloxhamm an ostler, and from his name apparently also from this part of the world.  If Bereford was related to Richard Bereford the Deddington wool monger, he belonged to one of the town’s more prosperous families. But what he and his friends were doing in London I do not know.  I only hope this his stay in the ‘Boccardo’, the men’s quarters at Newgate, was not too noisome.

The women’s quarters opened out of the Boccardo and the women prisoners had to go through the men’s section to get to the privy. We know that prisoners sometimes died in the insanitary and overcrowded prison, that they could only get permission to take exercise if a friend put up securities for their good behaviour; and that the gaoler overcharged outrageously for the ale.  All this was to be dramatically improved fifty years later when a new prison was built with money bequeathed by Sir Richard Whittington.  This great Lord Mayor of London is remembered chiefly today as a cat lover and pantomime hero but deserves better fame for his many benefactions of which the new and improved prison was only one.

Originally published in the Deddington News March 1979, p.7