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HMP Westminster

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HMP Westminster

Postby SDV » Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:11 pm

On the birth certificate of one of my distant relatives, his place of birth is given as HMP Westminster.
His name was Alfred Daniels and he was born on 14 Feb 1880. His father was given as my 1x Great-grandfather George Thomas DANIELS and his mother as Mary Ann DANIELS (formerly TAPLIN). The birth was registered on 27 Feb 1880 and the informant was Mary Ann Daniels of 4 The Grove, Hornsey, Wood Green.

I am assuming that Mary Ann was an inmate at the time of his birth. I am also assuming that she was still an inmate when the birth was registered, as it was registered in Westminster rather than Edmonton, which would have been normal for a birth in Hornsey.

I would really like to know the reason for Mary Ann's imprisonment. It must have been for a reasonably short period of time, since at the time of the birth of her previous child in July 1878 she was living at Brook Road, Hornsey and by the time of the 1881 census she was living back at 4 The grove, Hornsey. So the period of imprisonment must have been after March 1878 and before April 1881.

There is one further complication in that Mary Ann was George Thomas' second wife and I have never been able to find a marriage for the couple. His first wife died in Jan 1872 of typhoid and his first child with Mary Ann was born in Jun 1875. So at a first guess they would have married somewhere in North London sometime between Jan 1872 and June 1875, though they could of course have married anytime before George's death in 1906 or indeed never. The point of this digression is that I suppose she could have been imprisoned under her "married" name of Daniels or her maiden name of Taplin.

Help with finding the reason for her confinement would be welcomed. As a subsidiary, so would help with locating their marriage, assuming it ever happened.
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby sdup26 » Tue Sep 20, 2016 5:44 pm

Does the birth certificate give his father's occupation? Just wondered if father was a prison officer, rather than mother a prisoner.
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:17 pm

Between them, Ancestry and FindMyPast have a lot of legal records, so basic question number 1 is - where have you looked so far?

The next point is that I'm having difficulty in working out just what HM Prison Westminster actually was. Now locals may think I'm dreadfully ignorant but I actually can't see that particular name in common use.

Tothill Fields Prison was apparently also known as Westminster Bridewell but had closed by 1877, inmates transferring to Millbank. isn't wholly clear either, suggesting that it was a military prison at this time - maybe it means part military. It closed in its turn later.

Because of this apparent absence of the usage of the name, let me just make a daft suggestion - do we know for certain that this was HM Prison? Could it possibly have been HM Palace of Westminster? Though why a child would be born there, I have even less idea.

Feel free to ignore that last idea...

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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby JaneyH » Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:17 pm

Speaking as someone who works at the Palace of Westminster I think it highly unlikely that a birth could be registered there. People are certainly not 'allowed' to die there (they would be taken across the river to St. Thomas' Hospital before being certified dead). There is, famously, a prison cell at the base of the Clock Tower (Big Ben) but again I think it highly unlikely a woman in labour would have been incarcerated there.

Millbank and Tothill Fields (presumably what is now Tothill Street) are a mere stone's throw away from the Palace and indeed Westminster Abbey, so may well have been referred to colloquially as HMP Westminster.

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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby MoVidger » Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:30 pm

In case you haven't checked it yet, try to see if it has an entry for your Mary Ann.
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:58 pm

Having done a Google from my laptop, where it's easier to input tighter queries, I searched on "HM Prison Westminster" and did get references to it. Funnily enough - all(?) with "X was born here" queries. And at least one of those was for 1880!

Assuming that HMP really was HM Prison (as seems reasonable!) then Ancestry has legal stuff - I had to input the names on the Search All and filter down to category "Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal" - I failed to be able to start from there. Maybe finger trouble, dunno.

There are a couple of candidates named Mary Ann Daniels - one convicted at the Old Bailey of receiving stolen trousers. She's also on which contains the Old Bailey proceedings so is the 2nd major place you should look.

FindMyPast has further criminal records - slightly more than Ancestry - in Institutions & Organisations. Again, a couple of candidates including the same trouser fence.

You're going to have to sort out if any of those look like yours.

I'm still a touch perplexed by the whole thing though. The dates don't work with Tothill (but Wikipedia could be missing something) and why rename Millbank to Westminster? (unless it's one of those things where registrars rename the place to avoid making it too obvious where someone was born).
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby ianbee » Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:43 pm

Plenty of references in the newspapers of this time to Westminster Prison, and some to Her Majesty's Prison, Westminster.
Chief wardress was Ann Wiltshire
Also referred to as Tothill Fields Prison, or the House of Correction, Westminster.
From 1850 this prison was for women or boys only
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Sep 20, 2016 9:37 pm

Yes, thanks Ian. That Wikipedia article must be wrong or badly worded.

Western Daily Press 12 November 1881 refers to a reduction in the amount of oakum picking "in the prison at Westminster".

Portsmouth Evening News 01 August 1883 says "the prison at Westminster shall be discontinued on or after October 31".

Pall Mall Gazette 17 August 1883 refers to a proposed sale of "the female prison at Westminster". A Cardinal was one of a group of people proposing to buy the site, which leads into ....

St James' Gazette 15 April 1884 says "The old building known as Tothill Fields prison ... is rapidly disappearing to make room for the new Roman Catholic Cathedral".

The reference to oakum picking makes it pretty clear that Tothill Fields, aka Westminster prison, was still in use in 1881 and probably through to 1883.
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby brunes08 » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:14 am

Re: AdrianB38's comment about Wikipedia. There are no guarantees as to the accuracy of all the contents - students are advised not to use it for course work etc. Anyone can add or alter material. I never take what it contains as correct but it can be a useful starting point as often there are references that could be followed up.
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Re: HMP Westminster

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Sep 21, 2016 9:26 am

Totally agree about there being no guarantees about Wikipedia content - but that also applies to books by professionals. I was amused to read an analysis of articles about the history of Burgundy. Virtually all treated Burgundy as just being a part of France. Only 2(?) had the full history showing that the realm of Burgundy was quite separate for a huge period. One of those articles was the one on the much maligned Wikipedia.

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