Let me make it quite clear from the outset I am NOT in prison, but I did visit The Clink Museum a few yards from Borough Market near London Bridge in England’s capital city one winter morning, then later in the day I spent a pleasant hour at the house of Sherlock Holmes, an homage to the great fictional detective.
The Clink gives an informative and very educational insight into prisons in years gone by and is located on the site of what was a prison in Southwark dating back to medieval times, but only one stone wall remains. Via a comprehensive self-guided tour I learned of the corruption, the conditions and the characters who unfortunately found themselves within the jail’s walls.
The Clink was “cared for” by a prison keeper who was badly paid but had many ways of supplementing his income. Inmates had to rely on family or friends to provide food, clean water, candles, bedding and pay for the removal of fetters or chains. The keeper would charge or want his back hander, as would some other prisoners.
In the 14th century conditions were squalid due to lack of sanitation, overcrowding, disease and to exacerbate matters the Thames nearby, which was much wider than it is today, would flood at High Tide, causing raw sewage and rats to invade the cells and add to the stench.
During the Tudor Period Catholics were imprisoned for practising their faith and, although some priests continued to hold Mass and listen to confessions, many were tortured, forced to recant or executed. A display of the torture mechanisms is a reminder of man’s inhumanity to man and the harshness of the punishments.
One of the most famous inmates was Father John Gerard who was, I believe, part of the Gunpowder Plot to oust King James I of England and Scotland. Despite being imprisoned in The Clink for three years and in The Tower of London, he escaped to Europe.
Being a fan of The Bard I was interested to learn that theatre goers became inmates of The Clink due to their bad behaviour and possible involvement in bear baiting or dog fights. A model of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is a reminder of their nefarious activities.
Of course the 19th century miscreants caught by Sherlock Holmes may well have found themselves in The Clink as I discovered when I visited 221B Baker Street.
The entrance hallway is very narrow and visitors are invited up the stairs to the first floor where Holmes’ lounge overlooks the street and is cluttered with recognisable paraphernalia: his violin, magnifying glass, deerstalker hat and pipe, as well as Doctor Watson’s medicine bag and bowler hat.
The detective’s bedroom is decorated with pictures of the criminals Holmes sought, some of whom I deduced featured on the office wall in The Clink!
Then on the second floor are reminders Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Final Problem and, of course, the figure of Holmes’ nemesis: Professor Moriarty.
I enjoyed the hour I spent recalling the escapades of the great detective and his trusted aide as I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for years and it made a complementary outing to my exploration of The Clink Museum.
I’ve been to almost all of the most famous sights in London: The Tower, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Eye, a trip down the Thames etc… So I now seek lesser known places to visit. The Clink and 221B Baker Street were a real treat. Learning of criminals, detectives, murder, mystery and mayhem – what better way to spend a day out in London?
I saw similar torture devices to those in The Clink when I visited Bran Castle in Romania. If you wish to learn more please click on the link, but a paragraph in this blog could be distressing for some.
On a more upbeat note I enjoy writing and learning of other writers and their creations. In Edinburgh Robert Louis Stevenson, Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott are celebrated, but I also delved in the darkness of the infamous murderers Burke and Hare. To discover more please click on the link:
And in Longford, Ireland, I learned about Maria Edgeworth who outsold Jane Austen in her day. Please click on the link to read about this remarkable woman.