Doing Time In The Clink: A Guide To The Original London Gaol

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The Clink in London is so old, the medieval gaol is now another word for prison. You can throw yourself “in the clink” any time you want as it is now a fantastic tourist attraction.

Ghostly figure at The Clink (or a strange photo - you decide!)

A few months back I visited The Clink in Southwark. Paying £7 I was able to go where for hundreds of years, poor wretches did everything to keep themselves out from – the worse prison imaginable.

There has been a prison on and around the site of The Clink in South London for more than 1000 years.
The Clink Prison Museum, on aptly named Clink Street, was built upon the original site of the Clink Prison. The Prison dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest.

Ever since the Bishop of Winchester discovered he could make such cash locking up poor blighters, the notorious Clink Prison was used to control the Southbank of London known as “The Liberty of The Clink”. (The prison was burnt down in 1780 and never rebuilt.)

The Scold's Bridle
The Scold’s Bridle, seen here at The Clink, was used as a punishment device for primarily women, who were rude, argumentative or “who spoke their mind”.

This area surrounding The Clink housed much of London’s entertainment establishments including four theatres, bull-baiting, bear-baiting, inns and many other darker entertainments. This, of course, was the area frequented by William Shakespeare and is known to have visited The Clink (for what reason I do not know.)

Like most prisons in olden times, only prisoners with money could treated humanely, ie. got food and bedding. Those without, were treated no better than dogs – inhumanely-treated dogs, at that. As such, the museum is filled with wonderfully barbaric torture devices – well worth the price of admission to see!

The Clink Prison Museum isn’t the biggest tourist site you can visit in London and in fact, it doesn’t take too long to get around it.

The torture exhibits are fun and gruesome and you can try some out (to a point) to see what the poor inmates had to endure in less-enlightened days. Visitors can see and hear the amazing stories of the inmates and the notorious Southbank.

Interestingly, the day I there, I took a photograph with my sister standing next to one of the staff dressed in costume. When I returned home, I discovered the photograph was rather strange – it looked like the staff member was actually two-dimensional, where as my sister was definitely in 3D!

What this means I don’t know, but with such terrible pain and suffering having happened on the site for almost a millennium, The Clink must be a good candidate for being one very haunted house!


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