What Is the Clink Prison Museum?

Marlene de Wilde

The Clink Prison Museum is a museum based on and located on the site where Clink Prison originally stood in London. The atmosphere inside the museum has been designed to replicate the conditions of the prison with gloomy candle-lit cells and sawdust-covered floors. Sound effects including groans from the waxwork figures complement the exhibits of torture implements. The museum has mixed reviews from visitors with some finding it not worthy of the entrance fee and others finding it a convincing and realistic portrayal of medieval prison life.

Clink Prison housed male and female inmates from 1151 to 1780.
Clink Prison housed male and female inmates from 1151 to 1780.

Clink Prison housed male and female inmates from 1151 until 1780. Life in the prison was harsh and cruel with prisoners having no rights and being subject to torture and abuse. Prisoners who had money or connections on the outside were able to bribe the jailers and so serve their sentence in more humane conditions, for the time in question at least. Those who were not so fortunate were lucky to leave the prison in one piece or at all.

Visitors to the Clink Prison museum can try on some of the equipment used to torture the prisoners such as the balls and chains and the scolds bridal. Pictures and articles placed around the cells are designed to give visitors a good idea of what life was like for prison inmates. The hands-on philosophy of the Clink Prison Museum allows sightseers to experience some of what the life of a medieval prisoner was like.

Each of the cells address a different period in time and information boards relay relevant information. The Clink Prison Museum is small but visitors who take the time to absorb the information available will feel the admission price was worth paying. Educational groups have the option of using the tour guide service. The aim of the educational tours is to impart a sound knowledge of everyday life in the time period the prison was in use with personal histories of some the actual inmates bringing an added reality to the scene.

Other London sites nearby also offer a taste of detention in the past are the London Dungeon and the London Bridge Experience. Situated close to the London Bridge, on the South Bank of the Thames, the clink Prison Museum is within walking easy distance of public transport. As it is small, the museum is not wheelchair accessible or stroller friendly and due to the somewhat macabre nature of the exhibits, may not be to everyone's taste, especially small children.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - I don't think they should lead people on, but the idea that it is haunted is also part of history. It's not something that should be ignored, in my opinion.

People are always going to get a little bit carried away, no matter what you tell them. And in that atmosphere it's inevitable, but ghost stories are interesting to me and I'd rather hear about them than not.


@irontoenail - I thought they did it with quite a bit of sensitivity. They weren't trying to make it into a horror show, although I can't say they weren't trying to scare people. They did have a lot of information about "paranormal activity" in the old prison, talking about the various ghosts that have been seen and the different kinds of spooky things that have happened.

I found that a bit more distasteful than the spooky sounds, to be honest. I mean, it's interesting in a way, but I think you just put ideas in people's heads and then they see what you want them to see and end up telling the same stories.

I didn't see any ghosts. Just a terrible part of history.


I have never been to the clink prison museum, but I wonder if the fact that they have sound effects comes across as a bit cheesy?

I once toured around Alcatraz, which is another famous prison and I did an audio tour, which was narrated by someone who had actually done a term in the prison.

I think there might have been a few sound effects, but mostly there was nothing but some description and anecdotes and you were allowed to fill in the blanks with your own imagination.

I guess it depends on how they manage it, though. And if it is a very busy tourist trap then it's not like you'll have much of a chance to stand around and soak in the atmosphere undisturbed.

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