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Ep 146: The Boy Jones - The knicker nicker

Buckingham Palace 1837 By J Woods

This what Buckingham Palace was like in 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in. The original Buckingham house had two wings extending to the front, and as a gate was what we now know as the Marble Arch. This was the palace that "the boy Jones" was attracted to. He told his employer was going to break in, and break in he did.

Alex tells the tale of the cheeky youngster who not only broke in, but ate the food, hid under the beds and maybe listened in to Queen Victoria having meetings. He even helped himself to her drawers/bloomers/undercrackers. How many ways did we find to describe the royal knickers?

Normally the blog has pictures to help flesh out the story. But this week we are bereft. There's no images of the Boy Jones. You'll just have to listen to the pod and conjure up an image from Alex's description.

We know he spent time at the Tothill Fields Bridewell. And I (Fiona) got sucked in to trying to find it on a map. The early version was here:

Roques 1748 map of London Via Layers of London. Buckingham Palace and The Tothill Fields Bridewell marked

Alarming close to the Palace for a royal stalker to be imprisoned! Here's another view in charming 3d. Imagine you are hovering above the Thames, looking West:

1831 Map of the Grosvenor Estate, via Layers of London

Top right is Buckingham House, halfway down on the left is the Bridewell, alongside the Greencoat School. Bridewell was used as a generic name for a prison, after the original Bridewell prison in the city. The Tothill Fields Prison was also known by various other titles during it's time 1616-1884. However, this version was knocked down in 1836, and rebuilt much bigger and better, on slightly different site. And that's the one that Jones would have known.

Welcome collection CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The new one held 900 people. It was designed in a club shape - like the card suit, with a central hub and wings radiating out. Inspired by Jeremy Bentham, who lived just nearby in Petty France. (And nowadays in UCL, but that's another story!)

There was a chapel, and a house for the governor. Plus work space. On Jones's second spell inside he was doing hard labour. Tothill had a space for picking oakum -separating strands of old rope so it could be used again. The inmates could also have done carpentry, mending clothes. Or walking the treadmill, a kind of giant hamster wheel, used in some prisons to drive machinery. One description suggests people walking 15 mins on the treadmill, then a 5 min break, for 6 hours a day. No wonder Jones was weak when he was released. The prison was one of the ones examined in a report of 1818, with the snappy title "An inquiry, whether crime and misery are produced or prevented, by our present system of prison discipline." A question that echoes down the ages and is sadly topical throughout the years.

Tothill Fields eventually closed down, and the site was lost, near and under Westminster Cathedral. If you are passing by, spare a thought for the young boys like Edward Jones and women incarcerated here who trod the ground before you.

ALFAMAX1, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The only image we have relating directly to the Boy Edward Jones, is for the Man Thomas Jones. His name changed to escape his notoriety. Would he have wanted this plaque, commemorating his death, and misremembering his exploits?

Although we're not quite up to speed, and a little behind with our correspondence, we still love to hear from you!

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Alex’s guiding website -

Fiona’s guiding profile -Fiona Lukas - Guide London

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