The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….
Grose defines this as “a small dark cell in Guildhall, London, where disorderly apprentices are confined by the city chamberlain. It is called Little Ease from its being so low that a lad cannot stand upright in it”. Today, the phrase is perhaps better known for a similar room located underneath the White Tower in the Tower of London, although there’s not a great deal of evidence to show that it was used to hold prisoners.
Walter Thornbury wrote in 1878 about the cells at the Guildhall:
“On brackets to the right and left of the balcony were the gigantic figures of Gog and Magog, as before-mentioned, giving, by their vast size and singular costume, an unique character to the whole. At the sides of the steps, under the hall-keeper’s office, were two dark cells, or cages, in which unruly apprentices were occasionally confined, by order of the City Chamberlain; these were called ‘Little Ease,’ from not being of sufficient height for a big boy to stand upright in them.”
It doesn’t sound ideal….