Southwark’s Clink Jail

Sorry about the gap between posts. Temp job has come up (horray!) but means that I am strapped for time and energy (boo)


Image Not my Own

Image Not my Own

Recently been made aware of a notorious medieval jail in Southwark called the Clink. For the best part of 600 years it was the prison of the Bishop of Winchester who’s palace was next door. It was used as a goal from 1151 until 1780 for both male and female prisoners.

For those fortunate enough to have funds from friends and family life in the Clink was slightly better. Bed, bedding, food, fuel, lighter irons even day release to beg or work could be brought. It was brought at an inflated price with a guaranteed profit for the goalers. For those poor souls with no finance life behind the bars of The Clink was grim, they resorted to begging or selling their clothes through the bars to get food and drink.

There was even a brothel – the money made was given to the greedy and unscrupulous guards. In 1450 the prison was burnt down in poll tax riots as Clerics were considered tax collectors. Prisoners were released and the building burnt to the ground. This was a tempory reprieve the goal and other building were rebuilt.

Through the 17th and 18th century’s the site changed hands and was no longer the property of the church. The other building became various small business such as dyers, shops and tenement housing. Eventually even the stocks were no longer used. The nail in the Clinks coffin was another riot; it was burnt down in 1780 by the Gordon Riotors and never rebuilt. It had over the centuries Decayed and saw as unfit even by 18th century standards.

Due to its link with the bishops palace many of its early prisoners were heretics (both catholic and protestant dependant on who was monarch) but later it became a debtors prison.

The word Clink has become irreverently linked with prison. The site in Southwark is now a museum about the jails history. If you have a strong stomach feel free to visit a grim reminder of the British justice system of the past.

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