The Southbank is a compulsory visit for anybody, either tourists, people from outside of London, even locals enjoy the mix of architectures, the river or the restaurants covering cuisines from all over the world. And of course, it’s historical treasures like Shakespeare’s Globe, The Anchor Freehouse or Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Golden Hinde.
One of these treasures is The Clink Prison museum. The Clink was a fully-working prison from 1151 until 1780, and has hosted all sorts of prisoners. Politics, theft or debt, those where some of the reasons you could end up chained to its stone walls.
I met Miranda Furneaux, manager of the museum, so she could tell me a little bit more about The Clink;
I’ve passed by your site millions of times and I’ve always been intrigued by your, ahem, boney friend hanging there (A.K.A, the caged skeleton hanging outside the building).
I can assure you that’s a prop, not a real prisoner! But that was one of the punishments they had to face, back in the day. And it didn’t really matter if you were in for stealing an apple, or for something worse.
And once inside, what could make the prisoner’s life easier?
The more money you had, the better. If your family was well established they could pay for your food, which costed double within the prison walls than on the streets, or for bedding, candles and the rest. More importantly, if you had money you could buy chains.
Right. Weren’t those already part of the deal?
The thing is, the prison issued you with the minimum, which was being manacled with a very short chain to the wall. So you couldn’t walk, either you stood up or sat down. But you could buy lighter and longer chains, and that meant that you could move around, lie down, even get outside, so you could beg at the door and get more money.
Not just the hardships of being chained up, there was also the risk of lead poisoning.
Yes, of course, getting your wrists chaffed was a dead risk! But honestly, the standard experience was already horrible enough…
The prison was “open for business” until 1780, but when was the museum established?
The museum has always been privately run, and opened in 1988. It was, in fact, the first tourist attraction in the Southbank.
Amazing! From what I’ve seen in Instagram, your visitors leave quite happy, even if the theme of the museum is rather gritty! Is there anything that specially surprises them?
We try to show them that History is always better than fiction, and how fun it can be! The fact that our museum is so interactive always catches them off-guard, but it’s also the reason they leave happier! That, or maybe because that’s when they leave the cage, haha.
Let’s hope it’s the first! My last question: has the Clink been involved in any film or series?
An American Werewolf in London was actually filmed in Clink Street! Sadly they didn’t use our site, but yeah, that was our brush with movie magic!
The Clink Prison Museum is near London Bridge station, and a really fun learning experience for kids and adults! Included in the ENTERTAINER, along with some of those great restaurants we were mentioning before. We hope you enjoy your visit to the Southbank!