Wellclose Square is nothing to look at today, dominated as it is by regulation-ugly blocks of council flats, but it was once the smartest address in the East End, the residence of silk traders and sea captains. The square was laid out in 1678 by Christopher Wren as part of his grand design for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.
Fleet Prison, so-called because it was located close to the River Fleet, was located just outside the medieval city walls, and is first recorded in the twelfth century. This building was burned down during the Peasant’s Revolt and its replacement was destroyed during the Great Fire.
More than half a century on, though Sixties London may conjure up ideas of hedonism, rebellion and freedom, there was always a darker side to it. Death came for some, like Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones, while others, like Syd Barrett and Peter Green lost their minds through drugs. And yet it was an accidental death more than any other tragedy that symbolized the decade’s sense of Et in Arcadia ego.
The Tower of London has held a number of notable prisoners, among them Sir Walter Raleigh, Samuel Pepys, and Anne Boleyn. A lesser known prisoner was Chidiock Tichborne, the author of our next poem, who achieved his fame not as a poet but as a member of a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and enthrone Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, in her place.