The first King's Bench Prison in Borough High Street, Southwark, was demolished in 1754. The rebuilt prison was mainly used for debtors or for people been convicted of libel. On 10th May, 1768, the prison was the scene of a riot after John Wilkes had been imprisoned for writing an article for the The North Briton, that severely criticised George III. Five people were killed during the riot that afterwards became known as the Massacre of St. George's Fields. King's Bench was a much hated prison and had a reputation for being filthy and overcrowded that often resulted in outbreaks of typhus fever.
King's Bench Prison was a profit making institution until it came under the control of the Home Office in 1877. Prisoners had to pay the marshall and his gaolers for their keep. By paying a large sum prisoners could serve their sentence within a three mile radius outside the prison walls. Prisoners also had to pay a release fee at the end of their sentence and if they could not afford it they had to remain in prison.
The walls of this prison are very high, and all prospect, beyond them is excluded, even to the uppermost windows. The building, which is constructed of brick, is very extensive; and the marshall, who has the keeping of the prison, has very handsome apartments on the outside. Prisoners, such as are able to purchase their liberties, may have the benefit of walking through a part of a borough and in St. George's Fields.