Clerkenwell Prison

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Clerkenwell (old) Prison
Clerkenwell prison, London, during visiting hours.JPG
Visiting time at the House of Detention, 1862
Location St. James's Walk, Clerkenwell, London, England
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Status Closed
Capacity 240[1]
Population 109[1] (as of 1849[1])
Opened c1820[1]
Notable prisoners
Richard Burke

Clerkenwell (old) Prison, also known as the Clerkenwell House of Detention or Middlesex House of Detention was a prison in Clerkenwell, London. It held prisoners awaiting trial.[2]

It stood on Bowling Green Lane conveniently close to the Middlesex Sessions House, where prisoners would be tried, on Clerkenwell Green to the south.


The House of Detention was built on the site of two earlier prisons, the Clerkenwell Bridewell for convicted prisoners and the New Prison for those awaiting trial. The Bridewell closed in 1794 and its functions were taken over by the Coldbath Fields Prison at Mount Pleasant. The New Prison was rebuilt in 1818 and in 1847, at which time its name changed to the House of Detention.

On 13 December 1867 its exercise yard was the target of a gunpowder explosion instigated by members of the Fenian Society in an attempt to aid the escape of Richard Burke, an arms supplier to the Fenians.[3] The blast killed twelve bystanders and wounded 120 in Corporation Row; some of those responsible were executed, with ringleader Michael Barrett the last person to be publicly executed outside Newgate Prison.[4] The event became known as the Clerkenwell Outrage.

It was demolished in 1890. The site is occupied by the Hugh Myddleton School building, now converted into flats. The vaults beneath, now known as the Clerkenwell Catacombs remained however. They were reopened as air-raid shelters during the Blitz, and can still be accessed via an entrance on Clerkenwell Close. For a few years the vaults were open as a tourist attraction. Various movies have been filmed in the catacombs.[5]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3
  2. "CLERKENWELL HOUSE OF CORRECTION", The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, London (816): 204, 31 March 1877<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "FENIANISM—THE ATTACK ON CLERKENWELL PRISON.—QUESTION". Hansard. London, England: HMSO: 1215. 1868-03-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>