Molly Cutpurse

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Holloway, House of Correction

'As we approached the outer gate of the prison by the enclosed entry flanked on our right hand by the chaplain's house, and on the left by that of the governor, both uniform in appearance and of elegant construction, the battlements and lofty tower of the prison rose conspicuously before us, reminding us of some noble castle of the olden feudal times. On our knocking at the outer iron bolted gate, an elderly, modest-looking officer appeared at the grating, and admitted us within the walls of the prison. He was attired in the prison uniform, consisting of a surtout and trousers of dark blue cloth and cap with peak, with a dark shining leather belt, from which was suspended an iron chain with the keys of the prison attached.

The Outer Gate and Courtyard.

We first inspected the lodge occupied by the gate warder, consisting of a small room on each side of the gateway. The one on the right hand is furnished with an oaken table and a large oaken case set beside the wall as we enter, containing an assortment of rifles, pistols, cutlasses and bayonets, tastefully arranged. Alongside is a cupboard, in the interior of which is a series of hooks to contain the keys of the prison.

Over the mantle-piece is a letterbox, where letters are deposited to be sent to the post-office and for delivery to the prison; opposite to it is a time indicated, surmounted by a dial-plate. On the wall are suspended a City Almanac, giving a list of all the different Court, and a list of the magistrates at the Central Criminal Court, Guildhall, and the Mansion House.

The chief warder called our attention to a book deposited on a desk, where the visitors to the prison are required to sign their names, and requested us to enter our name in it. The desk contained a visiting book for the prisoner's friends; also a book for visitors who have received orders from the magistrates to visit the prisoners; another for solicitors who visit the prison; and a fourth records the attendance of ladies who aid female prisoners on their liberation, by getting them into institutions or providing them with situations in the Metropolis.

The gate warden handed us several other books and added "There is a book to record the visits of the chaplain and surgeon to the prison; also a book to note the labourers (sic) and tradesmen employed with the establishment."

He further showed us a volume in which the vehicles entering the prison gate are recorded with the number of the cabs, carriages, etc and the non-resident officers attendance book, specifying the precise time they are occupied in duty; and one containing the names of the male and female prisoners, alphabetically arranged, with the date of their discharge.

At the time of our visit a cheerful fire was burning in the grate, with a comfortable rug on the hearth, and a neat cocoa-nut mat at the door, made by the prisoners. There are several bells here; one communicating with the reception ward, another with the chaplain's house, and a third with that of the governor.

We proceeded to the small room on the opposite side of the archway where the warder at the gate generally sits and takes his meals, while the one we left is generally occupied at his office. This small apartment in construction and dimensions is exactly similar to the other we have already described and is neatly furnished with an oaken table and several oaken chairs. There is here a comfortable fireplace and gas jet and also a bell communicating with the governor's house. On the wall is affixed a copy of the Rules relating to the treatment and conduct of the prisoners.

Leaving the porter's lodge, we enter the pointed arch, which is thirteen feet in breadth and twenty-nine in length and at the upper extremity, sixteen feet high. The chief warder called out attention to the outer folding-gate of the prison, about eleven feet square. It is composed of solid oak four inches thick, riveted with strong bolts of iron, with a small iron grating about eight inches square, occasionally closed with a wooden trap.

There is a narrow wicket gate in one of the folds of the large gate for the ingress and egress of the visitors, which is fastened, as in the case of the large gate, with a patent lock. The top of the arch over the prison gate is fenced with strong massive iron bars. The chief warder has a suite of apartments over the porter's lodge consisting of a kitchen, pantry, parlour, two bedrooms, with scullery, sink and water -closet attached.

Leaving the porter's lodge we enter the courtyard, where the prison has a very imposing appearance, with its castellated front and the lofty wide extended range of buildings forming the female wing on our right, and the juvenile wing on our left hand, each consisting of three floors.

The porch of the prison with the inner gate projects a considerable way from the main building in front as seen in one of the engraving, and the pillar on each side is surmounted by a large winged griffin rampant facing the doorway. One of them has a key in one of his talons, and a large dark leg-iron in the other. Ad the other has one of his talons extended as though he were aiming to seize hold of his prey, while the other clasps a set of massive leg-irons.

The courtyard in front of the prison is gravelled and carefully drained, and bordered with flowers and shrubs, such as wallflower, hollyhock and evergreens of different kinds. At the back of the lodge, on each side of the arch, is a small grotto, ingeniously erected by the gate warder, with a miniature fortification beside one of them.

Office and cells etc of the Reception-ward.

We were admitted by the inner warder, an intelligent Scotchman, into the main prison. On entering by the wicker-gate, similar to the one in the outer lodge, already described, we found ourselves in a spacious hall, beneath the glazed roof of the porch, which sloped upward towards the lofty turrets in front of the prison. The reception ward is situated on the basement; and an ample stone staircase, on the right hand of the reception ward, leads to the central hall and the corridors of the adult prison. The staircase is enclosed by a massive chiselled stone balustrade, which extends across the hall above, on the first floor, in the direction of the office of the clerk and storekeeper, and elegantly fences the extremity of the wide passage entering into the main prison.

The hall of the reception ward on the basement is about forty-eight feet in length and twenty-one in breadth, with cocoa-nut matting, leading to the reception warder's office on the left hand and to the reception cells in front.

We accompanied the reception warder into his office, about eighteen feet by fifteen; a comfortable apartment, well lighted and ventilated, provided with several writing desks, like a lawyer's office, suited for four clerks, surmounted with brass fittings, on which the books of the prison are conveniently deposited, with a gas jet over it. On a side table, several books were laid. "Here," said the reception warder, opening a large book, "is the register in which we enter the descriptions of the male prisoners and there is a similar one for the female prisoners. There is another book, termed the clothing and trinket book in which a record is kept of the various articles belonging to the prisoners and here is an index to them.'

Pointing to standard measures, which stood near he window, 'There.'  said the warder. 'We take the height of the various prisoners and also their weight.'

The office of the reception warder is floored with wood and arched with brick, supported by iron girders. The walls are painted of a light colour and tastefully penciled to resemble large carefully hewn blocks of stone, as in the outer walls of the reception ward.

There are two bells here; one of them communicating with the front gate, and the other with the reception or inner gate. The windows are secured, on the exterior, with strong iron bars.

We then proceeded along the hall of the reception ward. At the further extremity, before we reached the cells, we observed a narrow metal grating extending across from one side of the floor to the other, which contained the hot-air pipes. 'This hot-air flue,' said the chief warder, 'extends along the center of the reception ward and gives warmth to the various cells. It extends to the female wing on the right hand and to the juvenile wing on the left.'

There is a board over the door leading to the reception ward, intimating that silence is to be strictly observed by the prisoners.

The reception warder told us that the dark passage on the left lead to the juvenile, and that on the right to the female branch of the prison, passing through an archway between them on each side; over which was another communication from the main passage on the floor above. At the further end of the reception hall there is a tap to draw water for the use of the ward and a water-closet adjoining.

We entered the apartment containing the prisoner's own clothing, on the right side of the reception ward. There we found a large quantity of prisoner's garments carefully packed in bundles and deposited in racks around the walls, arranged according to their sentences, each of them labeled with the name, register, number and sentence of each. There is a stove for the airing of the clothes in the centre of the room.

Many of the bundles contained ragged and soled clothing, with a large proportion of respectable and fashionable garments. 'Some bundles.' said the warder. 'belong to rogues and vagabonds, pickpockets and burglars, others to sailors and soldiers. We have several returned convicts imprisoned for picking pockets and for receiving stolen property. A good number of prisoners have been clerks in lawyer's offices and travelers and warehousemen in commercial houses, brought here for embezzling their master's property; And some have been in a good position in society and are now under sentence for fraudulent bankruptcy. In addition to these, we have had many tradesmen and mechanics for various offenses. Some of the prisoners have been convicted for uttering base coin, others for lead stealing, some for swindling and may for petty felonies.'

'At present.' said the reception warder, 'a good deal of the prisoner's clothing requires to be fumigated. I attribute this to the fact that a great mass of people are at present out of employment and many are driven to the low lodging-houses of the metropolis for shelter. Many of out prisoners are covered with vermin and in a most deplorable condition. A great number of them have very respectable clothing, which does not require to be fumigated. We generally find the most expert thieves are respectably attired and cleanly in their persons.'

There is a small apartment adjoining this store-room where the prisoner's cloths are fumigated.

We passed on through a door at the extremity of the reception hall. fronting the inner gate of the prison, to the reception cells. This door has a plate-glass inserted into the upper panels which gives the interior a more cheerful appearance. The passage between the cells is sixty-nine feet in length and a portion of it twenty-one feet in breadth and about ten feet in height; the remainder being as narrow as ten feet.

The bathroom of this ward is on our left hand. It is about twenty feet long, nine feet wide and ten in height, at the top and nine feet at the bottom of the arch. There are two baths in this room, separated from each other by a wooden partition. They are comfortable and commodious and are supplied with hot water from a cistern in the furnace-room and with cold water from a tank at the roof of the prison.

Adjoining the bath-room is a small store of prison-made clothing, carefully arranged on the shelves, consisting of dark gray jackets, vests and trousers, with braces, stocks and shoes. There is also a large chest-of-drawers containing linen, stockings, flannel-shirts, and drawers, etc for the use of prisoners. The walls of the bath-room are tastefully penciled, similar to the office of the reception warder. It is provided with a fireplace to air the garments and a cocoa-nut matting in the centre of the floor for the comfort of the prisoners when undressed.

We followed the chief warder into one of the reception cells which was thirteen feet long and seven feet wide and nine feet at the bottom and nine feet six inches at the top of the arch. It is ventilated by a grating over the door, connected with hot-air flues, extended throughout the building and also by a trap in the window. The window of the cell is three feet six inches wide and eighteen inches high and slightly rounded at the top.

"The furniture of the cell.' said the reception warden, 'consists of a small deal table, attached to the right-hand side of the cell' which he folded down, like the leave of a table; 'also a water-closet, fixed into one of the further corners of the cell, which has a wooden lid and serves as a set to the prisoner; a wash-hand basin and a tub for washing the feet.'

Above the table is a gas-jet, over which the prisoner has no control. The chief warder observed, 'It is lit at dusk and extinguished at nine o'clock at night, when the prisoners retire to rest.'

A copy of the rules and regulations of the prison and of the dictary are suspended in each cell so that the prisoners know how to conduct themselves.

On the right-hand corner, beside the door are three triangular shelves. The bedding, rolled firmly up and fastened with two leather straps, is generally laid on the upper one; containing a pair of blankets, a rug, a pair of sheets, a horse-hair mattress and a pillow, which at night ate put into a hammock, suspended on two strong iron hooks on each side of the cell. 'On the second shelf. ' Added the governor, who had just entered the cell, 'is a plate, together with a tin jug for gruel, a wooden salt cellar and a wooden spoon. On the lower shelve are deposited a Bible, prayer-book and hymn-book; two combs and a brush, a cocoa-nut fiber rubber for polishing the floor and underneath the lower shelf is a small drawer, containing the materials for cleaning the window of the cell.'

'On the right-hand side of the door,' continued the governor, 'there is a small handle of easy access to the prisoner, by which he is able to ring at any moment when he requires the attention of an officer.' This handle communicated with a bell outside which is in hearing of the officer in charge. On the officer coming to the door of the cell he opens this wooden trap, which is about nine inches by seven.

'Above the trap, you observe' Said the governor, 'a small circular inspection opening, covered with glass on the exterior and fine wire in the interior by which the officer can inspect the cell from the outside, without knowledge of the prisoner. After six o'clock in the evening the officers put on list shoes so that they are able to patrol the corridors in silence and the prisoner is not aware when he is vi sited.'

The walls of the reception cells, like those in the corridors above, are whitewashed. There are six altogether, ranged on both sides of the ward. In the wide passage between these cells we saw a number of ladders, placed along the wall on our right hand which are used in cleaning the windows and repairing the prison. On a stand in the centre is a long ladder, set on wheels, resembling a fire escape. We were informed it is used for cleaning he windows in the upper galleries of the prison.

There is a wooden machine in the same ward to which boys are fastened when whipped by order of the magistrates. The governor observed to us, "I am happy to record that no prisoner has been flogged in this prison for the last ten years since its opening. None have been punished except those ordered by the magistrates at the police courts."

When the prisoners arrive they are taken down to the reception warder into his office and the prison rules are read and explained to them. They are examined by the Medical Officer in the office of the Reception warder, who certifies as to their state of health and notice is taken of any ailment as to their ability to perform the labour enjoining their sentence.

The prisoners are again placed in the reception cells, where they are carefully visited by the governor in his daily inspection of the prisoners are which they are removed into the body of the prison to undergo their sentence. They are then committed to the care of the principal warder to undergo their sentence. They are then committed to the care of the principal warder in charge at the central hall when they are again examined by the chief warder and appointed to their respective cells in the various corridors.

'At the expiry of their sentence,' continued the reception warder, 'they are paced in the reception cells where they are stripped of the prison clothing and their own garments are returned to them. They are weighed in the weighing machine and their weight duly entered, to ascertain if they have gained of lost during their imprisonment.'

They are afterwards examined by the governor in the reception office in the manner we have recorded in the presence of the chief warder and the clerk of the prison when their case is carefully considered and clothing and money given to them as the case may require. They are sometimes sent to a home in the metropolis or employment is found for them and an outfit supplied at the expense of the city.


We were introduced to Mr. C.A. Keene, the clerk and steward, who wished us to inspect his stores before proceeding to the main prison. He first conducted us to the clothing department situated at the basement on the left of the female prison in close proximity of thee kitchen. This apartment is twenty-four feet long and twenty-one feet broad, lighted with two windows, four feet ten by three feet six the panes of glass set in iron frames, similar to the other cells. it is floored with wood and roofed with brick and iron girders, the walls being painted of a light colour and tastefully penciled like the Reception Hall.

On the right hand as we enter is a number of presses or cupboards containing male and female prison-clothing, officer's uniforms and bedding, systematically arranged. On the top of these presses is a large number of shining tins for the use of prisoners. There is also a chest of drawers, with small goods, such as needles, thread and ironmongery ware over it is a rack covered with tines, different in size and shape to prevent their being mixed together in the various branches of the prison. On a table in the center of the room is ranged an assortment of clothing for the children of the Emmanuel hospital all of which is made in the Holloway Prison. Their dress consists of corduroy trousers and brown jackets and vests. The clothing of the male prisoners consists of jackets, vests and trousers of grey army cloth and stocks, braces and caps. The caps are made of blue indigo-dyed worsted and the stockings of a grey worsted knitted by the female prisoners.

Main Passage

Leaving the reception ward, we proceeded with the chief warder up the staircase, which is elegantly matted and leads us to the main passage, communicating with the central hall seen through the glass-paneled doors directly in front of us. The hall at this extremity is about twenty feet wide.

On our right is the governor's office and alongside is a handsome cheerful apartment for the convenience of the board of magistrates when inspect the prison. The latter is tastefully furnished with a Turkey carpet and a long mahogany table with a writing-desk at one end and an ample supply of mahogany chairs. On the left is the clerk's office with an anteroom also attached. On each side is a staircase, leading to a suite of upper-rooms in the two floors above.

There are two doors with panes of glass in the upper panels between the governor's office and the central hall which are generally kept locked. The one is situated about thirty-five feet in the interior and the other at the farther end, opening into the various corridors. On the outside of the first door referred to, the walls are tastefully penciled, the passage is paved with York slab and the roof is arched with seven immense iron girders. At the extremity of the outer hall, bounded by the latter door, is a door leading, on the right hand, to a small room, with several stalls, erected alongside of each other, for relatives and friends communicating with the prisoners. They are roofed with wire to prevent anything being thrown over or conveyed to the latter who are stationed in similar stalls on the other side. The wire-screen also extends on the side of the visiting boxes facing the prisoners. A copy of the prison rules relating to the conduct and treatment of the prisoners, certified by the Secretary of State, on the of June 1860 is hung up on the walls.

On the left of the outer hall is the record office and the solicitor's room and also a room for visitors visiting the prisoners, exactly similar to the one already described.

The outer hall is furnished with a bell communicating with the officers of the clerk, chief warder, chaplain and other surrounding apartments.

We passed onwards through on of the folding doors into the inner passage. One the right hand, was we enter, are two doors, communicating with the prisoner's visiting room. One of them leading into a narrow passage, between the stalls, of about five feet wide where an officers is stationed during the interview between the prisoners and their friends and the other into the stall where the prisoners is admitted, which are covered with a wire-screen similar to the other stalls alluded to. On the same side of the inner passage is the office of the deputy governor with a waiting room attached to it.

On the opposite side of the passage are two similar doors, leading into the other apartment, where the prisoners meet with those relative and friends who visit the; another leads to the surgeon's room with an anteroom attached. The inner hall is floored with asphalt, shining black as ebony. We accompanied the chief warder into his office and was shown the general receipt book of male prisoners incarcerated in the prison; the general report book and the prisoners misconduct book; the latter of which, by the way, had unusually few entries inserted, there not having been lodged a single complaint against any prisoner for four days previously. We also saw the thermometer journal, in which the temperature of sixteen portions of the prison is recorded three times a day.

Having enquired of the chief warder as to the manner in which the prisoners are disposed over the various corridors and in reference to the work allotted them, he gave us the following information;-

'After the prisoners are bathed in the reception ward, they are inspected by the surgeon on the following morning, who certifies as to their fitness for labour, independent of what their sentence may be. I then receive them from the reception warder. I find if the register number put on their arm corresponds with the number in the receipt book for male prisoners, together with their name, age, occupation, previous conviction (if any), with the date of their discharge. I insert the whole of this on a card, which is given to the prisoner and is hung up in his cell, together with a copy of the prison rules and dietary.' The prisoners are allotted to their respective wards according to their criminal character, sentence and occupation.

Inside the main prison, the walls are of a light colour, resembling the entry hall and similar penciled in a tasteful manner. The central hall rises in the form of a lofty dome, surmounted by a glass roof in the form of a sexagon, set in a massive iron frame several tons in weight, with a large grating for ventilation.

Here we found two principle warders in attendance, in their uniforms, with keys suspended from their dark shining belts and three gold laced stripes on their right arm. On the right as we enter the central hall is a neat writing office set in a glass framework where one of the principal workers is frequently on duty and supervises the various corridors.

There are two skylights in the flooring of the central hall 4 ft 6 in wide by 6 feet long consisting of very thick glass supported on iron bars giving light to the kitchen beneath. There is also a trap with a lifting machine on either side of the hall, between corridors A and B and corridors C and D, communicating with the kitchen by which trays of provisions are hoisted up on cradles to the different cells, along conducting rods of bright steel about 40 feet in height.

In the central hall is a corkscrew metal staircase leading from the basement to the different galleries which is surmounted with a dial; and also a large bell which summons the prisoners to their labour and calls them to chapel.

While we lingered in the central hall with the chief warder we saw several of the prisoners in their dark gray prison dress engaging in cleaning the various corridors around us. They had a cheerful appearance and proceeded about their work with great alacrity; some were sweeping the dark floors with long brooms and others were kneeling down and scrubbing them with energy until the asphalt shone with a bright polish. Several of the officers in their dark blue uniforms were stationed in the different galleries attending to their wards. We noticed a detachment of prisoners walk in single file through the central hall with their hands behind their back, giving a military salute to the chief warder as they passed on from the exercising ground and treadmill to their different cells.

We also saw the schoolmaster moving from cell to cell in one of the galleries, attended by a prisoner who carried a basket of library books to be deposited for the use of the prisoners.

We inspected several of the corridors which are about 133 feet in length from the central hall and are lighted from the roof by two large skylights which have openings at the side for ventilation. A and B wings in addition to those are lighted by large windows at the extremities provided with fluted glass. At dusk, each of the corridors is lighted with gas. There is a staircase at the extremity of corridors B and C leading to the galleries above; with one nearer to the centre in A and D wings. There is also a staircase leading to the basement of each.

In passing from the central hall on the right of corridor A is a small storeroom about the size of two cells, for the convenience of the various corridors of the adult male prisoners. We noticed on a rack a large pile of prisoner's clothing of various sizes, consisting of trousers, jackets, vests, caps, handkerchiefs, flannel shirts and drawers. Above this was placed an assortment of brooms and brushes for cleansing the prison while beneath there was a row of drawers in which was deposited sundry other articles used in the cells. A prisoner-an active young man- who has been warehouseman to a firm in the city, was in attendance at the time we entered.


We entered one of the adjoining cells which is 7 feet wide and 13 feet long at the top and 9 feet at the bottom of the arch. It is floored with asphalt as all the other cells are and carefully polished and whitewashed. The furniture consists of a small folding table attached to the sides of the cell, a copper basin and water closet and a water tap covered with pipes inside, communicating with the water closet and wash basin, a soap-box with soap, a nail brush and a small piece of flannel for cleansing. In a corner beside the door is a small triangular cupboard with three shelves on the top of which is the hammock trolled up and bound together by two strong leather straps. The furniture here is exactly the same as in the cells in the reception ward except that here there are several library books for the use of prisoners. In the cell we entered we saw two or three volume.

There is a hot-air flue over the door. At the opposite end of the cell, nearly on a level with the asphalt flooring, there is an extraction flue while under the window is a ventilator admitting pure air at the pleasure of the prisoners. The deputy-governor opened the ventilator when a current of fresh air was admitted to the cell.

We were introduced to the engineer of the prison who gave us a fuller explanation of this ventilating apparatus. He stated, in front of the cell doors, under the asphalt flooring, is a flue enclosing four pipes on each side. It is connected with the main flue and conveys the warm air through the iron grating over the cell door. The iron grating at the back of the cell, near the floor, conveys the air into an extraction flue leading to the roof of the building discharging it into a ventilation shaft situated at the angle of the C and D wing and a portion of the kitchen.

'You observe' said the engineer, 'that on the right side of the door there is a small dark iron handle. When turned round by the prisoner in his cell, it communicates with a gong in the centre of the corridor which gives notice to the warder in charge and at the same time a small metal plate is thrown out at the exterior of the cell by which he is able to learn which of his prisoners has struck the gong.'

The window of the cell is 3 ft 6 in. by 18 in. similar to those in the reception ward. On the wall is suspended a card containing the prisoner's registered number, his age, etc as already referred to and alongside is a copy of the prison regulations as to the disposal of his time from 5.45 am to 9 pm, specifying how he is to be occupied in his cell, as well as out of it, in chapel, at school, on the exercise ground, etc. Corridor A is divided into four wards. No’s 1,2,3, consist of felons guilty of their first offense and number 4 of parties tried summarily.

A description of Holloway House of Correction about 1862