The Clink was a prison for over six hundred years before being burned to the ground by the Gordon Rioters in 1780, but the current museum has been rebuilt on its foundations and does a very good job of recreating the appearance and ambience of the original. Life in the Clink was very harsh and before it became solely a debtors’ prison saw torture and beatings as well as hangings as part of the prisoners’ everyday life. It is ironic to think that for many years of its existence it was owned by the bishops of Winchester, who made a rather nice living out of it, as well as from the rather handy money they got from licensing brothels – the girls were known by all and sundry as Winchester Geese.
The museum tells the story of the Clink in a series of tableaux and these are possibly not very suitable for pre-teens as they deal with hanging, torture and the rest of the inevitable trappings of incarcerations in the past. There are no sightings of ghosts in the rebuilt Clink, but it would be strange if there were to be no lingering spirits in its walls, as there would have been misery and fear in plenty during its six centuries as a place of correction.
The Clink was a prison during some of the cruellest years in English history. Henry VIII, rather an expert on wives himself, introduced the punishment of boiling in oil for women who murdered their husbands. There are no records as to how many times this punishment was actually carried out, because it can’t have been a simple procedure for the gaoler to arrange, but even so the mere threat of it hanging over her head would be enough to scare the convicted woman almost to death. When this was repealed when Henry’s daughters came to the throne, things got no easier; Mary executed Protestants, Elizabeth Catholics and so the fear and misery went on.
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Date: 3rd Dec 2011
Cost: £49 per person