The Clink Prison Museum

The Clink Prison Museum is certainly not for the faint hearted but if you can stomach its graphic depictions of torture then it can be an illuminating experience. Peter Gray reports.

The Clink Prison Museum

The Clink Prison Museum tells the story of the prison which gave its name to all others. Originally a small lockup within Winchester Palace – the London home of the bishops of Winchester – the original cells date back to 1144.

The name ‘Clink’ is of mysterious origin although the term seems to have been used for the prison since the early 14th century. One theory of the name’s etymology is that the word comes from the sound of the blacksmith’s hammer as he fastened the irons around the ankles of the prisoners. However, another body of thought suggests that the word is of Flemish origin and derives from the Flemish word for latch. This word is “Klink” and it is suggested that the term for prison is a derviation of this word.

However the term emerged, what is certain is that the word clink not only came to represent the prison on Bankside but also all other prisons, hence the expression “to be in clink”.

As the facility grew, the Clink developed into a labyrinth of dungeons which became infamous for the horrific torture that was often performed within. Visitors to the museum today can learn about a selection of these horrors with the museum dedicating a large section of the exhibition to the subject. The museum contains many graphic descriptions (both visual and written) of torture methods and much of what is described sounds to our modern ears, impossibly barbarous.

The Clink Prison Museum is certainly not for the faint hearted but if your stomach can stand it, then a visit to the venue can prove an interesting and eye-opening experience.

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