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Bridewell, my Penance, my Pain

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Aslin nee 8ball

Bridewell, my Penance, my Pain. Part 1

Bridewell....my god, what had I done. I was so sure of myself. When my husband had died, I thought that I could still survive with my dress shop. But soon the debts my husband owed started to come due. He had wooed me into loving him in such a short time. Maybe it was because it looked like I had some money. Maybe that’s what he thought 9 months ago when we were wed. When he was killed in the carriage accident, I was left holding his debts. Debts that I didn’t even know existed. His creditors came at me like banshees. They cared little that I was unaware of his financial situation, only the I was his wife, and I was his sole heir. His financial hardship became mine.

His debts were so large that I lost all I had to his creditors. My dress shop, my meager home and all its furnishings, our horse and carriage, and all of my personal belongings. I was left with only the dress on my body. Nothing else. But it wasn’t enough. More debtors came, demanding payment. The judge who was ready to cast me out onto the streets, changed his judgement. My creditors demanded their piece of flesh. One of the newest creditors to come forward was a man I knew. A man who had made rude and suggestive advances to me a number of times. Advances I had spurned with fury. The last time I had seen him had been months before I had married. I had publicly embarrassed him, slapping his face, in front of his friends.

I could see this vile man smirking in the gallery as the judge passed sentence. Because my means were insufficient to meet the needs of my creditors he sentenced me to no less than four years in Bridewell Prison workhouse. In light of the fact that I had shown such cheekiness by not accepting the debts of my late husband as my own, he additionally sentenced me to a public welcome of 40 lashes, I was to be stripped naked and take 40 of the best with a prison strap on my bare back and buttocks. Further public punishments due to behavior issues were at the discretion of the prison staff, as well as the farewell at the end of my sentence.
He reminded the creditors that the welcome whipping was open to the public as well as any additional punishments I would accumulate. I shuddered as I thought of the vial man I had spurned, seeing me naked and punished. He smiled at me wickedly, undressing me with his eyes. Unbeknownst to me, he had friends in the prison. He would have his friends trump up charges of laziness and disobedience so that I would be a part of the quarterly public punishments on a regular basis.

Aslin nee 8ball

Bridewell my Penance, my Pain. Pt 2

I was shackled like a murderess, barely able to shuffle along, the short chain between my gyved ankles attached to the chain linked to my cuffed wrists. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to relieve myself. There was no way I could lift my dress or even try to wipe myself the way I was shackled.
There were five of us in the caged wagon that was taking us to Bridewell Prison Workhouse. I knew little of this place call Bridewell. Sure I understood that it housed criminals and that it’s purpose was to rehabilitate those criminals. I have heard of murderers being sent there. Surely those of us convicted of lesser crimes would be housed separately from such dangerous criminals. My goal was to work hard, follow the rules, and serve my four years as quietly as possible.

The woman chained next to me in the prison wagon was twice my size. Her upper arms were as big around as my waist, her hair was ragged, and her countenance was sour. I kept my head down and tried not to look at her. But she noticed me. “ What’s a fine and fancy girl like you doing headed to Bridewell. Did you miss tea time? Did you get a run in your stockings” she mocked me, much to the amusement of the other prisoners. “ Well answer me girl. Cat got your tongue. I got someplace way better for that tongue. Just cozy on up to Elsbeth, I’ll take care of you Mayhaps we can be bunk mates.” The other women chuckled as I began to shake.

I cringed trying not to lift my head. I could hear the driver yell out. “Open the gate Jack I’ve got a load of women fer ye “ I could see thru the bars on the cart as the heavy door was opened and we entered into a large courtyard. The wagon had to pull off to the side and stop.
The courtyard was filled with people watching as a slight red haired girl was led up the steps of a platform. The driver shouted down to us. “ Well ladies you’ll have to wait to get your pretty prison dresses” he chuckled. “ Looks like its punishment day and we can’t get through. So sit back and enjoy the show. You won’t get your welcomes today but I’m sure you wenches can learn a thing or two about how to scream real pretty when the day comes for you to taste the lash.”

Elsbeth spoke “ He’s right, lucky we are, we’ll have another 2 weeks before punishment day comes around again and we get our welcomes. At least that’s the way it was the last time I was here. Some welcomes are better than others.” She looked at me scornfully “ What did they give you for a welcome , princess? Are they gonna slap your ass with a silk slipper? Tell me now or I’ll tell the guard that you tried to get your hand up my knickers. That will be enough to have him drag up on that stage this very minute to get a real good thrashing.”

I shrunk back further in the corner but I spoke for the first time,
“I ...I...I got sentence to 40 lashes with a prison strap on my back and bottom.” Elsbeth looked surprised “ That’s a heavy dose for your first welcome, girl. They strip you bare for that. Oh the fancy gents that come for punishment day are going to enjoy a pretty thing like you singing and dancing for them. You ever been whipped girl?” I quickly replied “No”. She looked at me and shook her head and chuckled “ This little “virgin to the whip” is gonna be the main attraction come welcome day. With the show she’s gonna put on, ain’t nobody gonna remember the rest of us was even there.”
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The Beast

“virgin to the whip” - a very nice term. I should remeber it to use on a daily basis.

Aslin, It's good that you've introduced other inmates into the story and they have more experience being at Bridewell and aren't very nice to our heroine. I hope we will learn more about their fates and also about the experience they had during their previous stays in the reformatory. Elsbeth promises to be a very interesting character.


Great start, Aslin!
It is very correct that the "welcome" punishment at Bridewell does not follow immediately, but after some time upon arrival.
Also in the original work of Reinhard, the main character (Helen, or Nell) expresses her thoughts and impressions in letters to her boyfriend. This form also could be used here.

Aslin nee 8ball

The letters is a good idea but I feel more comfortable with first person account. I do know some of Bridewell history but I am no expert. I can’t imagine to do the research or have the purpose for writing of the original author. I will do my best to bring the story to life as I imagine it in my mind. I will try to be as historically true as I can and hope people enjoy it.


The letters is a good idea but I feel more comfortable with first person account. I do know some of Bridewell history but I am no expert. I can’t imagine to do the research or have the purpose for writing of the original author. I will do my best to bring the story to life as I imagine it in my mind. I will try to be as historically true as I can and hope people enjoy it.
You have our full confidence, continue your story.

The Beast

I hope, Aslin's story doesn't have that annoying, "crying and whining" writing manner that was in the original Nell and her letters. Those accounts of how the main character suffers inwardly, how she's afraid of her "Welcome", and how everyone sympathizes with her, were impossible to read in large doses. I would have liked to see Elsbeth's character bring a completely different reaction to the punishments and relationships between the inmates.
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