Wood Street Counter

The Wood Street Counter, or Wood Street Compter, was a small prison within the City of London in England. It was primarily a debtors prison, and also held people accused of such misdemeanors as public drunkness, although some wealthier prisoners were able to obtain alcohol through bribery. The prison was built and opened in 1555, replacing the earlier Bread Street Compter, from which many prisoners were transferred.

The Compter was originally one of two prisons, the other, the Poultry Compter, located on the Poultry. Both were destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, although the Poultry Compter was rebuilt, and another compter, Giltspur Street Compter was constructed in 1791.

Among its occupants were Captain George Orrell, the Catholic martyr George Napper, the Sabbatarian dissenter John Traske, the poet Edmund Gayton, a young Jonathan Wild, and highwayman James Hind.

The Wood Street Compter was still active 1727 when The London Gazette (6 July p4) listed 13 insolvent debtors awaiting court on 25 August.

During the closure of the compters, debtors were held in prisons in Southwark, including the Marshalsea and King's Bench Prisons, Borough Compter and Horsemonger Lane Gaol.

Some wine cellars on Mitre Court were marketed as a party venue under the name of "The City Compter" but these appear to date from the mid 18th century; no sign of the prison was found during archaeological investigations of the site of a new office block at One Wood Street.[1]


  1. ^ (PDF) Quarterly Review December 2004-March 2005, Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service, p. 31, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/pdf/2005a_Mar_QUARTERLY_REVIEW.PDF  They refer to the site as 120 Cheapside, although the office block is now known as One Wood Street.

Further reading

  • Harben, Henry Andrade. A Dictionary of London: Being Notes Topographical and Historical Relating to the Streets and Principle Buildings in the City of London. London: H. Jenkins, 1918.

Coordinates: 51°30′55″N 0°5′39″W / 51.51528°N 0.09417°W / 51.51528; -0.09417

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