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This Day in Georgia History

February 28, 1729

Oglethorpe Re-visited Fleet Prison

After visiting Fleet Prison the previous day, James Oglethorpe and the Gaols [Jails] Committee returned to complete their investigation. After having asked that the neck iron on one prisoner – Sir William Rich – be taken off on Feb. 27, the committee found that warden Thomas Bambridge had not only put the neck iron back on Rich, but added two extra sets of the 15-pound irons. On the 28th, they demanded to see Rich again and found him in great pain, his arms and legs swollen. Over the next month, the committee would interrogate many imprisoned debtors to uncover the abuses of England’s privatized prison system, where wardens and staff extracted fees from prisoners (or their relatives) for every necessity. The committee’s findings would lead to prison reforms and new concerns about the plight of imprisoned debtors and England’s other worthy poor.