Point of Interest

The Clink Prison Museum

England / Europe

The Clink Prison was one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. It existed for over 600 years in Southwark, an area long associated with crime and raucous behaviour. In the design of his waterfront Winchester Palace, Henry of Blois included two single sex prisons in the Palaces’ grounds with the project completed in 1144. During the 14th century, the term ‘Clink’ became attached to the Prison. Some research suggests that the sound of the blacksmiths hammer closing the irons around the wrists or ankles of the prisoners was a clink noise and was thus associated with the Prison. Others argue that it comes from the Flemish word ‘klink’ meaning latch (in reference to the latch on the prison door). Whatever the reason the jail became known as the Clink Prison, coining the popular phrase ‘in The Clink’ referring to someone being in jail. Significant historical figures imprisoned in The Clink include Sir Thomas Wyatt The Younger (whom rebelled against Queen Mary I) and John Rogers (whom translated the Bible from Latin to English during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary I). The prison experienced many physically damaging rebellions. In 1780 Lord George Gordon instructed the Protestant Association to break in to the Clink, release all the inmates and burn the prison to the ground in revolt against the favours granted upon Catholics during the Papists Act. He succeeded, and the prison was never rebuilt and the prisoners never recaptured. The Prison Museum built on the site of The Clink tells the story of the history of the prison through artefacts, torture devices (torture was a prominent feature of The Clink) and even the preservation of a wall from the original prison. 

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