The Clink Prison Museum is built on the site of the original Clink Prison. The purpose of the Clink Prison, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, was to deal with the ‘goings-on’ in the area. Southbank was known for theatres, bull-baiting, bear-baiting, inns and other less salubrious entertainment. The area was nicknamed ‘The Liberty of The Clink’.
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The Bishop owned Winchester House, one of a huge complex of buildings on the site. Work was completed on the buildings in 1144. The Clink Prison was only a small area. Parts of his great hall are still standing, the most famous of which is the Rose arch window (EH).
The private prison had a small amount of funds from the Bishop, but prisoners would need to depend on family connections in order not to starve to death. Unfortunately the prison keeper would siphon off some of the funds given by families for his own coffers. The prison has links to the Gunpowder Plot, Babbington Plot and other major historical events. When you visit you can have a hands-on experience with original artefacts. Visitors can also hear stories of the inmates and learn about the once infamous Southbank area.
The hole was a cellar where some prisoners were thrown, then forgotten. It flooded when the Thames was at high tide subjecting the inmate to raw sewage (as did most of the prison). After a time in this hole a prisoner’s flesh would become so waterlogged it would fall off the bone. Various punishments including instruments of torture are on display in the museum.
Many visitors say they have heard and seen a variety of strange happenings at the site-- from people walking through walls, dogs running through the museum and other odd and unexplainable events. There have been more than fifty reports of a lady sitting playing with chains in one corner of the museum. Previous paranormal investigators have found the site to be very active with a variety of things happening from glasses smashing, lights turning on and off, doors opening and closing and other strange unexplained events.
There is a data base of prisoners who served time at the prison.
Clink Prison Museum
1 Clink St, Southwark, London, SE1 9DG
Tel. 020 7403 0900
Open: Oct-June, Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, Sat and Sun until 7.30pm; July-Sep, daily, 10am-7.30pm; last admission 30 minutes before closing
Web: The Clink
Photos © by Barbara Ballard