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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Compter \Compt"er\, n. A counter. [Obs.]
--Shak. [1913 Webster] ||


n. 1 (context obsolete English) A counter. (gloss-stub: en) 2 (context historical English) A prison attached to a city court; a counter.


A compter, sometimes referred to as a counter, was a type of small English prison controlled by a sheriff. The inmates were usually civil prisoners, for example dissenters and debtors. Examples of compters include London's Wood Street Counter, Poultry Compter, Giltspur Street Compter and Borough Compter and the lock-up over the Abbey Gateway, next to St Laurence's church, in Reading, Berkshire (this was the Compter Gate and the lock-up was known as the Compter).

The Compter's Commonwealth (1617), by William Fennor, was a work written from the author's experience of imprisonment at London's Wood Street compter, and is regarded by many historians as one of the principal primary sources for assessment of English 16th century prison conditions.

Category:Penal imprisonment Category:Penology Category:Prisons in the United Kingdom Category:Debtors' prisons

Usage examples of "compter".

His plan and application have been preserved in the Sloane collection of manuscripts, and his last application is dated in the latter part of the year 1716, from Wood-street Compter, where he was then confined for debt.

Wood Street Compter for refusing to pay certain small sums of money due from him towards furnishing soldiers and armour.

The scream, too, came from a fair owner, who was surrounded by clamorous carmen and city marshals, and who, in an unknown land, was afraid she might be put in a city compter, because the people in the city had destroyed her beautiful chariot.

She recognised the Poultry Compter with its grim entrance and wondered whether the coach would go straight on to Cornhill and then turn northward towards Finsbury Fields, or southward to London Bridge.

Just before his death he granted a general pardon and paid the debts of prisoners committed to the compters of London and to Ludgate for debts amounting to forty shillings or less.

Compter drove along aisleways and up a spiral ramp to out­ door sunlight.

Vous les assurerez que le roi prend un interet veritable a leurs personnes comme a leur cause, et qu'ils peuvent compter sur sa protection.