Some time ago I was returning from the Middle East and decided to spend a week in London on the way home. I had no real plans, just find a room to crash in and spend the day wandering around and looking at the town. I actually found a room that was all of eight feet by six feet, but it also had a bathroom which I thought was nice of them. I had to stand on the toilet in order to close the door so I could get in the shower but still it was a nice touch. But I digress.
I don’t take a lot of tours; instead I just decide what looks fun or interesting and do it. I decided to buy a day pass for the tube, for Americans that is the subway. I would usually just look at the little map they give you for the stops see a familiar name, get off wander around, get back on and go somewhere else.
Now for those that have never been to London, a lot of the must see sights are on one side of the Thames River like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and so on. I spent a good amount of time looking at everything there. One day however I decided to go to the other side.
As I was sightseeing from pub to pub, hey you gotta have hobbies, I came upon The Clink Museum. There was a guy outside dressed like he belonged in a bad Shakespeare play handing out brochures so I thought why the hell not.
The Museum is on the same location as the actual prison which was in operation from 1144 to 1780. The prison started out as part of the Manor of the Bishop of Winchester and used to house thieves, prostitutes and other riff raff. Ironically the prostitutes worked in brothels regulated by the clergy who could hand out punishments. So it became a real money maker for the Bishops. Therefore the Clink was the first real women’s prison.
The Museum isn’t that big. It is in a basement of an old building. The real prison was burnt down twice by rioters. Once in 1450 rioters protesting against the Statute of Laborers raided the house of Winchester, killed some of the clerics, released a bunch of prisoners and burnt the prison down. The prison was burnt down again during the Gordon riots in 1780 and was never rebuilt.
After the first fire the prison was rebuilt by King Henry VIII. The King directed the Bishops to start putting clergy in prison that had committed adultery, incest and other lewd acts. Times were different then or maybe not. The King also decreed women boiled in oil for killing their husbands. I guess there must have been an epidemic of husband killers.
The Museum itself is interesting. There are some exhibits, artifacts and such. It’s a good way to spend a little time and see what old London was like, at least the seedy side of it.
Okay now for the name. The Clink prison was used to control the Southbank of London at the time known as “The Liberty of the Clink”. I don’t know why and didn’t care to look it up. Since this was one of the oldest if not the first prison in England, other prisons that sprang up in the area were also known as “The Clink”. So now you know where the name comes from.