This has to one of London’s smallest attractions. Wandsworth Prison Museum is housed in a garage, a few metres away from the perimeter of its penal parent. It’s quite possibly the only former-garage to have been opened by a royal, with the Duke of Kent cutting the ribbon in 2008.
Inside, a huddle of cabinets and curiosities tell the story of the 160-year-old jail. It has held the famous and infamous over the years, including John “acid bath” Haigh, Ronnie Kray, Derek Bentley and escapee Ronnie Biggs. Its gallows have executed 135 people.
We were shown round the tiny space recently by prison guard, museum curator and published historian of the prison Stewart McLaughlin. Click through the gallery to see some of the highlights.
Stewart also gave us a rare tour of the prison itself. It’s one of the UK’s largest, and based on a panopticon design with wings radiating from a central chamber. A giant set of Olympic rings currently hangs in the hub. We would include a photo, but we’re told it’s a criminal offence to use a camera inside Her Majesty’s prisons without prior permission.
Wandsworth Prison Museum can be viewed by written appointment only. Contact Wandsworth Prison Museum c/o POA Office, HMP Wandsworth, Heathfield Road, SW18 3HS. Tours of the prison itself are not commonly offered; we got in as members of the London Historians group, who expect to arrange another tour in the near future. Their write-up is here.