Inside The Old Clerkenwell House Of Detention

By London Historians Last edited 77 months ago
Inside The Old Clerkenwell House Of Detention

Very occasionally, the public are allowed rare access to the only remaining bits of Clerkenwell House of Detention, also known as the Middlesex House of Detention. They are the underground vaults, here pictured.

This institution was primarily a remand centre for prisoners awaiting trial at the nearby Middlesex Sessions House (still standing in largely original condition).

The main incident for which this prison is well-known — if at all — was a Fenian bomb attack on 13 December 1867. It became known as the Clerkenwell Outrage. The plan of this attack was to break free Fenian prisoners, primarily one Michael Blake. In addition to killing 12 bystanders, the attack was a fairly disastrous affair, no prisoners escaped. The Fenians weren't exactly criminal masterminds, they borrowed matches for the explosion from some passing children.

The ringleader, Michael Barrett, was found guilty of murder and became the last person to be publicly hanged at the notorious Newgate Prison, on 24 May 1868.

Both prisons were demolished in the years ahead, Clerkenwell in 1890 and Newgate in 1907.

A version of this article originally appeared on London Historians. You can become a London Historians member here.

Last Updated 18 July 2017