The Debtors' Prison at St Briavel Castle, c. 1858 - Credit: Henry Nicholls
Debtors’ prisons were a common way of dealing with debtors until the Debtors’ Act of 1869
which abolished them. Notoriously unpleasant, the prisons forced inmates to pay for their keep which often meant they could be incarcerated for years – unable to work to pay off their original debts and racking up even more the longer they stayed in prison. Charles Dickens
’ father spent a period in Marshalsea
; hence the debtors’ prison becoming a recurring motif in Dickens’ literature.