Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bastille n.

also bastile
[Fr. bastille, a fortified tower, and esp. the main Paris prison, built in 14C, the destruction of which in 1789 triggered the French Revolution; note Bastille by the Bay, coined by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen for San Quentin prison]

1. Coldbath Fields prison in London.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 226: bastile: generally called, for shortness, the Steel; a cant name for the House of Correction, Cold-Bath-Fields, London.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 7: Bastille — Coldbath-fields Prison received this name, 1796, by reason of the close seclusion of its inmates; a discipline resembling that of the original Bastille recently destroyed near Paris.
[UK]J. Grant Sketches in London 246: The case of the man who had been upwards of forty years a prisoner in the Bastile.
[UK]G.L. Chesterton Revelations of Prison Life I 19: So to decry the monstrosities of Cold Bath Fields [that] secured for that prison the name of the ‘Bastile’ .

2. (also basteel) a workhouse.

[UK] ‘Song on the Times’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 71: If starving, you should ask relief, you’re sent to a Whig bastille.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 296: Ruined, sir! — beggared! — nothing left for me but the onion — the bastille!
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 71: Bastile the workhouse. General term for ‘the Union’ amongst the lower orders of the North. Formerly used to denote a prison, or ‘lock-up;’ but its abbreviated form, steel, is now the favourite expression with the lower orders.
[UK]‘A Political Litany’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 77: Paupers, whose treatment in the Whig Bastiles, or union-houses, were likened unto swine.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 1 Apr. 7/4: I had never been in a ‘bastille’ (workhouse) for a night’s doss.
‘John Law’ In Darkest London 247: But for her four shillings we’d all been in the Bastille long before this [...] You see she was born on the workhouse doorstep, for they wouldn’t take me in until I was ill, and then I fainted at the door of the Bastille.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 21/1: Bastile (Street, 18 cent. on). Any place of detention, but generally a prison or a workhouse.

3. a tramps’ lodging house.

[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 7: Some derisive couplets relative to the Great Spitalfields Lodging-House, which is styled a ‘Bastile.’.

4. (US) any prison.

see sense 2.
[UK](con. 1800s) Leeds Times 7 May 6/6: [James Hardy] Vaux tried to give them the rush, to use a thieves’ phrase, but was over-powered [and] secured, and, after a short detention [...] committed to the ‘Bastille,’ as the house of correction was called.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 283: The old Bastille, and its painful memories, were revived in American speech when the term was applied to the secret military imprisonment of suspected sympathizers with the South.
[US]Dodge City (KS) Times 2 Dec. in Miller & Snell Why the West was Wild 403: Imprison him for life in the bastile on a bread and water diet.
[US]A.F. Pinkerton Dyke Darrel 78: I’m pretty much broke up since I came out of the bastile.
[US]Coconino Sun (AZ) 4 Nov. 3/2: We had better take ’em right into town and put ’em into the bastile there.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Get Next 27: A Reub constable pinched him [...] and threw him in a rural Bastile for the night.
[US]Van Loan ‘Phantom League’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 178: He is now confined in the Bastile until such time as he ceases to see herds of red, white, and blue elephants.
[US]B. Hecht A Thousand and One Afternoons [ebook] A violation of section 2012 of the City Code. Thirty days in the Bastile, Fanny.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 173: The next morning the beak sent him to the bastille for thirty days.
[UK]L. Duncan Over the Wall 351: I’ll bet the big birds running this bastile will be plenty rough on us two guys from now on.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Coffin for a Coward’ in Hollywood Detective Dec. 🌐 You realized this would ruin him as a movie star, put him in a federal bastile.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 281: Remember that night you drove me home from the City Bastille?
[UK]J. Carstairs Concrete Kimono 161: I [...] was removed once more in the jeep, this time en route for the local Bastille.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 18: Next stop is San Quentin . . . the Bastille by the Bay.

5. a police station.

[US]J. Archibald ‘Dying to See Willie’ in Popular Detective Mar. 🌐 The president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency left the bastile a few moments later.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 96: He demanded that Hungry take him to the police station. Well, Hungry obliged—without switching the meter off, of course. At the Bastille the lollipop said the fare must pay the price showing on the meter.