HOLLOWAY PRISON 1852 to 1971

Holloway Prison opened in 1852 as a mixed-sex prison, but became a female-only prison in August 1902 due to a growing demand for space for female prisoners. The Prison’s male inmates were moved to Pentonville, Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton prisons.

The original Prison building was based on radial design which aimed to keep inmates separate but easily observed at all times. The building was described as an imposing Victorian structure (called the Castle) built as a ‘Terror to Evil Doers’.

When Holloway Prison first opened it could only accommodate 60 female prisoners, but when the male inmates left in 1902, new wing extensions meant that the building could hold 949 women with a later wing extension allowing for a further 101 prisoners.

The Prison held a number of notable inmates during this period, from Duchesses to fascists and spies. The suffragettes were also imprisoned on the site, many committing to hunger strikes as they continued their campaigning from within the Prison walls.

Public hangings ended in the UK in 1868 and moved inside prisons, including Holloway. A total of five judicial executions by hanging took place at Holloway Prison between 1903, including the last woman to be executed in the UK, Ruth Elis, in July 1955.

Little remains of the original Holloway Prison apart from a small selection of objects held in the Museum of London’s Social Working History collections store. These include the bell hung in the gatehouse of Holloway Prison yard, which was rung to summon the prisoners to work and exercise.


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