Clink Street Prison.
A short history.
Clink Street Prison is a little known prison which was situated in Southwark, London.
This was the most notorious prison of its time. A frightening place inhabited by some of the worst criminals in the southern part of England.
The prison functioned from the 12th century until about 1780 or thereabouts. It is difficult to try and work out where the name of the prison derived from. It is thought that it came from the local manor, the clink liberty; but the records show very little detail about the name.
The manor and the prison was owned by the Bishop of Winchester and situated next to his residence at Winchester Palace. The Clink was possibly the oldest men’s prison and also probably the oldest women’s prison in England.
The origins of the name ‘The Clink’ are uncertain, but it is possibly onomatopoeic and derives from the sound of striking metal as the prison doors were bolted, or maybe the rattling of the chains the prisoners had to wear. The name has become slang as a generic term for prison or a gaol cell.
There has been a prison owned by the Bishop of Winchester in one form or another since the year 860, although at that time it would only have been one cell in a priest’s college. By 1076 an Archbishop had listed the types of punishment allowed, scourging with rods, solitary confinement and bread and water in silence possibly.
Chapel and mansion
The building of a chapel and mansion at Southwark was begun in 1107 by the Bishop of Winchester, but not completed until 1144, by his successor. There were two prisons included, one for the men and the other for women. It would have been a good source of income for the bishop, as it was about this time that the brothels were regulated, bringing in plenty of fines and customers. The Brothels were closed, reopened, moved and used throughout the life of the Clink, bringing in prisoners at a fairly steady rate. By 1180 the land was owned outright by the clink prison.
The prisoners were often ill treated although those with money and friends on the outside were able to pay the gaolers to make their time ‘inside’ a little better. As the gaolers were very poorly paid, they found other ways to supplement their miserly income. They hired out rooms, beds, bedding, candles and fuel to those who could afford to pay for them. Food and drink were charged at twice the correct price. They accepted payments for fitting lighter irons and at times, for removing them altogether. Then, for a fee, prisoners would be allowed outside to beg for money and when they could to work to earn a little money. Madams were allowed to keep a brothel going, with payments being made to the gaolers. Poorer prisoners had to beg at the grates that led up to the street level and to sell anything they had brought in with them; that included such things as their clothes, just to pay for their food.
In 1540, rioters protesting the ‘Stature of Labourers’ and raided Winchester House. Classing clerics as tax collectors, they murdered them and then released the prisoners from the Clink before burning the building down. The rebellion was soon put down and Winchester House was rebuilt and in fact, extended, including a larger brand new prison.
Originally most of the prisoners had been those who had broken the rules of the Liberty, but by the 16th Century, it had become largely a prison for heretics who held contrary views to the bishops. John Blandford and John Hooper were amongst the inmates. In later years it became a debtor’s prison.
The decline of the prison.
In 1649 Winchester House was sold to a property developer and was divided up and into shops, tenements and ‘Dye Houses.’
The ‘Cage’ was removed temporary as taxpayers had complained about the cost of the upkeep, but the whipping post was still very busy. By 1707 both of these as well as ‘The stocks’ were all unused because of the upkeep of them, and by 1732 there were only two registered inmates.
In 1745 a temporary prison was used, as the ‘Clink’ by this time was too decayed to use, although, by 1776, the prison was again taking in debtors. It was finally burned down in 1780 by ‘Gordon rioters,’ and never rebuilt.
Today there is ‘The Clink Museum’ on the original site at the South Bank of London. The Clink Prison Museum tries to recreate the conditions of the original conditions of the prison.
Father John Gerard, S. J. – 1595.
‘The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said that I would try them all. Then they asked me again whether I would confess. “I cannot,” I said.’
Father George Blackwell; 1607 – 1613.
Matthew Wilson alias Edward Knott a Jesuit author. 1629 – 1633.
Annie Askew nee Anne Ayscough or Ascue.
Married name being Ann Kyme who was born in Lincolnshire in 1521. Her father William Askew was a wealthy landowner. He was a gentleman of the court of King Henry VIII, as well as a juror in the trial of Anne Boleyn’s co-accused. William had arranged that his eldest daughter, Martha, be married to Thomas Kyme. In 1536 when Anne was 15 years old, Martha died. It was then that William decided that Anne would take Martha’s place in the marriage to Thomas.
Anne was an avid Protestant, she studied the Bible and could also memorise a number of verses when asked to do so. She was very true to her beliefs, in fact for all her life. Unfortunately, Thomas was a catholic, which resulted in a brutal marriage between Anne and Thomas. Anne had two children by Thomas before he eventually threw her out of the house for being a Protestant. It is said that Anne was seeking to divorce him anyway and so being kicked out didn’t particularly upset her.
After being thrown out of her home she moved to London, here she met other Protestants and studied the Bible even more. Anne stuck to her last name Askew, rather than change it her husband’s name. While she was in London she became a ‘gospeler’ or ‘preacher.’
In March 1545, Thomas had Anne arrested. She was brought back to Lincolnshire, where Thomas demanded her to stay. The order was short lived; she escaped and returned to London to continue preaching. In 1546 she was arrested again, but then released. In May 1546 she was again arrested, taken to the Tower of London where she was tortured. (She is the only woman ever recorded as having being tortured at the Tower of London.) She was then ordered to give up like minded women, but she refused. The torturers, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and Sir Richard Rich, used the rack, which stretches the victim by the limbs and eventually causing dislocation. Anne refused to alter her beliefs although she was suffering tremendous pain. On the 18th June 1546, Anne was convicted of ‘heresy,’ and was condemned to be burned to death at the stake.
On the 16th July 1546, Anne was martyred in Smithfield, London. Due to the torture that she endured, Anne had to be carried to the stake on a chair. She burned to death along with three Protestant, namely John Lassells, John Hemley (who was a priest) and John Hadlam (a tailor.)
Background on 1546.
In the last year of Henry VII’ reign, Anne was caught up in a court struggle between religious traditionalists and reformers, Stephen Gardiner was telling the king that diplomacy – the prospect of an alliance with the Catholic Emperor Charles V – required a halt to religious reform. The rationalist party perused tactics tried out three years before which resulted in the arrests of minor Evangelists in the hope that they would implicate those who were more highly placed. In this case measures were taken that were ‘legally bizarre and quite clearly desperate.’ The people who were rounded up were in many cases strongly inked to Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent most of his time absent from his court in Kent: Anne’s brother, Edward Ayscough was one of his servants, and Nicholas Shaxton who was brought in to put pressure on Anne to recant was actually acting for as a curate for Cranmer at Hadleigh. Others in Cranmer’s circle who were arrested were Rowland Taylor and Richard Turner.
The traditionalist party included Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich who had tortured Anne in the Tower of London. Edmund Bonner and Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The intention of her interrogators may have been to implicate the Queen, Catherine Parr, through the ladies in waiting and also close friends, who were suspected of having also harboured protestant beliefs. These ladies included the Queen’s sister, Anne Parr, Katherine Willoughby, Anne Stanhope and Anne Calthorpe. Other targets were lady Denny and lady Hertford, wives of evangelists at the Royal Court.
1 Clink Street, London United KingdomSE1 9DG Show me Clink Prison Museum on a map | vCardNearest tube station: London Bridge (448 yards)
Tel: (020) 7403 6515
Fax: 020 7403 5813
Open: Daily 10am-6pm (summer 10am-9pm)