Time Well Spent in London's Clink Prison
By Sharon Whitley Larsen
"What did you do in London?" several friends inquired about my trip there.
"I went to jail!" I responded.
And I even had a photo of me behind bars to prove it.
While strolling in Southwark near the southern end of London Bridge, my husband Carl and I stumbled upon the Clink Prison Museum, claimed to be "one of England's oldest and most notorious between 1151 and 1780."
"Let's go in!" I said.
Funny that after some three dozen visits to London, my favorite city, I was unaware of this prison and didn't realize it was a popular tourist draw. The original prison building within nearby Winchester Palace walls was burned down (following release of the prisoners) in 1780 by Protestants during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots. This section, on the site of a former men's prison, is open today for self-guided tours at a nominal fee.
The small, quirky jail is a hit with children's field trips, too. Not only educational, it is also entertaining and informative regarding the political, social, and religious climate from medieval times to Tudor and Elizabethan periods -- through the late 18th century.
The dark, dungeon-type atmosphere is chilling, with replicas of former prisoners, various punishment tools, detailed display signs (which are even geared for children with special or humorous "Clink Kids" explanations) and tragic stories of life behind these bars.
Many of these prisoners in the 12th century had not been convicted but were merely accused of a crime -- ranging from petty theft to poisoning -- and "thrown in the Clink" while awaiting trial.