Molly Cutpurse

 
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Holloway, House of Correction

The days I visited Holloway Prison. (23.05.06) and the summer of 2008.


After some months of negotiating, the Home Office gave me permission to enter the modern jail at Holloway in North London and I was escorting around by a pleasant and dedicated officer who was in charge of security. Our first destination was the pair of Griffins which once adorned the front of the old Holloway Jail. The Griffins were carved in Caen stone by John Hemmings in 1852.











My photos show that, sadly, the keys have vanished and they are much worn away. (I have been reliably informed that the keys are not missing but are stored safely)

The other item, and the third photo, that was next on my guide's agenda was the original foundation stone  which, upon The House of Correction's demolition in 1970-1971, was incorporated into the new building. I had been advised that because it was now protected by glass and was also made of an unusual type of rock, quite similar to marble, it might be hard to get a good photograph and these concerns were right. Despite the offices kindly supplying me with a tripod, I could not overcome the effects of glare and with much of the writing so very faint, my picture, I think, turned out to be better than nothing.














However, I was able to read the infamous quote which ran close to the bottom of the tablet; May God preserve the City of London and make this place a terror to evil-doers. Those large white blemishes appear to be a combination of air pockets and cracks.

In conclusion I would like to thank the men and women officers of H.M.P Holloway for allowing me to take them away from their duties if only for a short time. Everyone was pleasant and helpful and I remember thinking that if only Edith had been offered this level of humanity... I was much humbled as well by standing on the same area of ground upon which Edith trod her last footsteps and also breathed her last.

Summer of 2008 

The second and certainly more stimulating experience I had was during the summer months. This was because I was invited to take a private tour, courtesy of a warden friend with whom I've become acquainted, of the current Holloway Prison.

This was definitely an eye-opener and apart from one or two areas, I was given pretty much a thorough tour. The place where the execution shed used to be, I found serene and I was told me there are quite a few ghost stories associated with that part of the prison. There is a huge bank of earth cutting the area in two now and grass grows. It was very quiet there and kind of peaceful in a way I am glad to report.

Being a weekend, it was extremely quiet overall really, and although clean, there was a grimness, an aura about the long corridors which took its toll. One would be walking quite normally, passing the swimming pool, the hairdressers or the library, just as if one were in a collage, when, turning a corner, one would be confronted with huge solid grey iron gates with enormously heavy locks. It was surreal. Naturally, moving anywhere involved a multitude of unlocking and locking of gates which seemed never ending. Nevertheless, it was an experience for me to witness a tiny shred of what Edith Thompson must have felt.