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Holloway, House of Correction

A history of Holloway

1849 - 1852 Built to the designs of James Bunstone Bunning

1870 Debtors admitted

1881 - 1882 B & C wings extended to provide 340 new cells

1883 - 1884 A new hospital

1886 New treadwheel, male and female reception blocks & laundry

By 1890 51 additional cells in existing buildings

1891 - 1892 New female infirmary

1902 Became women only prison

1905 DX wing built

1913 Hospital cells added between C-wing & hospital

1970 - 1985 Demolished and rebuilt

By January 1843 the Court of Common Council and the Court of Aldermen of the City of London agreed that the existing Giltspur Street prison was inadequate and that a new house of correction was needed. A number of proposals for sites within the City were considered, including the enlarging of an existing prison (Giltspur Street, Newgate), a new prison on the site of a prison (Whitecross Street, the Fleet), a new prison adjacent to an existing prison (Whitecross Street) and a new prison on a new site (Goswell Street). However, these schemes were rejected and, for reasons of cost, space and salubrity, an area of land outside the City was chosen. The preferred site was at Holloway, where the City had purchased some land as a cemetery during a cholera epidemic in 1832. Two unsigned plans for a prison for 400 inmates at Holloway, dated March 1846, survive. They emanated from the Office of Works and may be by James Bunstone Bunning, the City Architect. One was for a gaol and house of correction with a half-cartwheel plan and detached female and juvenile wings linked by passages to the main prison. The prison had 96 dayrooms to allow the classification of 400 prisoners but could be converted to a separate prison for nearly 600 inmates. The other was for a cruciform radial prison with juvenile and female wings flanking the gatehouse. A series of undated drawings for a cruciform prison also survive.

The Holloway site was finally approved in 1847 and in June, Bunning was asked to prepare plans for a prison containing 400 separate cells. With the approval of Joshua Jebb, the surveyor-general of prisons, the new prison was to be adaptable to any system of discipline. On July 19th, Bunning produced a plan for a prison to contain 288 male prisoners, 56 women and 56 juveniles, at an estimated cost of £68,000 or between £72,000 and £75,000 with extra workshops. The prison had four three-story radial wings on a star plan with a cruciform administration wing and detached female and juvenile wings. The male wings had workshops at their outer ends, the female wing had a washhouse and the juvenile wing had a schoolroom. Bunning amended his plans in September and produced a scheme with the same accommodation in a saltire-plan of four male wings with an administration wing to which were attached the juvenile and female wings. This plan was approved by Captain Williams, an Inspector of Prisons, in October and later that month Jebb attended a meeting of the Sub Special Prisons Committee and suggested alterations to the plan. Bunning produced a new set of plans in December and these were submitted to the Secretary of State for his approval. The plans show a half-cartwheel prison with two wings of thirteen bays and two of twelve bays. A T-plan administration wing was flanked by detached twelve-bay wings for juveniles and women. Space was left for workrooms at the outer ends of four of the wings, while the male and female infirmary occupied a detached building at the outer ends of the two right-hand wings. The plans were approved by the Secretary of State on 29th January 1848.

The estimated cost of building the prison in February 1848 was £80,000. In January 1849 the architect's sealed estimate was opened; his projected total cost of building the prison was £96,900. A tender of £92,290 from William Trego was accepted. A set of undated drawings signed by both Bunning and Trego survive. All four main wings have thirteen bays and there are slight differences in the layout of the basement and the administration wing compared with the plans approved by the Secretary of State. There is no detached infirmary, provision for sick male inmates being made at first floor level in the main prison. Linking blocks are shown joining the juvenile and female wings to the administration wing. These contain workrooms on the first floor and, on the second floor, a schoolroom and female infirmary respectively. The ground plan is very similar to that published H. Mayhew and J. Binny's book on the Criminal Prisons of London in 1862, although the layout of rooms in the administration wing is different.

The foundation stone was laid by the Lord Mayor, Sir James Duke, on 26th September 1849. The original contractor, William Trego, went bankrupt in October 1850, and between 1st November and 6th January 1851 all work on the prison stopped. Another builder, Samuel Grimsdell, offered to complete the contract, but he could not agree terms. The contract was finally taken up by John Jay in January 1851. The other contractors were:

'plumbers work - Messrs Pontifex & Mallory

‘gas fittings - William Strode

'bell-hanging - Samuel Thomas of Birmingham

‘locks - Messrs Bramah

‘pumps - Mr Bessemer

‘laundry - Messrs Haden

‘stoves - G Eckstein.

The clerk of works was Thomas Lawrie.

A certificate of approval for the prison (with the exception of eighteen punishment cells) was given by Captain Williams, an Inspector of Prisons, in July 1852 and the house of correction opened on 6th October 1852. The total expenditure for building it was £91,547 10s 8d The prison committee noted that the New Prison was in every respect suited for the punishment and reformation of offenders with a due regard to the preservation of health.

A plan and several engravings of the prison, together with a full written description of it, were published in The Builder in 1851 and in Mayhew and Binny's book in 1862. There were 436 cells, 283 for males, 60 for females, 61 for juveniles, eighteen refractory cells and fourteen reception cells. In addition, fourteen common workrooms occupied 96 cell spaces. The prisoners were classified according to the nature of their crime and whether it was their first or subsequent offence. In 1877, on the eve of the nationalization of the prison system, Col. A B McHardy visited fifty prisons, including Holloway, and reported on their accommodation. At Holloway he found, for male prisoners, 289 single cells, six punishment cells and eight reception cells; and for female prisoners, 60 single cells, one double cell, two punishment cells and four reception cells. Debtors had been admitted to the prison since 1870, and McHardy also found 64 single cells and four double cells for male debtors and two rooms for female debtors. A total of 362 cells were to be received by the Prison Commissioners in 1878.

A number of alterations and additions were made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In 1881-1882, B and C wings were extended to provide an additional 340 cells and by 1890 a further 51 cells had been created in existing buildings. A new male hospital was erected in 1883-1884, new reception blocks and a laundry were built in 1886 and a new female infirmary was constructed in 1891-1892. At the time of R G Alford's visits to Holloway, in and after 1902, there was accommodation for 949 women, although the daily average we 613; the prison became an all-female establishment in August 1902. In 1905 a new wing for 101 inmates, DX, was opened. Additional hospital cells were added between C-wing and the hospital in 1913.

By the 1930s, the prison was found to be inadequate and following the 1938 Criminal Justice Act a proposal was made to rebuild it on a new site at Heathrow. The proposal was reconsidered in the 1960s with the appointment of the Advisory Council on the Penal System in 1966. The Council, whose findings were published in 1968 (the Radzinowicz Report), concluded that the existing prison should be demolished and a new one built on the site. A comprehensive photographic record of the buildings was made by RCHME in August 1970 prior to demolition commencing. HMP Holloway was erected between 1970 and 1983.


The City House of Correction was situated on the north-west side of Parkhurst Road at its junction with Camden Road. The prison was entered through two gatehouses, an outer one, which was set back from flanking houses for the governor and chaplain, and an inner one, at the south-east end of the administration wing. The prison had a radial plan with four cell blocks for adult males at nine o'clock (A wing), eleven o'clock (B wing), one o'clock (C wing) and three o'clock (D wing), and the administration block at six o'clock. On either side of the administration wing, parallel to A and D wings, was a cell block, that to the south-west (E wing) holding juveniles and that to the north-east (F wing) holding females. The buildings were constructed of brick, with the exception of walls visible from the road - the gatehouses, the front walls and outer ends of E and F wings and the central ventilation tower. These elevations also displayed crenulations, machicolations and buttresses reminiscent of a medieval castle. The doorways and windows had arched heads. All the wings had three stories and a basement, the basements being largely above ground level.

Outer Gatehouse, Governor's House and Chaplain's House

The outer gatehouse was set back from the road. It had two stories with a central arched gateway and flanking turrets. The porter's rooms were on the ground floor and the chief warder's accommodation was on the first floor. On either side of the gatehouse, on the street frontage, were houses for the governor and chaplain.

Inner Gatehouse and Administration Block

The inner gatehouse was at the outer (south-east) end of the administration block. The gateway was flanked by carved stone griffins which remain at HMP Holloway. The griffins were carved in Caen stone by John Hemmings in 1852. The outer end of the administration block, which lay between E and F wings, was wider than the inner end which linked the block to the central hall. At the outer end, on the ground floor, were the main entrance hall and a spacious staircase, offices for the governor, reception warder and clerks, and the magistrates committee room. At the inner end were visiting rooms, a waiting room and offices for the deputy governor and surgeon. The reception facilities for new prisoners were located in the basement. At the time of McHardy's visit in 1877, reception was still in the basement and the offices were on the ground floor. On the first floor were the chapel and rooms for the chaplain and matron, and there was a room for lady visitors on the second floor. On both the second and third floors there were rooms for female debtors.

Cell Blocks

The cell blocks all had three stories and a basement in which there were also cells. The wings were open to the roof and the cells on the upper floors were reached from galleries. Wings A to D housed adult male prisoners, E wing was for juveniles and F wing was for females. The wings contained separate cells of the same dimensions as those at Pentonville (13' x 7. x 9' high) but whereas in the Model Prison, work was undertaken in the cells, at Holloway there were associated rooms in the male wings where inmates worked together in silence. The prisoners were also classified.

At the outer end of A-wing there were workshops for the manufacture of mats, and in B-wing there was a school-room for adult males and a workroom for tailors and shoemakers. C Wing contained the infirmary. The kitchen was located in the basement of D-wing. There were originally punishment cells in C and D wings, but by 1862 those in C wing had been converted into a workroom. The accommodation remained similar in 1877, with a mixture of cells and workshops in A, B and C wings. Originally all four wings were thirteen bays long, but B and C wings were extended by sixteen and nineteen bays respectively in 1881-2. An additional cell block, X-wing, was built in line with the end of D wing in 1905. It had three floors and a basement and was eighteen bays long. The cells were smaller than the existing ones and measured 10' 6'' x 7' x 9' high. It was to house 100 ‘star’ offenders.

E and F wings lay south-east of the main prison on either side of the administration block to which they were linked. They were both twelve bays long. E wing, the juvenile prison, and F wing, the female prison, both contained their own reception facilities and school room. F wing also incorporated the prison laundry. After debtors were admitted to the City House of Correction in 1870, they were housed in E wing, and McHardy found in 1877 twenty single cells and two double cells on the ground and first floors and 24 cells on the second floor together with a kitchen for the debtors at first-floor level and an infirmary over it on the second floor. F wing in 1877 contained the matron's quarters, punishment cells, reception cells and laundry in the basement; sixteen cells on the ground floor; twenty single cells, one double cell and a schoolroom on the first floor and twenty-four cells and an infirmary on the second floor.

Mayhew and Binny describe the original appearance of the cells. They contained a water closet, a copper basin, a folding table and a triangular corner cupboard with three shelves. On the top shelf was kept the hammock and bedding; on the Middle shelf were a plate, jug, spoon and wooden salt-cellar; and on the bottom shelf were a Bible, prayer book, hymn book, combs, brush and a rubber for cleaning the cell floor. In a small drawer under the shelves were window-cleaning materials.

Convicted and Remand Receptions (formerly Men's and Women's Receptions)

New reception facilities for men and women were erected in 1886. The male reception block was located at the outer end of A wing. After 1902 it was used for convicted prisoners but a new reception was being planned for 1908. The female block was on the north-east side of the outer gatehouse, attached to F wing. It had two stories and contained an examination room, baths, clothing store, medical officer's room, and cells measuring 9' x 5' x 9'. After 1902 it was used for remand inmates.

Remand & Convicted Hospitals (former Male & Female Infirmaries)

Work on a new male infirmary was underway in 1883 and it had opened by 1885. It had two stories and contained eight cells, three padded cells and two wards. After 1902 it became the remand hospital. In 1891-2 a new infirmary for 23 female inmates was erected.

It had two stories with, on the ground floor, six cells, two padded cells, a ward for female officers, a surgery, a medical officer's room and a kitchen; and on the first floor, two wards, a lying-in ward and a nurses room. A former isolation ward was converted to a crèche. After 1902 the hospital was used by convicted prisoners. In 1913 some hospital cells were built joining C wing to the convicted hospital.

Treadwheel House

The treadwheel house was situated between C- and D-wings. The treadwheel was divided into two compartments, one for sixteen adults and the other for eight juveniles. There were also 28 boxes for picking oakum and prisoners would alternate between the two activities. The treadwheel was used to pump water for the prison and could be supplemented by an attached pump house with 21 pumps.

A new treadwheel was erected in 1886.