The Clink Prison Museum recreates the prison and its raucous environs on its original site.
Most of Southwark was once known as the 'Liberty of the Clink', and was owned by the Bishops of Winchester. Prostitution and bear baiting were rife, with the former becoming known as the 'Winchester Geese'. The Clink Prison, built adjoining the Bishop's Palace, was used to incarcerate those who stepped out of line. The area had many well known patrons, of which William Shakespeare, King Henry VIII, Sir Francis Drake and Geoffrey Chaucer are but a few examples.
The Clink Prison Museum is built on the original site of the prison, and has recreated the conditions providing a fascinating historical account. It dates back to 1144, making it one of England’s oldest prisons. The inmates were ill-treated, and paid their gaolers for luxuries such as lighter chains (or none at all), were overcharged for food, and often ran businesses such as brothels from the prison with their gaolers taking the profits. It was in use from the 12th century until 1780 either deriving its name from, or bestowing it on, the local manor, the Clink Liberty. In 1450, rioters protesting against the Statute of Labourers raided Winchester House, attacking clerks, and releasing prisoners before burning down the prison. It was rebuilt, but in the 1700s, due to high upkeep costs, it housed many less people. It was burned down again in 1780 by the Gordon Rioters, an anti-Catholic group, and it was never rebuilt. Nevertheless, parts of the Great Hall have survived, including the famous Rose Arch Window.
The Clink Prison
1 Clink St, London SE1 9DG
July-September: Every day, 10.00-21.00.
October- June: Monday-Friday, 10.00 - 18.00; Weekends 10.00-19.30. Last admissions 30 minutes before closing time.