Definition of bridewell in US English:



  • A prison for petty offenders such as a reform school.

    • ‘They were hauled off to the barracks, spent the night in the bridewell, and the next day were convicted.’
    • ‘In the 17th century, bridewells and reformatory institutions started to appear.’
    • ‘With the advent of bridewells, convicts begin to inhabit separate punitive institutions for the first time.’
    • ‘The new Board assumed responsibility for 38 local county prisons, 96 bridewells and four convict prisons.’
    • ‘In many gaols, and in most bridewells, there is no allowance of bedding or straw for prisoners to sleep on.’
    prison, penal institution, place of detention, lock-up, place of confinement, guardhouse, correctional facility, detention centre
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Mid 16th century: named after St Bride's Well in the City of London, near which such a building stood.