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A prison is a grave to bury men alive…
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“A prison is a grave to bury men alive… it is a microcosm, a little world of woe, it is a map of misery… It is a place that hath more diseases predominant than the Pest-house in the Plague time, and it stinks more than the Lord Mayors dogge-house, or Paris Garden in August…”

The Clink was established in 1144, making it one of the earlier, if not the earliest, of all prisons in England. The Clink was the first of six prisons in Southwark, owned and controlled by the Bishop of Winchester. It was located within the palace walls and served as the bishop’s private gaol.


A prison is a grave to bury men alive…



During The Clink’s remarkable span of over 600 years, it held a variety of offenders: debtors, heretics, drunks and harlots. It held Catholics accused of complicity in the Babington and Gunpowder Plots and Protestants that went on to become Pilgrim Fathers, the first white settlers in America. The Clink endured until 1780 when it was burnt to the ground by Protestants during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots.

Southwark was something of a prison quarter and The Clink is certainly its most famous gaol, and that which gave its name to all others. Other notorious Southwark prisons were The King’s Bench on Angel Place, a major debtors prison; The Marshalsea, Borough High Street, a national prison, second to the Tower of London; The County Gaol, Horsemonger Lane, with the gallows on the roof; and the Borough Gaol, containing the poorest of debtors, which was so small that it was part of The White Lion Inn.


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