Saturday, 14 January 2017

Liverpool One Bridewell

"Bridewell" is a mid 16th century term for a petty offender’s prison and it was named after St. Bride’s Well, in the City of London, which was near such a building.

When Henry VIII's Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire, Cardinal Wolsey offered him the use of St. Bride’s Well Palace, his bishop’s palace built near modern-day Fleet Street. The king accepted. All was well until the Cardinal decreed that only the Vatican could rule on the issue of annulling Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (his first wife whom he was trying to dump in favour of Ann Boleyn). Henry, and his court, left the bishop’s palace in a fit of anger and it fell into disrepair and disrepute.   Over time the Saint part of the name was dropped and the buildings became a prison.   Subsequently any police station with cells could be called a bridewell but the term has largely fallen out of use.

At one time Liverpool had ten bridewells and the Liverpool One Bridewell features in the recently published book "111 places in Liverpool that should not be missed".  Sadly, if you haven't been there yet you have missed it because the restaurant which occupied it has closed down.

The Bridewell in the 1960s.  

At one time the bridewell had a career as a recording studio and groups like Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the La's played there.

More recently the building became a restaurant and you entered the courtyard behind the blank brick wall to find it occupied by outside tables.

Inside you were guided from the bar down a narrow dark corridor off which the cells had been made into little dining spaces with barred windows.

Upstairs were the officers' quarters as the policemen lived on site and the rooms had larger windows.  This space was made into a large function room.

On one of his visits to Liverpool, Charles Dickens enrolled as a special constable for a night and toured the docklands and Liverpool's less salubrious areas with the Superintendent of Police.  He is alleged to have been accommodated in the Bridewell overnight.

Despite the notice suggesting it was now open 8 days a week (well almost). the Liverpool One Bridewell closed down in 2016 and the building resumed the look it had in the 1960s shot above.  It awaits a new owner and a new enterprise.


  1. Thank you for explaining about the term bridewell, that was interesting!
    Not sure I would have liked dining in what used to be a prison cell, facing barred windows. Some people enjoyed the thrill, I guess.
    It seems a shame nobody has snapped up the building yet for a new purpose, I hope it does not stay unused for long.

  2. Fascinating stuff! I am surprised that the fire code allows barred windows on a public dining facility, though. I love seeing old buildings repurposed, churches that people live in, prisons turned to pubs, etc. Great post!

  3. So sorry the restaurant didn't survive. It's a tough business to be in. Also, thanks for the history lesson!

  4. I've never been in the Liverpool One Bridewell although I was a number of times (professionally you understand) in the Main Bridewell in Cheapside. I didn't know the history of the name though.


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