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The Clink Prison Museum (London)

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5 Reviews

The Clink was a notorious prison in Southwark, England which functioned from the 12th century until 1780 either deriving its name from, or bestowing it on, the local manor, the Clink Liberty. The manor and prison were owned by the Bishop of Winchester and situated next to his residence at Winchester Palace. It was originally used for the detention of heretics (both Protestants and Catholics, as religious favours changed). At one point the Clink was reserved for priests who took the Oath of Allegiance. but came to be used for people who broke the peace on Bankside or in Southwark's numerous brothels. The prison probably fell into disuse after the English Civil War, though it was described in 1761 as being "a very dismal hole where debtors are sometimes confined, but little used." The Clink was burned down during the Gordon Riots of 1780 and never rebuilt.

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    5 Reviews
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    • More +
      26.01.2010 10:34
      Very helpful



      London Dungeon in my opinion is still more worth a visit

      The Clink Prison Museum

      The Clink Prison museum is built on the exact spot of the original Clink Prison which dated back to the early Tudor years and was open until approximately 1780, and is possibly one of the oldest mens and oldest womens prison in England, and if you are expecting to look at clean yet small cells then you will be pleasantly surprised (or possibly shocked depending upon your nature!).

      The prison was burnt down twice by rioters at seperate occassions in 1450 and 1780 and was rebuilt the first time around but not after the destruction in 1782, as laws had begun to change which started ending the brutality of this prison.

      *****The Museum*****

      The first thing which caught my eye in the advirtisment was that due to the age of this prison and the torturous means of keeping prisoners, it is said to be haunted by many past residents. Although I never expect to see any ghosts and ghouls, it does prove a great and enhanced atmosphere, although as the prison has been reconstructed over the years, it has little appeal for old ghosts to hang around!

      Upon your travel around the museum, you will see many waxwork figures dipicting various people and situations which occured in the old prison, from prostitutes to priests. The figures are not as life like as those seen in places such as Madame Tussaud's, yet there is a wide variety of history to learn through reading and exploring the museum. Some of them are really great in dipicting the horrible situations in which they were in, and you can actually feel the sadness radiating from their wax eyes, yet this is unfortunatly only a small amount of the figures. It seems that little work was put into most of these figures, yet please don't be put off by this. If you are into history like myself and my husband, this small fact will not let your experience be ruined.

      As I mentioned above, if you are shocked easily then this is perhaps not the best place for you to visit. It shocked me especially to find out that women prisoners were treated with such contempt and far worse than the men prisoners. Quite often, they were tortured in the fowlest ways possible until they eventually perished, yet the men were often killed quickly.

      There are also some really shocking torture impliments which were used on prisoners for crimes which ranged from theft to murder, from being in debt to practising the wrong faith. In this day and age, half the crimes these people were in the prison for would not even get a slap on the hand today, making the torturous circumstances even more shocking, leaving you with terrible nightmares!

      The historical text are displayed on the walls as you travel through the museum, yet I felt that there could have been much more information to support the scenes in front of you.

      There are also audio devices which you can listen you documented stories of the inmates, yet in a huge crowd, it is difficult to listen to them and take it all in. When you finally do listen to them, the voices are extremely static and monotonous and do not help with the atmosphere in the slightest, if anything, the atmosphere is detracted by the audio.
      There are many parts in which invite the visitors to put themselves into the position of the prisoners, and some staff really bring it home to you just how horrendous it was. Although I was too shy to step into the limelight, I really got a sense of fear from the situations and stories.

      I especially loved that you are able to handle various impliments and artifacts, which enables you to feel the cold hard torturing devices which really brings home the fearful thoughts and emotions the prisoners would have experienced.

      There are many hard and uncomfortable benches around the tour in case you feel the need to sit down on your travels.

      I also want to mention that if you are claustophobic, please consider whether you may be affected by the crowded and dark rooms before going to the museum. Whilst this atmosphere really brings home the truth of the real prison, it may make it unbarable for those who suffer with claustophobia, yet I suffer with it and I still enjoyed my trip.
      There is a small gift shop at the end of your travel through the prison, yet it is vastly overprised in my opinion and does not have a great selection.

      The whole museum does give you an incredible sense of the past, though, and proves to be a great experience and well worth going.

      *****Surrounding Area*****

      Once you have climbed past the growing rubbish and the narrow pathways towards the prison museum, you are met with various resturants and cafe's to stop at either before or after your visit, from regular, yet extended London Pubs to Fish kitchens to sit down posh resturants. Because the museum is situated within main London, if what they have right nearby does not take your fancy, it is a simple walk, bus or tube ride to even more shops and resturants to round your visit off nicely.

      Resturants and cafes can be quite expensive in London, yet this is normal for this area, though I thought it was worth mentioning as some people can be in for a shock when visiting London from other, perhaps cheaper areas.


      The museum in Clink Street can be booked for private parties with full silver-service banquets which bring a different, yet quite entertaining experience.

      The Clink Museum features on the London Pass attraction list which brings the price down or admits members for free into this museum, along with many others, to give a whole, fairly priced day out. The London pass also helps you with skipping the long queues which often occur, yet as this is a smaller place than most, it is not too bad waiting to gain entry. Always check if something like the London Pass is worth it for what you want to do, otherwise you may end up paying too much.
      One thing which surprised me is the fact that there were no toilets whatsoever on the site. The nearest is across the road at Starbucks, yet this proves annoying if you are caught short half way around your tour as I do not believe that you can re-enter the museum.


      One thing which struck me was the limited access for wheelchairs. There are ten steep steps down into the museum and various sets of steps in and around the exhibition. Staff are avaliable to help those who need it up and down the stairs, yet this is certainly not the best idea, especially in event of fire. There is also a narrow turnstile at the main entrance, yet this can be opened for wheelchair accesss, although it is still quite a tight fit. According to a little research I did, this should be changing with renovations early this year (2007) so hopefully it will enable wheelchair users a better experience.

      There are aids for the visually impared and, as mentioned above, audio systems which aid the hearing impared, yet these are not brilliant. Guide dogs are also welcome at this venue and can stay with the owner, which is a plus.


      Being within London, there are many tube and bus stations around, the nearest being right next to London Bridge about 500m away, so public transport is not a problem at all.

      There are no nearby parking spaces for cars, except for a few disabled spaces in Clink Street itself, yet I would not recommend driving into London due to the vast traffic.

      *****Other Information*****

      Opening Times

      10 March - 26 October (daily)
      10.00am - 5.30pm (last admission 4.30pm)
      27 October - 2 November (daily)
      10.00am - 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm)
      3 November onwards (except christmas day)
      6pm on Bank Holidays and all Sundays over Bank Holiday weekends

      Nearest Underground and Railway Station
      London Bridge
      Adults : £6.00
      Concessions : £4.00
      Family (2 adults + 2 children) : £16.00
      Groups of 12 : Adult : £5.00*
      *Groups of 12 or more are eligible for Concessions.


      I really enjoyed my experience of the museum, yet until the renovations occur, I don't recommend it to wheelchair users. Hopefully this is going to change soon.

      The tour is what you are going for, and you will experience some brilliant historical feelings, yet the London Dungeon perhaps has a much better selection.

      Please note: This review is correct for the time I originally wrote it in 2007. Certain things such as renovations may be different now though I have not been back to be able to ammend my review so do check before visiting.


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    • More +
      10.10.2009 23:23
      Very helpful



      Worth visiting if you can get a discount

      Feeling a little bit home sick for a place that is no longer my home (London) I decided to take a day trip. I planned the trip well in advance so there is really no excuse for the fact that I arrived there with nothing planned to do for the day. I met my best friend at London Bridge Station armed with a booklet of 2 for 1 offers. Over lunch we ruled out just about every possibility. The problem is that we're very different and although we have a few interests in common it is usually very difficult to find something that we both want to do (with the exception of eating, we both enjoy that!). We decided to visit the Clink Prison Museum because it was close by and it was cheap. After half an hour of searching for it we gave up. My time in London was too short to be looking for a museum that neither of us were particularly interested in. A couple of hours later, after a lot of walking and a boring (in my opinion, not hers) visit to Tate Modern we were looking for a pub to have a drink in before I got the train home when right in front of us was the Clink Museum. Fate clearly wanted us to visit it and I am not one to argue with Fate.

      Adult: £5
      Children: £3.50
      Senior Citizens: £3.50
      Students: £3.50

      -Getting There-
      I really couldn't tell you how to get there. We found it purely by chance and I really wouldn't know how to get back there. It was easy enough to find the train station afterwards but finding a small prison museum on a backstreet (or what seemed like backstreet anyway) is a lot more difficult than finding a well signposted station.
      London Bridge is the nearest tube and train station and if you plan your visit in advance you can print off a map so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. It is within easy walking disance.

      -The Museum-
      The Clink Prison Museum is a museum on the site of an old prison. It was a functional museum from the 12th century until 1780 when it was burnt down by rioters. Throughout its history the Clink was used for many different kinds of criminals, prostitutes, pimps, catholic's and debtors. The museum is now a couple of rooms with wax models of prisoners, torture devices and information about law and punishment throughout London's history.

      -My Experience-
      I enjoyed visiting the Clink Prison Museum, it took us less than an hour to get around it but it was a very interesting hour. I think if I had paid the full £5 that I would have felt a bit cheated but for £2.50 it is really worth visiting this museum.

      I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't actually a prison. There are a few attempts at reconstructing the prison setting but for the most part it's just a couple of rooms with wax works and torture devices in them. The first room you walk into contains wax works of prisoners and it is really really creepy. It was so creepy that my friend and I had to stay together as we walked around it (this was after she jumped out at me, made me scream and nearly gave me a heart attack, it seemed best to keep her where I could see her). The atmosphere in this museum is great and is probably one of its strengths,it seems so effortless. It's not like the London Dungeon where there are actors trying to scare you. I guess it's perhaps because there was actually a prison on that site and people really did suffer there, maybe some of the energy has been left over. Or maybe it is just that the wax works are really creepy and even though there are other people around you feel really isolated because you can't see them.

      There is so much information in this museum and that's something that I really appreciate. I am a bit disappointed that you don't really get to know a history of the prison from walking around it. I bought a Short History of the Clink Prison for £2 and would recommend that anyone visiting buys it because it is only in here that you will get a proper, full history of the Clink. The information provided in the museum gives you some background on the prison and some background on law and punishment. All of the information was really interesting and I learnt a lot of things that I didn't know before. The quality of this information is questionable though. Throughout there are grammatical mistakes that people have corrected with pencil which looked really unprofessional and there was even a date that had to be corrected. This doesn't inspire confidence that the information that you've read is accurate! I also found that it was repetitive, this wasn't such a big deal because even when you take out the information that had been repeated there was still a lot there.

      For £2.50 this museum is worth visiting. It's an interesting way to fill some time, perhaps between seeing other attractions or when you have an hour to spare. I really wouldn't pay any more for it because there is so little to see. What is there is intersting and they fit a lot of information into a small museum. If I had paid the full price I would be rating this 3/5 but as I didn't pay much to get in I'm giving this 4/5 stars.


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      • More +
        22.08.2009 18:39
        Very helpful



        not value for money, poor quality, avoid

        when away doing my tourist thing i like to think that i keep an open mind, not to pre-judge anything. therefore when i paid £5.00 to enter the clink prison museum i was hoping that the low level entry fee compared to the £20 odd pound i had to pay for the london dungeon would not mean that i received any less of an experience. um..well i was was sadly, wrong.
        the clink is the historical prison that used to house many of the criminals caught on bankside, central london. the name 'clink' comes from the chains that they used to place on prisoners. this name has since become a general phrase when describing prison. the original clink was burned to the ground during the gordon riots in the 1700's but what stands now is a museum dedicated to its history.
        the museum itself is very small, i managed to read edverything and walk through in about 20-30 minutes. the exhibits themselves are few and far between with very little original material/artifacts strewn about the place. much of what fills the museum is battered old models depicting 'recreations' of the events that occurred there. abmist lots of block paragraphs of writing on the wall that i would not regard as 'userfriendly' or inviting, this makes the histroy a bit hard to follow for the person who doesn't enjoy a good read! there is also very little interactivity there so i won't reccommend that you take children there.
        all in all i felt a little short changed and it certainly wouldn't be somehwere i would reccommend. my advise would be to pay the little extra dn go to the london dungeon accross the road!!!


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        • More +
          04.06.2006 12:20
          Very helpful



          A good history book would be less of a waste of time and money.

          A couple of weeks ago, my fiance's brother and wife were visiting London and we were entrusted with the task of showing them the highlights of the city, including such delights as the HMS Belfast and the Tower of London. As we crossed the Millenium Bridge and took a walk along the Thames on the Waterloo station side of the, I saw a little sign pointing towards Borough Market. Being very keen on a Brownie, we decided to wander towards the markets, choosing Clink Street as our route. It was here that my future brother-in-law spotted the infamous Clink Prison - and he was eager to take a look.

          ***History of the Clink Prison and museum***

          The Clink Prison Museum is located on the original site of the prison built by the Bishop of Winchester between 1107 and 1144. It included both a prison for women and a prison for men. It has been said that the two prisons presented a source of income for the Bishop, as whorehouses were regulated and shut down - bringing in a lot of fines and customers.

          Life in Clink Prison was apparently harsh. Not only were prisoners beaten, they were tortured brutally with various torture devices. Prisoners who were better off were able to pay the jail keepers money to obtain luxuries such as beds and bed linen and candles - as well as the luxury of less severe punishments.

          From 1352 onwards, the law permitted creditors to send their debtors to jail, vastly increasing the prison population. This mechanism was primarily used to extort more money from the debtors - as they had to not only come up with the money owed and the interest charges - but also with steep jailers fees.

          In 1450 rioters protested the Statutes of Labourers, raided the adjacent Winchester House, murdered clerics and released the prisoners. The rebellion did not last long - and both Winchester House and the prison were rebuilt and even extended.

          In 1485, Henry VII ordered incarceration of priests for adultery, incest and fornication, again increasing the prison's population. In addition, punishments were increased severely, allowing such brutal punishments as boiling women who had murdered their husbands in oil. Women and children were not spared from extreme flogging.

          During Mary I's reign, the prison was also used to incarcerate Protestants, who were starved, locked in stocks and pillories and executed if they did not die from starvation. Queen Elizabeth also used to Clink to lock up religious; however, she mainly places Catholics and Protestant Puritans in to this house of hell and corpses. When the Puritans decided to overthrow the church in 1584, Queen Elizabeth ordered that scores of Puritans should be starved to death.

          When Winchester House was sold to a property developer in 1649, it became a pure debtor's prison. Punishment, such as whipping, still continued for a few decades, but as the costs to upkeep the prison became much higher, the prison was used less and less. In 1732 only two inmates remained. As the Clink suffered from severe decay, a temporary prison was built in 1745, but it was used again for the incarceration of debtors from 1976 to 1780, when it was burned down by Gordon rioters. The prison was never rebuilt.

          ***Our experience***

          As we descended the steps into Clink Prison, I actually felt my stomach sink. I expected the experience to be very gloomy and depressing, and maybe even a little scary. My worries could not have been further from the truth.

          Entering the first part of Clink Prison, visitors are greeted by a few sad-looking wax creatures, that sadly do not look as impressive and real as some of the wax figures at Madame Tussaud's. The sadness and the pain in their eyes is apparent, but it does little to convey the true atmosphere of Clink Prison. On the walls, visitors can read about the history of the museum. There are some interesting bits of information here and there - for example about the status of women in the prison. Feminists would be appalled to discover that women were actually more severely punished than men. They were often tortured to death slowly, whereas men would often be granted the death of honour - a quick and painless beheading.

          Continuing the walk through the prison, the display of information and history on the walls continues, but other than that there is very little to see. The main attraction of the prison is a display of various torture devices - but apart from two of these I had seen them in various museums throughout my life time - there was little earth shattering worth seeing. Torture devices include things such as the whipping post, torture chair, thief catcher, chastity belt, thumb crusher, collar and the boot (footcrusher).

          Out of the devices, I found the thief catcher, a long metal stick with a three-pronged catching device at the end, the most impressive. I could only imagine how it was used to hook a thief on the end - a great concept! The scariest device was "The Boot" - a footcrusher in which prisoners were forced to place their foot. The Boot was then filled up with water or oil and wood pieces. The prisoner's foot would swell up - and as it did so, would be crushed by the wood. The jail keepers would then heat the Boot up - so that the foot would simply fall off.

          I cannot say that I learned anything more than I could have from a book by visiting the Clink Prison Museum - and in all honesty, the set-up did little to convey the real atmosphere of the place. There are tapes that tell stories of inmates, but they sound so fake that they distract from the atmosphere rather than aid imagination. The only gloomy moment was in one area, where visitors are shown a table and a raised bed - and are told that prisoners often had to eat mice and rats to survive. But this was hardly anything groundbreaking or exciting.

          What wound me up the most is the fact that the museum has invited some rather embarrassing "activities" to make up for the fact that there is really nothing to see. At various stages, visitors are invited to place themselves into the place of a prisoner, by imagining their thumbs being crushed or by guessing how many hours a prisoner would have to stay in a certain torture device.

          There is a little gift shop at the end of the tour, selling the usual key rings and pencils, but the staff member who is employed to work in the shop was hiding in the back and as such it was not very inviting to even consider buying anything.

          As we left the prison through the back door, I became acutely aware that the most informative and gloomy parts of the prison are the doors and the outside of the building.

          ***Our verdict***

          We were all bitterly disappointed with our visit. The attraction is simply overpriced, considering that for £5, you would get no more than 30 minutes of history and very little to look at. The Clink Prison Museum does little to convey what misery the inmates went through and much to make visitors believe that this is simply a tourist trap. A reasonable price for this attraction would have been £1.50, not a penny more!

          It is unclear to me who this attraction would actually appeal to, as it certainly has little to offer for children and certainly does not make for a family day out. It might appeal to history buffs or those who have a keen interest in ancient torture devices, but these devices could certainly be seen in other museums which have more to offer.

          ***Further information***

          *Admission prices*

          Adult £5
          Children (under16) £3.50
          Senior Citizens (over 60) £3.50
          Student (need I.D.) £3.50
          Family £12.00
          (2 adults, 2 children)

          *Opening times*

          Mon-Fri 10am-6pm,
          Sat & Sun, 10am-9pm


          1 Clink Street, London SE1 9DG

          Nearest tube/ train station: London Bridge

          For map visit:


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          • More +
            17.12.2001 04:54
            Very helpful



            The Clink suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a small, serious museum, or a busy tourist attraction? My visit suggested that the answer is a bit of both, but with neither succeeding terribly well. The museum is near London Bridge, between Southwark Cathedral and Vinopolis. On your way, note Winchester Palace (or rather, the few remnants of the palace) as its history is closely linked to that of the museum. THE HISTORY The museum is more or less on the site of the original Clink prison, the gaol of the Bishop of Winchester who controlled brothels and other activities in the then notorious area. The prison existed from the thirteenth century, and contained a range of prisoners, particularly prostitutes and debtors. Prostitutes were there not for prostitution itself, but for breaking the rules of the brothels, which the bishop controlled. Each prisoner had to pay for their own keep, and even for their fetters to be fitted and (on release) removed. Those without money depended on what they could beg through a grating. According to the museum, torture was carried out in the prison, mainly to obtain confessions. Some of the equipment is on display, although with little accompanying explanation. The building continued as a prison until it was destroyed in 1780. THE MUSEUM You walk down to the ticket hall before pasing into the museum, which is in an appropriately dark and windowless basement. Admission is expensive, around £4 for an adult, which creates expectations the museum does not meet. Had it cost a pound or two, the experience would have been less unsatisfying. A booklet is available, but don't expect it to be a guidebook. Instead, it's a history of the prison with a few black and white illustrations: I found it interesting, and good value for a pound, but probably far from what most visitors expect. Once inside, there are models recreating vario
            us aspects of life in the prison, beginning with the fitting of shackles to prisoners (for which they had to pay themselves). These are not brilliant, have no moving parts, and seem a little dusty in places. Frankly, their power to entertain children will be limited, so don't expect to have much time for reading the displays. That is important, because most of the information is in the form of display boards. These have been well-researched, but again are not gripping for the person lured in by promises of blood and gore displayed outside. Many are quotations from contemporary sources. A few souvenirs are available, but they are not in a shop as such so choosing them is difficult and they are uninspiring. There also seemed to be some kind of facility for refreshments, although none were available when I visited. This review feels very negative, but in fact the museum is not awful. What is a problem is that the advertising, the signage, and above all the price suggest that this is similar to the London Dungeon. In fact, in size and approach, it is very different. If you are not with young children, and you have a genuine interest in the history of London or of criminal law, then the museum is interesting. It has plenty of information and interpretation, interspersed with models and engravings. There are even recorded commentaries in some rooms giving stories of individual prisoners. Children who are interested in the topic, perhaps for a school project, will also gain a lot from the museum. However, don't be fooled into thinking that it's the kind of multimedia experience that keeps bored youngsters effortlessly entertained! A minor but significant point is that the museum has plenty of opportunities to sit down. This is always something I appreciate, and particularly so here as I had reached London Bridge after a long walk along the riverbank. Finally, do visit the website
            at www.clink.co.uk - it's a well-designed and interesting introduction to the museum.


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