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Clerkenwell (old) Prison, also known as the Clerkenwell House of Detention or Middlesex House of Detention was a prison in Clerkenwell, London. It held prisoners awaiting trial.[2]

Clerkenwell (old) Prison
Clerkenwell prison, London, during visiting hours.JPG
Visiting time at the House of Detention, 1862
LocationSt. James's Walk, Clerkenwell, London, England
CoordinatesCoordinates: 51°31′28″N 0°6′26″W / 51.52444°N 0.10722°W / 51.52444; -0.10722
Population109[1] (as of 1849[1])
Notable prisoners
Richard Burke

It stood on Bowling Green Lane conveniently close to the Middlesex Sessions House, where prisoners would be tried, on Clerkenwell Green to the south.


The House of Detention was built on the site of two earlier prisons, the Clerkenwell Bridewell for convicted prisoners and the New Prison for those awaiting trial. The Bridewell closed in 1794 and its functions were taken over by the Coldbath Fields Prison at Mount Pleasant. The New Prison was rebuilt in 1818 and in 1847, at which time its name changed to the House of Detention.

On 13 December 1867 its exercise yard was the target of a gunpowder explosion instigated by members of the Fenian Society in an attempt to aid the escape of Richard Burke, an arms supplier to the Fenians.[3] The blast killed twelve bystanders and wounded 120 in Corporation Row; and the event became known as the "Clerkenwell Outrage". Some of those responsible were executed, with ringleader Michael Barrett becoming the last person to be publicly executed outside Newgate Prison.[4]

The prison was demolished in 1890. The site was then used for the Hugh Myddleton School, built in 1893 and closed in c.1960. The school building has now been converted into flats. The 9000 sq ft[5] vaults beneath, dating from the prison era, and now known as the "Clerkenwell Catacombs", remained. They were reopened as air-raid shelters during the Blitz, and are occasionally opened, for instance during Clerkenwell Design Week. For a few years the vaults were open as a tourist attraction. Various movies have been filmed in the catacombs.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Clerkenwell Prison". Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  2. ^ "CLERKENWELL HOUSE OF CORRECTION", The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, London (816): 204, 31 March 1877
  3. ^ "FENIANISM—THE ATTACK ON CLERKENWELL PRISON.—QUESTION". Hansard. London, England: HMSO: 1215. 1868-03-09.
  4. ^ London Today - Events - 13 December Archived 2013-10-13 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "House of Detention". Canvas Events. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  6. ^ "In Pictures: Inside Clerkenwell House Of Detention Catacombs". Londonist. 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2017-05-29.