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MILLBANK PRISON - THE CONVICT DEPOT.
Millbank Prison is only approached by land, in the case of
the unfortunate convicts who are taken there. The visitor instinctively avoids
the uninteresting route down Parliament Street, Abingdon Street, and the
dreary Horseferry Road, and proceeds to the prison by water.
We will suppose him to do as we did, take the boat at Hungerford Stairs, with which view, he must pass through the market of the same name, which is celebrated for its penny ices ("the best in England"), and its twopenny omnibuses (direct to the towns styled Camden and Kentish Town), and also known as the great West-end emporium for fish (including periwinkes and shrimps), flesh, and fowl. This classic spot was formerly remarkable for its periwinkle market, the glory of which, however, has now altogether departed.
The "SPACIOUS HALL," in which the periwinkle traffic was once carried on, is now, as a very prominent placard informs us, once more "TO BE LET." When the Cockney taste for periwinkles appeared to be dying out, the hail in question was made the receptacle for various models, which possessed no sort of interest to the sight-seer; after which it was converted into a "Mesmeric Saloon," which took an equally slight hold on the public mind. Then it was the site of various other failures, and recently it became a Registration and Advertisement Agency, but, as it was impossible to descend any lower in the scale of inutility, it was, on this scheme being abandoned, finally closed, and there is now some probability of its exterior being turned to advantage as a hoarding for the exhibition of external rather than internal placards.
Passing along the arcade, with its massive granite pillars, we notice the "Epping House," celebrated for Epping and other provincial butters so skilfully manufactured in London. Then suddenly our eyes and noses are attracted by the "HOT MEAT AND FRUIT PIES", exposed on a kind of fishmonger's board, in front of an open window, which also exhibits an announcement to the effect that there is a "Genteel Dining-Room Up-stairs."
Then come the poulterers' shops, with the live cocks and hens in coops, and the scarlet combs and black plumage of the birds peeping through the wicker-baskets at the door, while dead geese, with their limp fluffy necks, are hanging over the shelves of the open shop.
[-233-] At the corner is the grand penny ice shop, the "Tortoni's," of Hungerford. Boys are feasting within, and scooping the frozen syrup in spoonfuls out of the diminutive glasses, while black-chinned and dark-eyed Italians are moulding their "gaufres," in large flat curling irons, above a portable stove.
Before reaching the bridge we notice a row of enterprising fishmongers who are speculating in the silvery salmon, the white-bellied turbot, the scarlet lobster, the dun-coloured crab, and the mackerel with its metallic green back, and who salute the passers-by, as they hurry to catch the boat, with subdued cries of "Wink, winks!" or "Any fine serrimps to-day!"
The subterranean music-hall at the southern extremity of the market, promises unheard- of attractions for the evening. The Dolphin and Swan Taverns, on either side, used to be rivals, in the days when holiday-makers, in the absence of steam-boat accommodation, used to drink and smoke, and pick periwinkles, on the roofs "commanding a fine view (of the mud) of the river," and fancy the stench was invigorating and refreshing, as they sparingly threw their halfpence to the mud-larks, who disported themselves so joyously in the filth beneath.
Carefully avoiding the toll-gate, we proceed along a narrow passage by the side, formed for the benefit of steam-boat passengers. The line of placards beside the bridge-house celebrates the merits of "DOWN'S HATS", and "COOPER'S MAGIC PORTRAITS", or teach us how Gordon Cumming (in Scotch attire) saves his fellow-creatures from the jaws of roaring lions by means of a flaming firebrand.
We hurry along the bridge, with its pagoda-like piers, which serve to support the iron chains suspending the platform, and turn down a flight of winding steps, bearing a considerable resemblance to the entrance of a vault or cellar.
On the covered coal barges, that are dignified by the name of the floating pier, are officials in uniform, with bands round their hats, bearing mysterious inscriptions, such as L. and W. S. B. C., the meaning of which is in vain guessed at by persons who have only enough time to enable them to get off by the next boat, and who have had no previous acquaintance with the London and Westminster Steam Boat Company. The words "PAY HERE" are inscribed over little wooden houses, that remind one of the retreats generally found at the end of suburban gardens; and there arc men within to receive the money and dispense the "checks," who have so theatrical an air, that they appear like money-takers who have been removed in their boxes to Hungerford Stairs from some temple of the legitimate drama that has recently become insolvent.
We take our ticket amid cries of "Now then, mum, this way for Creemorne!" "Oo's for Ungerford ?" "Any one for Lambeth or Chelsea?" and have just time to set foot on the boat before it shoots through the bridge, leaving behind the usual proportion of persons who have just taken their tickets in time to miss it.
Barges, black with coal, are moored in the roads in long parallel lines beside the bridge on one side the river, and on the other there are timber-yards at the water's edge, crowded with yellow stacks of deal. On the right bank, as we go, arc seen the shabby-looking lawns at the back of Privy Gardens and Richmond Terrace, which run down to the river, and which might be let out at exorbitant rents if the dignity of the proprietors would only allow them to convert their strips of sooty grass into "eligible" coal wharves.
Westminster Bridge is latticed over with pile-work; the red signal-boards above the arches point out the few of which the passage is not closed. The parapets are removed, and replaced by a dingy hoarding, above which the tops of carts, and occasionally the driver of a Hansom cab may be seen passing along.
After a slight squeak, and a corresponding jerk, and amid the cries from a distracted boy of "Ease her!" "Stop her!" "Back her !" as if the poor boat were suffering some sudden pain, the steamer is brought to a temporary halt at Westminster pier.
[-234-] Then, as the boat dashes with a loud noise through one of the least unsound of the arches of the bridge, we come in front of the New Houses of Parliament, with their architecture and decorations of Gothic biscuit-ware. Here are the tall clock-tower, with its huge empty sockets for the reception of the clocks and its scaffolding of bird-cage work at the top, and the lofty massive square tower, like that of Cologne Cathedral, surmounted with its cranes.
Behind is the white-looking Abbey, with its long, straight, black roof, and its pinnacled towers; and a little farther on, behind the grimy coal wharves, is seen a bit of St. John's Church, with its four stone turrets standing up in the air, and justifying the popular comparison which likens it to an inverted table.
On the Lambeth side we note the many boat-builders' yards, and then "Bishop's Walk," as the embanked esplanade, with its shady plantation, adjoining the Archbishop's palace, is called. The palace itself derives more picturesqueness than harmony from the differences existing in the style and colour of its architecture, the towers at the one end being gray and worm-eaten, the centre reminding us somewhat of the Lincolns' Inn dining-hall, while the motley character of the edifice is rendered more thorough by the square, massive, and dark ruby-coloured old bricken tower, which forms the eastern extremity.
The yellow-gray stone turret of Lambeth church, close beside the Archbishop's palace, warns us that we are approaching the stenches which have made Lambeth more celebrated than the very dirtiest of German towns. During six days in the week the effluvium from the bone-crushing establishments is truly nauseating; but on Fridays, when the operation of glazing is performed at the potteries, the united exhalation from the south bank produces suffocation, in addition to sickness - the combined odours resembling what might be expected to arise from the putrefaction of an entire Isle of Dogs. The banks at the side of the river here are lined with distilleries, gas works, and all sorts of factories requiring chimneys of preternatural dimensions. Potteries, with kilns showing just above the roofs, are succeeded by whiting-racks, with the white lumps shining through the long, pitchy, black bars; and huge tubs of gasometers lie at the feet of the lofty gas-works. Everything is, in fact, on a gigantic scale, even to the newly-whitewashed factory inscribed "Ford's Waterproofing Company," which, with a rude attempt at inverted commas, is declared to be "limited."
On the opposite shore we see Chadwick's paving-yard, which is represented in the river by several lines of barges, heavily laden with macadamized granite; the banks being covered with paving stones, which are heaped one upon the other like loaves of bread.
Ahead is Vauxhall bridge, with its open iron work at the sides of the arches, and at its foot, at the back of the dismal Horseferry Road, lies the Milbank prison.
This immense yellow-brown mass of brick-work is surrounded by a low wall of the same material, above which is seen a multitude of small squarish windows, and a series of diminutive roofs of slate, like low retreating foreheads. There is a systematic irregularity about the in-and-out aspect of the building, which gives it the appearance of a gigantic puzzle; and altogether the Millbank prison may be said to be one of the most successful realizations, on a large scale, of the ugly in architecture, being an ungainly combination of the mad-house with the fortress style of building, for it has a series of martello-like towers, one at each of its many angles, and was originally surrounded by a moat, whilst its long lines of embrasure-like windows are barred, after the fashion of Bedlam and St. Luke's.
At night the prison is nothing but a dark, shapeless structure, the hugeness of which is made more apparent by the bright yellow specks which shine from the casements. The Thames then rolls by like a flood of ink, spangled with the reflections from the lights of Vauxhall bridge, and the deep red lamps from those of the Millbank pier, which dart downwards into the stream, like the luminous trails of a rocket reversed. The tall obeliskine chimneys of the southern bank, which give Lambeth so Egyptian an aspect, look more colossal than ever in the darkness; while the river taverns on either side, at which amateurs congregate to enjoy the prospect and fragrance of the Thamesian mud, exhibit clusters of light which [-235-] attract the eye from one point to another, along the banks, until it rests at last upon Westminster bridge, where each of the few arches which remain "practicable" for steam-boats and barges is indicated by a red lamp, which glares from the summit of the vault like a blood-shot eye.
Plan, History and Discipline of the Prison.
Millbank prison was formerly
guarded, as we said, like a fortress, by a wide moat, which completely
surrounded the exterior wall. This moat has been filled up, and the earth has
yielded a tolerably large crop of long, rank grass, of the kind peculiar to
graveyards, bearing ample testimony to the damp and marshy nature of the soil.
The narrow circle of meadow, which marks where the moat formerly ran, seems to
afford very satisfactory grazing to the solitary cow that may be occasionally
seen within its precincts.
The ground-plan of the prison itself resembles a wheel, of which the governor's house in the centre forms the nave, while each two of the spokes constitute the sides of six long pentagons with triangular bases, and divergent sides of equal length, at the end of each of which stands a turret or tower, with a conical slate roof, and a number of vertical slits for windows. From the two towers the lateral lines converge at equal inclinations towards the apex, so that each of the pentagonal figures presents a triangular front. (See Ground-plan, p. 237.)
Millbank Prison is a modification of Jeremy Bentham's "Panoptikon, or Inspection House." The ground on which it stands was purchased from the Marquis of Salisbury, in 1799, for £12,000; and the building itself, which was commenced in 1812, cost half a million. It is now the general depot for persons under sentence of transportation, or waiting to be drafted to government jails, and is the largest of the London prisons.
The entire ground occupied by the establishment is sixteen acres in extent, seven of which are taken up by the prison itself, and the buildings and yards attached to it, while the remainder is laid out in gardens, which are cultivated by the convicts.
It was originally built for the confinement of 1,200 prisoners in separate cells, but since the separate system has been partially abandoned, larger numbers have been admitted, and it is at present adapted for the reception of about 1,300.
When Jeremy Bentham first proposed the establishment of the penitentiary, his plan was announced as one "for a new and less expensive mode of employing and reforming convicts." Although the prison was of course to remain a place of penal detention, it was at the same time to be made a kind of convict workshop, in which the prisoners were to be employed in various trades and manufactures, and to be allowed to apply a portion of their earnings to their own use.
Part of Bentham's system consisted in placing the prisoners under constant surveillance. From a room in the centre of the building, the governor, and any one else who was admitted into the interior, were to see into all parts of the building at all periods of the day, while a reflecting apparatus was even to enable them to watch the prisoners in their cells at night. There was a contrivance also for putting the visitor into immediate oral communication with any of the prisoners. This, from the beginning, proved a failure, considered only as a piece of mechanism.
Bentham's plan of constant and general inspection - his "panopticon principle of supervision," as it was called, "was referred to a Parliamentary Committee, in 1810, and, after some discussion, finally rejected."
In 1812, two years after the abandonment of Bentham's scheme, which provided for the ac-[-236-]commodation of 600 convicts, it was determined to erect a penitentiary for the reception of 1,200 convicts on the ground which the panopticon was to have occupied, and to allow each convict a separate cell. This prison, or collection of prisons - for it consisted of several departments, each of which was entirely distinct - was commenced in 1813, and finished in 1821. According to the discipline adopted in the new prison, "each convict's time of imprisonment was divided into two portions; during the former of these he was confined in a separate cell, in which he worked and slept." The separation, however, even under the strictest seclusion, was not complete; the prisoners congregated, from time to time, during the period allotted for working at the mills or water-machines, or while taking exercise in the airing-ground, and on these occasions it was found utterly impossible to prevent intercourse among them. After remaining in the separate class for eighteen months or two years, the prisoners were removed to the second class, in which they laboured in common. The evil tendency of this regulation soon became apparent, and, as in the case at Gloucester, the governer and chaplain remonstrated against it, alleging that the good effects produced by the operation of the discipline enforced in the first class, were speedily and utterly done away with on the prisoner's transfer to the second. The evil was so strongly represented in the superintendent's committee, that in March, 1832, the second class was abolished, and new regulations were made in order to render the separation between the prisoners more complete and effectual.
In time of the "penitentiary" system, the governor of the prison was a reverend gentleman, who placed an undue reliance on the efficacy of religious forms. The prisoners, independently of their frequent attendance in the chapel, were supplied, more than plentifully, with tracts and religious books, and, in fact, taught to do nothing but pray. Even the warders were put to read prayers to them in their cells, and the convicts taking their cue from the reverend governor, with the readiness which always distinguishes them, were not long in assuming a contrite and devout aspect, which, however, found no parallel in their conduct. As the most successful simulator of holiness became the most favoured prisoner, sanctified looks were, as a matter of course, the order of the day, and the most desperate convicts in the prison found it advantageous to complete their criminal character by the addition of hypocrisy.
This irrational and demoralizing system. ceased with the reign of the reverend governor.
By the Act 6 and 7 Vict. c. 26, it was provided that the General Penitentiary at Millbank should be called the Millbank Prison, and used as a receptacle for such convicts under sentence or order of transportation as the Secretary of State might direct to be removed there. "They are to continue there," adds the First Report of the Millbank Prison (July 31, 1844), in which an abstract of the act is given, "until transported according to law or conditionally pardoned, or until they become entitled to their freedom, or are directed by the Secretary of State to be removed to any other prison or place of confinement in which they may be lawfully imprisoned;" thus appropriating this extensive penal institution as a depot for the reception of all convicts under sentence or order of transportation in Great Britain, in lieu of their being sent directly, as heretofore, to the hulks.
Although many of the prisoners here are now allowed to work together, or "placed in association," as would be said in prison phraseology, the majority of them are kept in separate confinement. Every prisoner is supplied with moral or religious instruction. Prisoners, not of the Established Church, may obtain leave to be absent from the chapel, and Catholics hear service regularly performed by a minister of their own religion.
Each prisoner is employed, unless prevented by sickness, in such work as the governor may appoint, every day except Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday, and every day appointed for a general fast, or thanksgiving; the hours of work in each day being limited to twelve, exclusive of the time allowed for meals. Prisoners attend to the cleaning of the [* Report of Parliamentary Committee on Penitentiary House. 1811 - this appears at bottom of page, but I cannot locate an asterisked quotation, ed] [-237-] prison, under the superintendence of the warders, and some also assist in the kitchen and bakehouse under the direction of the bakers and cooks.
The conduct of each prisoner is carefully watched and noted, and the most deserving receive a good-conduct badge to wear on their dress after they have been a certain time in the prison.
Millbank prison, as we hare before said, consists of six pentagons which converge towards the centre. On entering the outer gate, pentagon 1 is the first on the right, pentagon 2 the
second, and so on until we reach pentagon 6, the last of the
radii of the circle, and which is immediately on the left of the entrance.
Pentagon 1 contains the reception-ward, in which the prisoners are all confined separately.
In pentagon 2 the prisoners work at various trades in separate cells.
Pentagon 3 is devoted to the women, who are for the most part in separation.
In pentagon 4 both the separate and associated systems are pursued. This pentagon contains the
Pentagon 5, besides its cells for separate confinement, contains the general ward, which consists of four cells knocked into one. This ward is looked upon with a favourable eye by the "old hands," who are well acquainted with the prison habits, and endeavour to [-238-] gain admission to it for the sake of the conversation which takes place there, and which, in spite of the "silent system" can never be altogether put a stop to.
There are three floors in each of these pentagons, and four wards on each floor.*
*We give, as usual, the following:
STATEMENT OF THE NUMBER AND DISPOSAL OF THE CONVICTS RECEIVED INTO MILLBANK PRISON THROUGHOUT THE YEAR 1854
is an officer to every two wards, and each ward contains thirty cells, one of
which is a store cell.
Every floor has its instructing officer, but the instructing officers appointed by the prison authorities teach nothing but tailoring, and prisoners who are anxious to learn some other trade, must obtain permission to enter a ward in which there is some prisoner capable of giving them the desired instruction.
All the cells are well ventilated, and the prison generally is kept scrupulously clean, but the site of the building is low and marshy, and although enormous sums have been spent in draining and improving the soil, its dampness still renders it very unhealthy-as may be seen by the following comparison of the number of cases of illness occurring in the several convict prisons throughout the Metropolis.
TABLE SHOWING THE PER CENTAGE OF CASES OF ILLNESS TO THE NUMBER OP PRISONERS PASSING THROUGH EACH OF THE METROPOLITAN CONVICT PRISONS IN THE YEAR 1854.
|Number of Convicts passing through the Prison during the year.||Number of Cases of Illness during the year.||Per Centage of Illness to the Number of Prisoners.|
|HULKS ("Defence" and "Warrior")||1,513||723||47.7|
|MILLBANK (including females)||2,659||11,890||447.1|
At Millbank, therefore, more than twice as many cases of
illness, in proportion to the prison population, occur among the convicts as at
Pentonville in the course of the year; ten times as many as at the Hulks; and no
less than nineteen times as many as at Brixton, which is the healthiest of all
the metropolitan government-prisons.
The per centages of removals and pardons on medical grounds, as well as deaths, with regard to the daily average number of prisoners, exhibit similar marked differences in the relative healthiness of the several convict prisons of London; thus
|Per Centage of Removals on Medical Grounds||Per Centage of Pardons on Medical Grounds||Per Centage of Deaths|
Accordingly, we perceive that at Millbank there are nearly
seven times as many deaths in the year as at Brixton, and more than three times
as many as at the Hulks.
The greater portion of the convicts confined at Millbank are employed in making soldiers' clothing, biscuit-bags, hammocks, and miscellaneous articles for the army and navy, and other prisons, as well as the shirts, handkerchiefs, and cloth coats and trousers worn by the prisoners themselves**. Others are occupied, and receive instruction, in gardening.
*It is much to be regretted that there is no uniform statistical method of registering the medical returns of the several prisons, both in London and the country. Some of the medical officers, as those of Millbank and Pentonville, favour us with elaborate per centages of the cases of illness, deaths, &c., whereas, the medical statistics of the Hulks and Brixton are given in the crudest possible manner, and not only almost useless to the inquirer as they stand, but signally defective in their arrangement in these scientific days.
**OCCUPATIONS CARRIED ON IN THE SEVERAL PENTAGONS AND WARDS OF MILLBANK PRISON.
Ward Pentagon 1 Pentagon 2 Pentagon 3 Pentagon 4 Pentagon 5 Pentagon 6 A Pickers Shoemakers Women Tailors Weavers Pickers B Reception Ward Shoemakers Women Tailors Weavers Pickers C Tailors Artificers Women Infirmary Tailors Tailors D Tailors Tailors Women Tailors Tailors Tailors E Tailors Tailors Women Infirmary Tailors Tailors F Tailors Tailors Women Tailors Pickers Tailors
[-240-] At the time of our visit there were altogether 828 prisoners (i.e., 472 less than the complement) confined within the walls; of these 655 were males, and 173 females, and they were distributed throughout the prison in the following manner
DISTRIBUTION AND NUMBER OF CONVICTS IN MILLBANK PRISON, MAY 24, 1856.
The Present Use and Regulations of the Prison.
The only entrance to the prison at
Millbank is facing the
The door of the "outer gate," on the day of our first visit, was opened in answer to our summons by the usual official, in the same half-police-half-coast-guard kind of uniform, and we were ushered into a small triangular hall, with a staircase, leading to the gate-keeper's rooms above, crammed into one corner, and a table facing it, on which were ranged a series of portable letter-boxes not unlike the poor-boxes to be seen at hospitals and churches. On one of these was written, "Male Officers' Letter-box," and on another, "Female Officers' Letter- box;" a third was labelled, "Prisoners' Letter-box," and a fourth, "Clerk of the Works." A few letters were on the table itself; and over its edge hung a long strip of paper inscribed with a list of the officers on leave for the night This we learnt was for the guidance of the gatekeeper, so that he might know what officers went off duty that evening; in which case - our informant told us - they were allowed to leave the prison at a quarter-past SIX P.M., and expected to return at a quarter-past six the next morning to resume their duties - each warder passing one night in, and one night out of, the prison.
Hence we were directed across the long wedge-shaped "outer yard" of the prison - a mere triangular slip, or "tongue," as it is called, of bare, gravelled ground, between the diverging sides of the first and last pentagons; and so we reached the barred "inner gate," set, within a narrow archway at the apex, as it were, of the yard. Here the duty of the gate-keeper is to keep a list of all persons entering and quitting the prison, and to allow no inferior officer to pass without an order from the governor.*
* RULES EXHIBITED AT THE INNER GATE.
"Every officer or servant of the establishment who shall bring or carry out, or endeavour to bring or carry out, or knowingly allow to be brought or carried out, to or for any convict, any money, clothing, provision., tobacco, letters, papers, or other articles whatsoever not allowed by the rules of the prison, shall be [-241-] forthwith suspended from his office by the governor of the prison, who shall report the offence to a director, who, upon proof of the offence, may cause the offender to be apprehended and carried before a justice of the peace, who shall be empowered to hear end determine any such offence in a summary way; and every such officer or servant, upon conviction of such offence before a justice of the peace, shall be liable to pay a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds, or, in the discretion of the justice, to be imprisoned in the common jail or house of correction, there to be kept, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding six calendar months.
[-241-] We were then conducted through a succession of corridors to
the governor's room, which is situate in the range of buildings at the base of
pentagon 1, forming one side of the hexagonal court surrounding the chapel that
constitutes the centre of the prison. This was an ordinary, but neat, apartment,
the furniture of which consisted principally of a large official writing-table;
and the end window of which, facing the principal entrance, was strongly barred,
probably with no view to prevent either egress or ingress, but merely for the
sake of being in keeping with the other windows of the establishment. This
window is flanked by two doors, through which the prisoners are admitted on
their reception into the prison, or whenever, from misconduct or any other
cause, they are summoned into the governor's presence. On such occasions a rope
is thrown across the room, and forms a species of bar, at which the convicts
take their positions.
The governor, on learning the object of our visit, directed one of the principal warders to conduct us through the several wards, and explain to us the various details of the prison.
"Millbank," he said, in answer to a question we put to him, "is the receptacle for all the convicts of England, Wales, and Scotland, but not for those of Ireland, which has a convict establishment of its own."
Males and females of all ages are received here, the prison being the depot for "convicts" of every description. When a man is convicted, and sentenced either to transportation or penal servitude, he remains in the prison in which he was confined previous to his trial, until such time as the order of the Secretary of State is forwarded for his removal; and he is then transferred to us, his "caption papers" (in which are stated the nature of his offence, the date of his conviction, and the length of his sentence) being sent with him. From this prison he is, after a time, removed to some "probationary" prison (to undergo a certain term of separate confinement) such as that at Pentonville, or to some such establishment in the country; and thence he goes to the public works either at Portland, Portsmouth, or the Hulks, or else he is transported to Gibraltar, Bermuda, or Western Australia, where he remains till the completion of his sentence.
On the arrival of the prisoners at Millbank, the governor informed us, they are examined by the surgeon, when, if pronounced free from contagious disease, they are placed in the reception ward, and afterwards distributed throughout the prison according to circumstances, having been previously bathed and examined, naked, as at Pentonville.
"If a prisoner be ordered to be placed in association on medical grounds," added the governor, "the order is entered in the book in red ink, otherwise he is located in one of the various pentagons for six months, to undergo confinement in separate cell."
On entering his cell, each prisoner's hair is cut, and the rules of the prison are read over to him, the latter process being repeated every week, and the hair cut as often as required.
When the convict is young he is sent as soon as possible to Parkhurst, provided he be a fit subject, and not convicted of any heinous offence. In the case of a very hardened offender, when there is a probability of his doing considerable mischief; it is for the director of Parkhurst to decide whether or not he will accept him.
When the young convict is of extremely tender years, application is immediately made, by the Millbank authorities, for his removal to the "Philanthropic," at Reigate, her Majesty's pardon being granted conditionally on his being received there.
"One boy," said the governor, "went away on Tuesday; he was not twelve, and had been sentenced for stealing some lead, after a previous conviction. We have one here," he [-242-] continued, "at this moment, a child of between twelve and thirteen, who had been employed as a clerk, and had robbed his employer of between ten and twelve thousand pounds." The child, however, we afterwards learnt, had become frightened, and taken the money back; but one of his relations had proceeded against him for the theft, with the view of getting him admitted into a reformatory institution.
"We consider prisoners of tender years," the governor went on, "up to about thirteen. I remember a child," he added, "of not more than nine years of age, who had been twelve times in prison-I do, indeed. That's some years ago now. There's the receipt for the child who left us the other day," he added, as he handed us the following certificate:-
"CERTIFICATE OF DISCHARGE.
"This is to certify, that I have this day received, from the custody of the governor of Millbank prison, A- W- , according to the terms of the conditional pardon granted to him. Dated the 16th day of May, 1856.
"Philanthropic Farm School, Redhill, May 22, 1856.
"For the Rev. SIDNEY TURNER, Secretary."
There have not been any young girls at Millbank lately he
told us; some had been sent to Manor Hail, but very few girls of tender years
have been received at the Penitentiary.
"I cannot say what would be done with very young girls," said the governor; "I should have to refer for orders. There were two of fifteen here, but they were the youngest."
"The females," he continued, "go to the convict prison at Brixton, after they have been with me nine or twelve months, according to the vacancies there. The males go to Pentonville; in fact, we keep Pentonville up. Those that remain here go to the public works, either to Portland, Portsmouth, or the Hulks, according to circumstances. Occasionally we send some to Gibraltar or Bermuda, and to Western Australia. Of course those we send to Western Australia can only be transports; they can't be penal-service men. This prison contains young prisoners, old prisoners, female prisoners, and invalids. Old prisoners, who are able to perform light labour, are sent to Dartmoor. Those incapable of light labour, or of any labour at all, are sent to the 'Stirling Castle,' invalid hulk at Portsmouth."
"If the prisoners are of very tender years," the governor went on, "I generally put them in large rooms, which you will see. We have six distinct prisons here - one in each pentagon," he added, "and, with the general ward, I may say we have seven, for it is quite distinct from the others. Pentagon 3, which contains the female convicts, is quite shut off from the others, and opened with a separate key."
"We have two distinct forms of discipline here,
continued the governor. "We pursue the separate system for the first six
months, unless the medical officer certifies that the prisoner cannot bear it,
in which case we remove him immediately into association. When the men are put
together, the silent system is enforced - that is to say, we endeavour to enforce
it; for I need not tell you, that when seventy or eighty men are in the same
place they are sure to talk, do what we may to prevent them.
The governor here drew up a curtain, and showed us a large ground-plan of the prison, hanging on the wall. We expressed some surprise at its being covered, and inquired what purpose the curtain served.
"The prisoners' eyes are so sharp," was the reply, "that they would understand the entire arrangement of the prison at once. They would discover the weak points of the building, and attempt to escape. We had one man hero," he proceeded, "named Ralph (a regular Jack Sheppard), who tried to get out. He made false keys in his cell. The cocoa-mugs used at that time to be made of pewter - we have them of tin now - and [-243-] he actually melted the metal over his gas-light, and then moulded it into keys. I will show you them;" and accordingly opening his desk, he took from it several rudely-made keys.
"With these," said the governor, as he presented them to us in a bunch, "he could have opened every door in the prison."
This man, we learnt, was a most daring and desperate character, and the terror of every one he came near, when at liberty. We inquired how he behaved in the prison.
"He was as quiet as could be," was the governor's answer; "always well-behaved, and never abused any one."
"You would have thought butter would not have melted in his mouth," said the warder, when referred to for his corroborative testimony. "He was quite an uneducated man," the officer went on to say; "indeed, he got what little education he had from having been transported."
The prisoners are sometimes very violent, but not often. "Look at this hammock-ring," said the governor, as he produced a heavy iron ring, with a rope attached to it; "you've heard of one of our men being nearly murdered? Well, this is what it was done with," he said, giving it a gentle swing. "Luckily, our man was very near to him," so he was not so much hurt as he might have been.
"Here's another instrument for opening a bolt," and he then called our attention to an iron rod, formed out of two pieces, which were joined together with a hinge, like the handle of a lady's parasol, and could be doubled up together somewhat in the same manner.
"They push this through the keyhole," he said, as he extended it before us, "and let the further end drop. Then they move it about until they feel the bolt, and push it back."
"I have been a number of years connected with prisons," pursued our informant, "and yet I find there's something fresh to be learnt every day. How they get the impressions of the locks must appear to strangers not a little wonderful. They do that with a piece of soap."
The conversation then took another turn. "We don't
profess to teach anything hero but tailoring," the governor went on; "but if
they're shoemakers by trade they go to shoemaking, or, if they don't know any
trade, perhaps we put them to pick coir. When a man attempts to commit suicide I
always put him to pick coir, so that he may have neither tools, nor knives, nor
needles to do any harm with."
"It's a great thing," added the governor, "to make a prisoner feel that he is employed on some useful work. Nothing disgusts a man, and makes him feel so querulous, as to let him know that he is labouring and yet doing nothing - like when working at the tread-wheel. I am of opinion that to employ men on work which they know and see is useful has the best possible effect upon men's characters, and much increases their chances of reformation. Every other kind of labour irritates and hardens them. After twenty thousand prisoners have passed through one's hands, one must have had some little experience on such matters. There was a tread-wheel on the premises here, for the use of penal or second-probation men, and those only; but its use has been discontinued for some months."
All men of long sentences, or who are known to be of desperate disposition, are put in the middle floor of each pentagon, which is considered to be the strongest part of the prison, and badges are given to prisoners who conduct themselves well.
"On the first of every month," said the governor, "the conduct-book is brought to me; and in this is kept a list of all the men who have been six months in the prison. Here it is, you see, and in the first column is the register-number of each prisoner, in the second his name, in the third his location in the prison, in the fourth his number of reports, and in the last column the folio of the book which contains those reports. Now, here's one man, you see, who has been reported six times, so he wouldn't get a badge; and here, at the end of the book, is a list of those men who have been nine months in the prison, and who are to get a second badge. It's a great thing to a man," he added, "to get his badge, [-244-] for if he goes from here without one, and in the third class, that entail six months' additional time before his name can be submitted for a ticket-of-leave."
"Oh, yes, it's a great thing," chimed in the warder, "to have a badge. The men think a great deal of it, and feel the loss of it greatly."
"We have first, second, and third class prisoners, according to their conduct," said the governor, and these classifications are made before the men go to the public works. The fact of a prisoner's being badged always shows him to be a well-behaved man; but even when a man has behaved very badly, if he reforms at last, I give him a first-class character, or else he would become desperate on going down to the public works, and the governor would have a very hard time of it. Every man is also classed according to education when he goes away, but in that matter the first class represents the least educated."
We were anxious to ascertain which class of criminals gave most trouble to the prison authorities. "Sometimes," said the governor, in answer to our inquiries, "the most desperate characters outside the prison are the best conducted inside the walls. It's the little, petty London pickpocket, who has been all his life at bad courses, that turns out the most difficult fellow of all to deal with. These characters are most troublesome. They are up to all sorts of roguery and mischief; and we find the same thing when they come from the manufacturing districts. Your men who have committed heavy offences, and who are sentenced to some long punishment, are very amenable to discipline and most easy to deal with. Give me long-sentence men - I say it as the governor of a prison - they won't try to escape. Most of them have never committed another offence in the course of their lives; but the London pickpockets have been at it all their lives, from their earliest childhood."
"There are not many cases of escape from prison now," said the governor, "but I remember two which occurred at Dartmoor, in which some men succeeded in getting off. One of them got into a bog, and remained sunk in it up to his neck, while the officers were walking about close by, on the look out for him.
¶ iv-c. [gamma in original, ed.]
The Interior of the Prison.
The Reception Ward.-After unlocking a
"double-shotted" door, the warder, under whose charge we had been placed,
conducted us into a long, lofty passage, like that of a narrow cloister, or rude
whitewashed box-lobby to a theatre. On the right, higher than we could
conveniently see, were the exterior windows of the pentagon; on the left, the
doors of the apparently infinite series of cells.
These doors are double, the inner one being of wood and the outer one of iron lattice- work or "cross-bars."
Every ward consists of two passages or sides of the several pentagons, and ranged along each passage are fifteen cells. The passages are fifty yards long, about ten feet high, and about seven wide, and all of equal size. They are paved and coloured white. The admixture, however, of a very slight bluish tint with the lime diminishes the glare of the whitewash.
Along the wall over the cells runs a long gas-pipe, with branches which carry the gas into the cells themselves. Each cell is about twelve feet long by seven broad, and slightly vaulted.
The inner door is left open in the day time from nine till five, so that all semblance of a communication with the world may not be taken away from the inmate. At night, however, or upon any misconduct on the part of the prisoner, the inner door is closed or "bolted up," as it is termed; nevertheless, he can be seen by the jailer through a small vertical slit in the wall-like that of a perpendicular letter-box. Each cell is provided with a signal- wand, painted black at one end and red at the other, and the prisoner pushes one end of [-245-] the wand through the slit, in order to communicate his wants to the warder-the black having a special, and the red a general, signification.
At the top of each cell is a ventilating aperture for the exit of the foul air, and in the centre of the passage is a ventilating fire, and an apparatus for introducing hot air. Attached to the wall of the passage is a species of open rack, somewhat like a "press" without a door. We questioned the warder as to the use of this.
"Oh, that's one of the arms' racks," he replied. "You remember the 10th of April, '48, and the Chartist riots. Well, we had to give up the whole of pentagon 1 to the soldiers; we had the Guards here, and that rack is where their arms stood. We had some of them here, too, for the Duke of Wellington's funeral; but those racks were put here during the Chartist riots, and have never been moved since."
At the end of the reception ward is the surgeon's room. This is merely a double cell, paved with flag-stones, and with a small door in the middle of the partition. After bathing, the newcoming prisoners are brought in here, naked, and examined. They are then asked if they, or any of their family, have been insane.
If the examination be satisfactory, a description of the prisoner, with a specification of any private marks which may be found on his body, is entered in a book.
"Most persons of bad repute," said the warder, "have private marks stamped on them - mermaids, naked men and women, and the most extraordinary things you ever saw; they are marked like savages, whilst many of the regular thieves have five dots between their thumb and forefinger, as a sign that they belong to the 'forty thieves,' as they call it.
The general description entered in the surgeon's book states the height, the colour of the hair, the hue of the complexion, and colour of the eyes, in the style of a foreign passport- the "marques particulières being, for the most part, rather more numerous than is the case with ordinary travellers.
At the end of the passage we come to the bath-room, which is situate in the centre of the reception wards, and at the base of the tower. The bath-room is circular, and contains four baths, the baths being in the pentagon tower. To each pentagon there are three such towers (one at each of the front angles), the foremost, or one in the middle, being called the "general centre tower" of the ward. There is also another tower, in the centre of the exercising yards within each pentagon, and this is styled "the warder's tower."
Pentagons 1 and 2 are alike, and throughout of the strongest construction.
[-246-] Pentagons 3 and 4, however, were originally built for women, and are of slighter construction; though this is a compliment to the sex which unfortunately they have failed to justify, as the female convicts throughout the prison are pronounced "fifty times more troublesome than the men." The cells here, too, are not vaulted like those of pentagons 1 and 2, and the grated iron gates are less massive.* (* Pentagon 3 is at present alone set apart for female prisoners.)
said the warder, as he opened the grating of one of the cells, in the lower ward
of pentagon 1, and threw back the wooden door with a bang, "here is our
chain-room, or armoury, as we call it."
It was one of the ordinary cells, but literally hung in chains, which were arranged against the walls in festoons and other linear devices. In front of the window there was set out a fancy pattern of leg-irons, apparently in imitation of the ornamental fetter-work over the door of Newgate. The walls glittered with their bright swivel hand-cuffs, like stout horses'-bits, and their closely-linked chains like curbs, reminding one somewhat of the interior of a saddler's shop. But the brilliancy and lightness of some of the articles were in places contrasted with a far more massive style of ironmongery, which appeared to have been originally invented for the Cornwall giants. A few of the manacles of the latter class were literally as large as the handle of a navigator's spade; and there were two massive snide-cuffs, with chains, such as highwaymen are supposed, by Victoria dramatists, to have danced in, but which would have effectually prevented all attempts at hornpipes on the part of any light-footed as well as light-fingered gentlemen-weighing, as they did, something more than twenty-eight pounds. There were neck-pieces, too, heavy enough to break an ordinary collar-bone; whilst everything was on so gigantic a scale, that we were struck by the absurdity even more than by the cruelty of such monstrous contrivances-even as the horrors of an utterly extravagant melo-drama inspire us with mirth rather than fear. Still, there was something too real about the scene before us to induce any but the grimmest smiles, for by the side of the colossal swivel-cuffs, figure-of-eight-cuffs, and iron waistbands which would have formed appropriate girths for the bronze horse, there were little baby handcuffs, as small in compass as a girl's bracelet, and about twenty times as heavy-objects which impressed the beholder with a notion, that in the days of torture either the juvenile offenders must have been very strong or the jailers very weak otherwise, where the necessity for manacling infants?
"They did not show much mercy to prisoners then," said the warder, to whom we communicated our reflections; "and I can remember in my time, too, when the prison authorities weren't much better. I've seen a little boy six years and a half old sentenced to transportation; and the sentence carried into effect, too, though the poor child couldn't speak plain."
The handcuffs with bars attached, and ingeniously fashioned to represent the letter P - the chains as heavy as iron cables, and which were used for fastening together entire gangs - the ankle-cuffs, which seemed adapted only for the ankles of elephants, were all shown to us, and we reflected with a sigh that this museum of fetters - this depot of criminal harness - this immense collection of stupidities and atrocities in short - was not only a vestige of the sanguinary criminal legislation of the last century, but also a reminder of the discipline of our lunatic asylums as they existed at no very distant period. If it showed us what Newgate was until long after the days of Howard, it also suggested what Bedlam must have been previous to the accomplishment of Pinel's beneficent mission.
"We never use anything here," said the warder, "but a single cuff and chain. With one cuff," he continued, "I'd take the most desperate criminal all over England."
We could not help expressing our satisfaction at the abandonment of so inhuman and useless a practice as that of loading prisoners with fetters which, independently of the mere weight, inflicted severe torture on them whenever they moved.
THE CHAIN-ROOM AT MILLBANK.
a, Handcuffs; b, Shackles for the legs, fastened round the ankle, and secured to c, an Iron Ring or the waist.
"Yes, it's given up everywhere
now, was the reply, "except Scotland; and there they do it still. The
prisoners who come up to us from Scotland have leg-irons and ankle-cuffs; and
the cuffs are fastened on to them so tightly, that the people here have to knock
away at them for some time with a heavy hammer before they can drive the rivets
out. Occasionally the hammer misses the rivet which fastens the cuff, and hits
the man's ankle. Any how, he must suffer severe pain, as the cuffs are very
tight and the rivets are always hammered in pretty hard."
The most desperate and intractable prisoners, the warder informed us in the course of this conversation, used formerly to be sent to Norfolk Island; but none had been transported there now for some years. The last who was consigned to that settlement was Mark Jeffrey, the most daring ruffian they had ever had in Millbank prison, and who ultimately attempted to murder the chief-mate of the hulk at Woolwich, whereupon he was shipped off to Norfolk Island.
"One man made an attempt to break prison here," continued the warder, "some years since, and with great success. It was not the man spoken of with the false keys, but a fellow named William Howard, who was known to all his companions as 'Punch' Howard. He was in the infirmary for venereal at the time, and got through a window about nine feet [-248-] from the ground. With a knife he cut through the pivot which held the window, and fastened it up so as to remain there until night. He then forced back the iron frame, which was not more than six and a half inches square, and made it serve as a sort of rest, like the things used by painters for window-cleaning. This done, he got upon it, tied his bed-clothes to it, and let himself down by them; after which he scaled the outer walls and went straight off to his mother's, at Uxbridge. I took him there in a brick-field. Of course, I didn't go into the brick-field where he had all his friends, but I got his employer to call him out on some pretext, and then slipped a handcuff on him and brought him back."
The Cells at Millbank.-Passing
through a grated gate we came to the corridor, next to the general centre, and
styled passage No. 1, that which we had just quitted being passage No. 2. The
two passages are similar; at the end of passage No. 1., a brass bell is seen
close to a door which leads to the warder's tower, and which is rung by the
officers when the principal is wanted. In the next passage that we entered were
located the prisoners who were waiting for their tickets-of-leave, having just
returned from Gibraltar- the "Gib" prisoners as they are called.
On the grated gates of the cells here were the register-tickets of the men, with the name of each written on the back.
Two of the men in the first cell rose and saluted us as we passed. Like the rest of the prisoners, they were dressed in gray jackets, brown trousers with a thin red stripe-the same as is introduced into most of the convict fabrics-blue cravats (also crossed with narrow brick-coloured threads), and gray Scotch-like caps.
These prisoners were allowed to converse during the day, and to sit, two or three together, in each cell; but they were separated at night.
"You can take them away now," said the principal warder. "Stand to your gates!" the deputy exclaimed; upon which the officer in the centre of the ward gave two knocks, when all the men turned out at the same time, closed their gates, and, in obedience to the warder's commands to "face about," and "quick march," went out into the yard to exercise, an officer being there ready to receive them.
When the prisoners had left, we entered one of the cells. The colour of the walls we found of a light neutral tint. Beneath the solitary window, which, like all the cell windows, looked towards the "warder's tower," in the centre of the pentagon, was a little square table of plain wood, on which stood a small pyramid of books, consisting of a Bible, a Prayer-book, a hymn-book, an arithmetic-book, a work entitled "Home and Common Things," and other similar publications of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, together with a slate and pencil, a wooden platter, two tin pints for cocoa and gruel, a salt-cellar, a wooden spoon, and the signal-stick before alluded to. Underneath the table was a broom for sweeping out the cell, resembling a sweep's brush, two combs, a hair-brash a piece of soap, and a utensil like a pudding-basin.
Affixed to the wall was a card with texts, known in the prison as the "Scripture Card," and a "Notice to Convicts" also; whilst on one side of the table stood a washing-tub and wooden stool, and on the other the hammock and bedding, neatly folded up. The mattress, blankets, and sheets, we were told, have to be arranged in five folds, the coloured night-cap being placed on the centre of the middle fold; and considerable attention is required to be paid to the precise folding of the bed-clothes, so as to form five layers of equal dimensions. The day-cap is placed on the top of the neat square parcel of bedding, which looks scarcely larger than a soldier's knapsack.
"Up above, we have a penal-class prisoner in one of the refractory cells," said our attendant warder; "the cell is not exactly what we call a dark one, but an ordinary cell, with the windows nearly closed up. The penal class prisoners are those who have been sent back from public works for committing some violent assault, or for mutinous or insubordinate [-249-] conduct. They are returned to us, by order of the directors, to undergo what is called a 'second probation.' When they belong to the penal class, they are bolted up in their cells all day, and treated with greater rigour than men under the ordinary prison discipline."
On reaching one of these cells, we found the hammocks were replaced by iron bedsteads, or rather by iron gratings resting on stone supports at either end, and the table and all the furniture placed in the corridor outside.
"We put the furniture there," said the warder, "to prevent the ceiling being beaten down by the prisoner. We always take the furniture out of the refractory cells, and we like to have those cells situate on the top floor, because the roofs there are much stronger."
These refractory cells resembled the ordinary ones, except in two particulars; the wooden door was outside, and was kept firmly closed over the iron door or grating, while the windows were blocked up so as to admit only the smallest possible number of rays. The warder threw open the door of one of the refractory cells, and asked the prisoner within how he was getting on. The man was under confinement for making use of abusive language to his officer.
"He knew it was his temper," he said, as he spoke behind the grating, "but they took him up so short; he meant, however, to become better if he could."
This prisoner was allowed half a pound of bread in the morning, and half a pound at night; he had nothing to drink but cold water.
ward," continued our guide, as we passed through another grated door,
"leads to the governor a room, where you sat this morning, and here
prisoners are placed who are brought up for report and have to be taken before
him. The penal class are searched here before they are taken in to the governor,
in order to prevent their having anything secreted about them intended to injure
the governor. The governor adjudicates upon reports every morning."
During the old penitentiary system, we may add, the prisoners used to remain at Millbank for three and four years - they were never sent away; and when they had done the whole of their probationary time, they used to get their freedom as being thoroughly reformed characters, though many of them have since returned and been transported. The officers in those days used to designate the extraordinary religious convicts as "pantilers." The prisoners used to labour as now, and, from being a long time in the one prison, became expert, and used to turn out a great deal of work. The officers in those days used to have to stand and read the Bible in the passages of the wards, while the prisoners were blackguarding them in their cells. The men turned out hypocrites. The reverend governor had the management of the place up [-250-] to August 1, 1843, when it became a convict prison. When it was a penitentiary, or the "tench," as the thieves called it, if convicts behaved with deception and pretended to be sorry for their offences, they got their discharge after a few years. Harry King, at Pentonville, was one of this kind; he actually had a pair of green spectacles purchased for him, because he read his Bible so hard that his sight became injured by it. He pretended to be thoroughly reformed, but directly he got down to Portland he showed himself in his true character; for he, with others, assaulted the officers and endangered their lives.
Attached to every two pentagons there is a school-room. The schools are divided into four classes, the fourth class being the highest. At one end of the school-room there are maps against the wall of the four quarters of the globe, and a table of Bible chronology; at the other is a tableau, representing the principal annuals of creation, in which a very large whale (contrasted with a very small man) occupies a prominent position.
The prisoners, at the time of our visit, were seated in rows on either side of the middle passage, arranged on forms with one long continuous desk or sloping shelf before them. On a huge black board the following arithmetical proposition was chalked:-
"What is the interest of £2726 1s. 4d. at 4½ per cent. per annum, for 3 years 154 days ?"
Here, too, a man of thirty was staring idiotically at the schoolmaster, as he endeavoured to teach him the painful truth, "that nine from nought you can't."
Working in Separate Cells.-We now
passed to the top floor of pentagon 2, where the prisoners were employed in
tailoring. In the first cell, a boy was seated on his board making a soldier's
coat. The gratings were closed, but the wooden doors were open.
"In the cells that you saw in pentagon 1," observed the warder, "the prisoners had hammocks. In some of the wards, instead of hammocks they have an iron framework, resting at the head and foot on two large stone supports. Here, you see, we give them one of those boards, instead of the ironwork, so that they have a bedstead and a shopboard at the same time."
The cells here had all the appearance of small tailors' workshops, and at the end of the passage there was a furnace for heating the irons which are used for going over the seams of the garments made by the prisoners.
In one of the cells here a convict was receiving religious instruction. The reverend instructor was reading to the prisoner, whom we heard, as we passed the cell, uttering his responses, in a solemn manner, from time to time.
In this part of the prison we noted an old man, who appeared to have lost all capacity for taking an interest in work, or anything else, and who had, therefore, been put to pick coir. He was sitting down with his jacket off, and a heap of the brown fibre lying loose before him, and reaching nearly up to his knees.
"This old man," said the warder "can't work much. When prisoners have no capacity for tailoring, have bad sight, or such like, we give them coir to pick."
In a cell, where the instructing officer was presiding, several prisoners were engaged cutting out coats, stitching, and fitting in linings.
"That boy, you see there, handles his needle well. How long have you been here, my man?" inquired the warder.
"Four months, sir !"
"Ah, and you can make a coat now, eh ?"
"I think I can, sir," replied the boy.
In another of the tailoring wards we noticed a cell with the wooden door closed.
"There, you see, that man's been 'bolted up.' He's been talking with the other prisoners, most likely, and so he has been deprived of the privilege of having his door open."
At the top of the martello-like tower, where the pails and tubs of each pentagon are kept, [-251-] is an immense circular tank. "That's filled with water from Trafalgar Square," said the warder. "We used formerly to pump it up from a large reservoir, which was supplied from the Thames. Now it comes rushing in without any pumping at all."
On the middle floor of pentagon 2 are the mechanics' wards. The prisoners were all at work there, either in the work-room, or in other parts of the prison, where repairs had to be effected. In this ward were painters, glaziers, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, bricklayers.
The pavement was striped with the light which came streaming through the grated doors of the cells; but the windows in the passages were all darkened, to prevent the men seeing into pentagon 3, which contains the female convicts.
"All the prisoners out of this ward," said our guide, as we entered another passage, "are at school now; you saw them up stairs. This ward is for tailors."
"Here, now, are more good coats," he continued. "These are for the officers of Dartmoor prison, and those for the navy."
"How long has this man been at his work?" we inquired, in reference to one who appeared to be finishing off his button-holes in a sufficiently artistic manner.
"About ten months," was the reply; "but we can soon see by looking at his register number.
The warder, at the same time, turned up the small slip of card which was tied outside the grating of the cell, and read, "J- J-, penal class," the inscription on the back.
"Ah, you see he is one of the penal class, who has reformed. He is not treated like the others, because, when one of the officers here was attacked, he went to the warder's assistance, and helped to save his life." The warder afterwards informed us, "the officer was attacked by four convict men as they came off the tread-wheel, and this prisoner stepped in and rescued him from their hands. That's why he's taken out of the penal class."
"We've got C- here, he who murdered his wife in the Minories, while he was drunk, on Christmas day last," the warder went on to say; "he's a fine scholar-knows several languages - French, German, and Latin - and is a most quiet and respectable man. He had a capital situation in the India House, and was in the receipt of £150 a year. His father was Irish. He tells me he remembers nothing about the murder; he was dead drunk at the time. 'I know I must have done it, because everybody says so,' are the words he uses when he speaks of the affair; 'but it's all like a dream to me!' He was cast for death, and says he thanks the Sheriffs, and Ordinary, and East India Company greatly, for it was through their intercession that he got off. I think he's sincerely repentant. (At a later part of the day we saw this man in his cell; he was a dull, dark, bilious-looking fellow, and had anything but an intelligent cast of head). "I tell you, as the governor told you," went on the warder, "that the men who have the longest sentences are always the best behaved. We have several men who have never been in prison before, and who, if liberated, would behave very well. It's your regular Whitechapel thief - your professional pickpocket - who is all the trouble to us. Those old offenders are only in perhaps for a short time, but they ought never to be let go at all. Directly one of them gets out he meets some of his 'pals,' and the first thing he hears is, 'I say, I'm going to have a crack to-night; there'll be five or ten pounds for you out of it, if you like to come;' and of course he goes. No! those habitual professional thieves are no good either in or out of prison; but they're safest in."
"The first-offence men are sometimes very much to be pitied," continued the warder, "and I if feel for some of the soldiers we have here about as much as any of them. May-be a soldier has got drunk and struck his sergeant, and then he gets sentenced to fourteen years for it; when very likely the morning alter he'd done it, he knew nothing at all about the matter."
[-252-] "This," said the officer, coming to a halt, as we reached the centre of the ward, at the angle formed by the two passages, "is the spot where poor Hall, one of the officers of the prison, had his brains knocked out. The man who did it is in Bedlam now. He was a Jew named Francis, a regular Whitechapel thief, and no more mad than you or me - at least he didn't seem to be when I saw him, He told me he meant to murder some one. Well, one day he put the black end of his signal-stick out of the cell, to tell the officer that he wanted to go to the closet. The officer let him out, and he came along here with his utensil in his hand. The officer was leaning over the trough, and the man came behind and knocked him over the head with it, and, when he was on the ground, regularly beat his brains out - there, just where we're standing. Those utensils are very dangerous things; some of them weigh nearly ten pounds. I've weighed them myself, so I m certain of it."
The smell of leather and the sound of tapping informed us that we were entering the shoemakers' ward.
"How long have you been at shoemaking, my boy?" inquired the warder of a lad who appeared to be hard at work in one of the cells we were then passing.
"Four years," replied the lad, speaking through the iron grating.
"How old are you?"
"And how long have you been here, my man?"
"Only came in yesterday," replied the prisoner, starting and touching his cap.
"This ward," we were told, "had earned more than £4 during the previous week. The instructing warder was present, with a long black apron over his uniform. In one of the cells, where the tapping was most vigorous, there were rows of new shoes on the floor; a shoe-closer was in the corner, with bundles of black leather lying on the stones at his feet, and a small shoemaker's tray by his side. Another prisoner was twisting twine over the gas-pipe. Several of the men had all the appearance of regular shoemakers, and many wore leathern aprons, like blacksmiths.
This ward and the next, that is to say, wards A and B of pentagon 2, are the only two wards where shoemaking is carried on in separation.
"How do you do, Mr. Tickel?" said our attendant warder, as he passed the instructing officer.
In the clickers' department we found a collection of boot-fronts, rolls of upper-leather soles, and heaps of shoes, and in the cell next to it a man was rubbing away at a Wellington boot on a last.
"You've got some good Wellington boots here, Mr. Tickel, haven't you?" said the warder.
"Yes," said Mr. Tickel, and leaving the grated gate he went into the cell, and came out with his hand thrust into a boot, which he offered to our inspection.
"That's as good a boot," said he, with no little pride in the work, "as could be found in London. The leather looks a little rough now, but when it's been rubbed up it will be a first-rate article. The man who made it used to work at one of the West-end houses."
"Now, here's a cell," remarked our guide, as he jingled his keys, "in which four or five of the men are at work together."
He opened the door, and we found five prisoners inside.
"They are all good men," observed the officer, "and well-conducted, so we let them talk a little so long as they are together."
"But we have to work very hard," rejoined one of the prisoners as we left the cell.
Having visited all the cell; in pentagons 1 and 2, we were conducted into the artisans' shop, where coopering, polishing, &c., are carried on. The workshop is spacious, airy, and light, with a roof supported by iron rods, like that of a railway terminus.
[-253-] Many of the artisans were away, in different parts of the prison, working in parties under the superintendence of officers. Some dozen men, however, were filling the place with the sound of their hammers, and evidences of their labours were to be seen in all directions.
"These buckets," said the officer, "are for Chatham. Those are for shipboard."
Ascending a flight of wooden steps we reached the carpenters' shop over-head, and this as usual, was pervaded by a strong turpentiny smell of deal. On the walls were hanging tools, planes, &c. In the centre of the room were some half-dozen benches; and at the end was the wooden skeleton of a sofa. A few prison tables were lying about, and one of the prisoners was employed in polishing a table of mahogany, which was intended for the residence of one of the superior officers. There were also several cart-wheels against the wall.
At a later part of the day we passed over pentagons 5 and 6, in many wards of which we found the men busy tailoring in single cells. In some of these (as pentagon 5, E 2) were "light-offence men," we were told- "all under ten years' transportation," said our informant. In other parts (as in pentagon 6, A 1) the men were hammock-making, and bag-making as well; whilst in others, again, there are a few older men coir-picking; "those that have no capacity for tailoring, and are dull men, we set to picking coir, for they're not capable of doing anything else." Again, in pentagon 5, A ward, we found two men in the larger cells busy weaving biscuit-bagging; whilst another was seated on a board on the ground making a pilot-coat; and a fourth prisoner winding bobbins for the two who were weaving.
The cells in this ward were all devoted to "bagging," and there were generally three prisoners in each cell. Here the passage rattled again with the noise of the loom, like the pulsation of paddle-wheels. And so again in B ward of the same pentagon, a similar rattle of looms prevailed, with the whirr of wheels winding bobbins and ringing through the passages, till the din reminded one faintly of Manchester. Here, too, in one large cell, was a calendar machine, where all the sacking was smoothed after being made, and three prisoners engaged in passing a newly-wove piece through the polished metal rollers.
The quantity of work done at this prison far exceeds that at Pentonville, as may be seen by the subjoined returns.*
On another occasion we were shown over the
manufacturing department, and found the spacious warerooms there littered with
bales of blue cloth for the officers' clothing. ("We're going to make all
the prison officers' uniforms for the first time," said the warder in
attendance.) There were also rolls of shirting, sheeting, and hammock-stuff and
straps, stowed away in square compartments round the room, and shoemakers' lasts
hanging from the ceiling over-head. lip stairs here was the cutting-room, with
small stacks of the brown convict cloth, at the ends of the room; and beside the
door, were square piles of fustian, ready cut up for "liberty
clothing," for the prisoners.
"What coats are you cutting now, Mr. Armstrong ?" asked Warder Power of the manufacturer. "Greatcoats for the 'Warrior Hulk,' and Chatham and Dartmoor prisons; they're for the officers of each of those establishments."
The clothing for almost all the public works, we were told - Dartmoor, Pentonville, Chatham, Portland, Portsmouth, and the Hulks - is cut and made at Millbank.
[-254-] "These are flannels, to be cut and made up for public works, too. Some hundreds of thousands of yards of flannel are cut up here annually. Every convict has two sets of flannels given to him directly he comes in here. The female prisoners here work for the large slop-shops in the city."
In the centre of the warehouse below stood square bales of fuzzy coir, for making beds, and bright tins hanging against the wall.
"What orders have you got in now, Mr. Armstrong ?" our attendant asked, anxious to glean all the information he could for us.
"Five hundred pairs of shoes for Chatham," was the reply.
"What have you here?" inquired the other, as he placed his hand on several bales of goods.
"They're five hundred suits of clothing, packed up ready, to go down to the new prison at Chatham the moment they're wanted. Everything connected with Chatham-clothing and bedding-is supplied here."
"How many biscuit-bags are you making now weekly for Deptford ?" was the next question.
"Only 3,000 now; but in the time of the war we made 20,000 a week, and wove the stuff too. Those arc all the hammocks for Chatham, ready to be sent down as well."
Here the manufacturer led us to a large stock of slices, stored in bins, as it were, in one corner of the room.
"These with the hobnails are for Chatham, and these for Establishment - that's our term for Millbank. Yonder's a roll of blue and white yarn, you see, ready for shirting and handkerchiefs. Yes, sir, our female prisoners do a great deal of work for slop-shops. We work for Jackson in Leadenhall Street; Early and Smith, Houndsditch; Stephens and Clark, Paul's Wharf, Thames Street; Favell and Bousfield, St. Mary Axe; both shirts and coats we do for them. We do a great deal of Moses' soldiers' coats, and Dolan's marine coats, too. We take about £3,000 a year altogether from the slop-shops. We have had as many as 1,000 soldiers' coats in a week to do for Stephens. Those, sir, are some of Favell's shirts," he added, pointing to a bundle near the door. "They're what are called rowing-shirts. It's only a mere trifle they give for making them - fourpence a-piece - and just see what work's in them. We made soldiers' trousers for Moses at twopence-halfpenny a-piece; but that didn't pay."
From the manufacturers' department we
passed to the steward's department next door.
"This is the steward, sir,!" Warder Power said, as he introduced us to that officer.
"I pay all moneys for the prison," the steward replied, in answer to our question, as soon as we entered the office, "and take account of clothing, provisions, necessaries of every sort, and pay all the warders, too, every week. Everything the warders require they must come to me for. They get an order signed by the governor, and I execute it. If the manufacturer wants any materials I issue them; and when he has made anything he sends it in to me, and I issue it to the officers according as it is required. This I do only of course upon authorized demands signed by the governor. Here is an example, you see, sir:-
Millbank Prison. 24th June, 1856
"Supply the undermentioncd articles:-
"2794, R- A-, to have spectacles, by order of the surgeon.
"A. W Sutherland, Principal Warder.
(Signed) "John Gambier (Gov.)
pay about £1,200 a month," the steward went on, "more or less.
Sometimes I have known it to be £1,600 and £1,800, but it's generally about
£1,200. A great part of the tradesmen's bills is paid direct by the
paymaster-general. The authorities in Parliament Street make demands on that
office for such amounts. It's likewise part of my department to take charge of
any money or property the prisoners may have on coming in, and also to make up
accounts of the money the prisoners have earned while in prison, in case of
their going away; not that any money passes here, for it's merely a nominal
transaction, and placed to their credit against their time being up, when it is
paid to them. Each prisoner before leaving here signs his account with me in
acknowledgment of its being correct; and then that account passes on to the
place where he goes. Here, you see, is such an account
"2670, J- H- . Amount of private cash - 6d. Gratuity-none. Property belonging to the prisoner - 1 hair-brush, 1 tooth-brush, 2 combs.".
"This man is leaving for Pentonville to-morrow. Some men come and claim their property years afterwards," said our attendant.
We glanced over the account. One man in the list of the convicts going to Pentonville on the morrow was down, under the head of property belonging to him, for a watch and chain, and many had a comb and brush, but few any money. Among the whole fifty there was only 4s. 10d. appertaining to them, and nearly the half of that was the property of one man. Against the name of the man who had recently been condemned to death for the murder of his wife, while in a fit of intoxication, on Christmas day (and who had been respited only the day before that appointed for his execution), there were seven books down as his property.
The steward then showed us round the stores. "These drawers," said he, approaching a large square chest in the centre of the room adjoining the office, "are full of a little of everything. These are our knives, you see," he said, pulling out a drawer, full of tin handleless blades. "Those are the best things ever introduced here," the warder at our side exclaimed with no little enthusiasm. "It's impossible to stab a man with those, for they double up directly they're thrust at anything, and yet they'll cut up a piece of meat well enough."
"Here's the wine for the sick," the steward continued, as he drew out another drawer that was filled with a dozen or so of black bottles, with dabs of white on the upper side. "These gutta-percha mugs are for the penal-class men; but they're no good for cocoa, for they double up with anything hot, so the tins in which the breakfast is served to the penal men are collected immediately afterwards."
"Here, you see, are the prison groceries," said the steward's assistant, opening a cupboard, and showing a row of green-tea canisters. "Here, too, in the outer office, the meat is inspected by the steward, and weighed in his presence every morning."
"These haricot beans," added the man, taking up a handful out of a neighbouring sack, "are what we serve out to the men now instead of potatoes; they have them every other day."
"Here are bins of cocoa, flour, oatmeal, rice; and above, on the shelves, there are new cocoa cans.*
* The following is the authorized dietary for this prison
Breakfast Dinner Supper Monday ¾pint of cocoa, made with ½oz. of cocoa nibs, ½oz. molasses. 2oz. milk, and 8 oz.bread 5oz. meat (without bone and after boiling), 1 lb. potatoes, and 6oz. bread 1 pint of gruel, made with 2oz. of oatmeal or wheaten flour, sweetened with ½oz. molasses, and 8oz. bread Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Punishment Diet:- 1 lb. of bread per day
[-256-] DIETARY FOR FEMALE PRISONERS, MAY, 1847.
Breakfast- ¾ pint of cocoa, made with ½oz. cocoa nibs, ½oz. molasses, 2 oz. milk, and 6 oz. bread.
Dinner.-(Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).-4 oz. meat (without bone and after boiling), ½ lb. potatoes, and 6 oz. bread.
Supper.- 1 pint of gruel, made with 2 oz. of oatmeal or wheaten flour, sweetened with ½oz. of molasses, and 8 oz. of bread.
Diet for Prisoners under Punishment for Prison offences for terms not exceeding three days- 1 lb. of bread daily.
The foregoing dietary for the Millbank Prison I hereby certify as proper to be adopted.
In that cask we keep molasses to sweeten the
cocoa;" and, as the man removed the deep-rimmed wooden lid
from the barrel, the place was immediately filled with [-256-]
the peculiar smell of treacle. "This store, sir, is devoted to the
general line," the assistant went on, as we passed into another room.
"Here are hearthstones and candles, Bath-bricks, and brushes, and starch,
and blacklead, he added, opening the drawers, one after another, and pointing to
the racks at the side of' the store-room. "There, you see, are our wooden
salt-cellars, and those are black coal-scuttles, hanging over-head; indeed, we
keep everything, I may say."
"But cradles!" added our guide, - with a smile - though some years ago we did have a nursery attached to the female ward.
Peculiar Wards.-In Millbank there
are a number of peculiar wards, such, for instance, as "the penal-class
ward" (i.e., the men under punishment), which is situate in D ward
of pentagon 4, and where there are always two officers on duty, and the cells
are continually bolted up.
"There are very few of them here now," said the warder, as we passed along the passage, and found the greater part of the doors unclosed. "The prisoners in this ward are supplied with gutta-percha utensils (for the others are too dangerous for such men as we put here), but, with that exception, the cells and furniture are the same."
At one door that we came to, there was the register number attached, whilst on the back of the card was written the name, "J- L-, Penal Class." We peeped through the inspection slit, and saw a young man, with his coat off, pacing the cell, and reminding one of the restlessness of the polar bear at the Zoological Gardens. Then we came to another cell, which was occupied. Here the officer looked through the slit, and said to the inmate, "What! are you here? Why, you were one of the best-conducted lads I had in the prison. What did you do?"
"It was my own temper," was the reply.
"What was it for, then ?"
"Oh, I was mutinous, and insulted an officer."
"Did you strike him ?" asked the warder.
"Why, yes, sir; I'll tell you the truth-I kicked him."
"Ah! I thought so, or you would not have come here."
"Well, I don't want to come here any more, that's all."
"All the penal class," said our guide, "are between twenty and thirty. It's seldom or never that old men get among them. They're all able-bodied fellows."
"Did you get your rations to-day, my man?" inquired our warder of another under punishment.
"Yes, sir; and on Tuesday I come out, don't I ?"
"Ay," answers the officer, and closes the door. "He's one of the penal class," he adds to us.
"But he seems civil enough," said we.
"Yes," was the reply, "so he is to me; but to others he's quite the reverse."
Before quitting this part of the prison we peeped at another cell, and found another man, with his coat off and arms folded, pacing his cell in a furious manner.
[-257-] There are also many Catholic wards in Millbank prison. These are mostly situate in pentagon 4 (D ward) and pentagon 5 (D and F wards).
"There's nothing particular in this ward," says our guide, as we reach the middle floor of pentagon D 4; "only it's a Catholic ward, and tailoring is carried on in it."
The warder lifts up the register number at the cell-door and shows us the name- of the inmate, with R C, meaning Roman Catholic, appended to it.
"Please, sir," says a little Irish boy, crying, as we reach the end cell, "will I go away from here before I've served all my time?"
The warder tells him that if he's a good lad he'll go to the Isle of Wight, and learn a trade, and come out a better fellow than if he was with his father or mother.
The boy smiles through his tears, and says, "Oh, thank you, sir."
"Those in D ward here," says the warder to us as we go, "are the worst class of prisoners. The Roman Catholic prisoners are generally the very dregs of society, and the most ignorant of all the convicts we get; they keep for ever tramping through the country when they're out. Many of these boys will maintain five and six people outside the prison. Some of them tell me they get as much as forty pounds a week, regularly, by picking pockets of first-rate people, and being covered by men who go out as stalls with them to receive the property as soon as they've stolen it."
The Catholic prisoners go to school on Wednesday and Saturday, and receive instruction from their priest on Sunday and Wednesday. They're supplied with all Catholic books that the priest allows.
Adjoining the school-room to pentagons 5 and 6 there is a small room for the Catholic clergyman, where the prisoners of that faith confess. The priest also addresses the prisoners in the school-room for about an hour before school begins at three o'clock. The place of worship for the Protestant prisoners, we may add here, is a polygonal building, situate in the very centre of the prison itself. It is entered by three raised passages or arcades, that stretch like rays from the central edifice to the surrounding pentagons.
"The passage on the right," said the warder, "leads to pentagons 1 and 2 ; the one on the left communicates with pentagons 5 and 6. The prisoners front those two pentagons fill the floor of the chapel, and the other passage is for the prisoners of pentagons 3 and 4, who occupy the gallery. We attended Divine service here, and found the prisoners both attentive and well-conducted."
"This is the convalescent ward,'' said our warder, as we entered the place; "it's a portion of the infirmary, where men are located when they get better, or if their disease is in any way contagious."
Outside the doors of the cells here were tin tablets for the names of the inmates to be inserted, with the date of their admission.
In one cell that we peeped into, through the inspection slit, we saw a man in bed and others sitting beside him, while some were lying dressed on the other beds, of which there were six an all.
The other cells were similar to the large or treble cells that we had already seen. In one such cell that we peeped into, we saw the wretched little deformed dwarf that murdered the solicitor in Bedford Row. He was by his bedside, on his knees, apparently in the act of prayer. On the tablet outside was written-
"2525, C- W-
Admitted 7th May, '56.
The warder told us that this was a favourite attitude with the wretched humpback, and that he told him he knelt down to ease his head.
"My opinion is," added the warder, "he s insane. He's not one of the riotous lunatics, but one of the quiet, sullen kind."
[-258-] We were about to peep into another cell in the next passage, when the warder pulled us back, saying "Be careful, sir! that s a blackguard fellow in there. He's broken all his cell repeatedly, and is one of the most desperate men on the face of God's earth. You d better mind, or he'll throw something out upon you if he sees you looking." The man was lying down when we first peeped through the inspection slit, but hearing voices he jumped up, and commenced pacing to and fro in his cell. "He s a young fellow, too - isn't he, sir? He s one of those uncultivated brutes we get here occasionally, that doesn't know B from a bull's-foot, as the saying is, and wants only hoofs and horns to make a beast of him. You had better come away, or he's sure to job something out through the inspection slit, and perhaps blind you for life; nothing would please him better."
Refractory and Dark Cells.- At Millbank there is one
refractory cell to each pentagon, and this is always on the top floor. These
have a little light admitted to them. The dark cells, however, occupy the
basement of pentagon 5, and are nine in number. There are also nine dark cells
in pentagon 6; but these are not considered healthy, and therefore not used.
"Would you like to see the dark cells?" inquires our attendant, after he has shown us into the kitchen of pentagons 5 and 6, where the sand on the flagstones is worked in curious devices.
Immediately the light is obtained, we sally into the entrance of pentagon 5, and then, turning sharply round, our guide says before we descend- "You must mind your hat coming down here, sir." The officer leads the way, with the flaming candle in his hand.
On reaching the bottom of the low and narrow staircase, the way lies along a close passage, so close that we are almost obliged to proceed sideways. Then we come to a small door. "Now stoop, sir," says the warder; and, as we do so, we enter a narrow, oblong cell, somewhat like a wine-cellar, and having the same fungusy smell as belongs to any underground place.
"What is that noise over-head?" we ask. "It sounds like the quivering of a legion of water-wheels."
"Oh, that's the weavers' looms," is the answer.
The place is intensely dark - the candle throws a faint yellow glare on the walls for a few paces round; but it is impossible to see clearly to the end even of the cell we are in.
"There's a fellow in the cell who pretends to be mad," says the warder. "He declares that they put something in his soup, and that there's a dreadful smell in his cell."
We inquire whether the cell in which he is confined is completely dark? "Dark !" is the answer. "It's impossible to describe the darkness - it's pitch black: no dungeon was ever so dark as it is."
"A week in such a place," we add, "must bring the most stubborn temper down. " "Not a bit of it," returns our guide. "The men say they could do a month of it on their head - that's a common expression of their's. We had a lot of women down here for disorderly conduct once. We couldn't keep them up stairs. But our punishment is now nothing to what I've seen here formerly. Our governor is so lenient and kind a man to prisoners, and even officers, that there's a great change indeed."
The men are visited in the dark cells every hour, we were told, "for a man might hang himself up, or be sick," said our informant. "Those round air-boles are for ventilation, sir.''
The bed is the same as at Pentonville; a bare wooden couch just a foot above the ground, the cell boarded, and not damp.
The preceding conversation took place in a kind of dark lobby, or ante-chamber, outside the cell itself. Presently the warder proceeded to unbar the massive outer door, and, throwing this back, to talk with the wretched man, through the grated gate, imprisoned within.
[-259-] "Now, my man," said the warder in a kindly voice, "why don't you try and be a better fellow? You know I begged you off six days last time, and then you gave me your word you would go on differently for the future."
"Well, I know I did," was the reply, "and I kept my word, too, for three weeks; but now I am with men I can't do with any way." And, having delivered himself of this speech, the wretched man proceeded to pace the cell in the darkness, with his hands in his pockets.
"They tried to kill me at Dartmoor," he muttered, "and now they're going to finish it."
"Oh, nonsense!" said the warder, aside; "you behaved well enough under me when you were here before, and why can't you do so now ?" The door was closed upon the wretched convict, and we ascended the body of the prison once more.*
*RETURN OF PUNISHMENTS OF MALE CONVICTS IN MILLBANK PRISON FOR THE YEAR 1854
Adults Juveniles Total Whipped with a Cat 2 0 2 Whipped with a Birch 0 4 4 In Handcuffs 3 0 3 Dark Cell with Rations 8 0 8 Dark Cell on Bread and Water 33 11 44 Refractory Cell with Rations 28 6 34 Refractory Cell on Bread and Water 59 11 70 On Bread and Water Diet 315 228 543 Deprived of one Meal 239 105 344 Admonished 314 82 396 1,001 447 1,448
Guarding of the Prison by Night Opening the Gates, and
Cleaning the Cells and Passages in the Morning.-The official staff at
Millbank is composed of 2 chief warders, 9 principal warders, 30 warders, and 62
assistant warders, in all 103 officers, so that as the full complement of
prisoners at this jail consists of 1,100 males, there is upon an average 1
officer to nearly every 11 men, whilst at Pentonville the proportion of officers
to men is but 1 to 18. One-half of the warders remain in the prison one night,
and the other half the next. One officer is deputed by the principal warder to
remain in charge of the "Pentagon (or warder's) Tower," and he holds the
keys to answer the alarm-bell in case of fire or outbreak. The other officers,
who remain in to form a guard, sleep in the main guard-room - a place with broad
sloping benches, similar to those seen in the guard-room of barracks. There is a
bell from all the pentagons leading to the principal guard-room, so that the
officers can be immediately summoned in case of alarm. There arc nine night
officers on duty in pentagon 4, on account of its containing several large
"associated rooms," but in the other pentagons, there are only two, and in
some instances but one, on night duty - in addition to the officer stationed in
the tower. Besides these there is another officer under arms in the exercising
yards of each pentagon, and two sentries stationed in the garden surrounding the
The outer guard-room, which is a kind of rude porter's lodge, on the opposite side to the gate-keeper's room at the principal entrance, is furnished with a stand of carbines, ranged in racks along one side of the wall, and a string of cutlasses on a padlocked chain, hanging down like a fringe below. Here the sergeant of the outer guard remains all night. (" This is Mr. Lenox," said our guide, as he introduced us to the officer in question- "he has been an old soldier himself, sir" ). A rude square wooden arm-chair drawn up before the fire seemed to point out the veteran's resting-place. "He visits," our attendant went on, "the sentries in the garden at stated hours throughout the night, nor does he take his sentries off till it is reported to him that all the prisoners are present in their cells in the morning. The reporting is done in this way, sir:- At a quarter before six all the warders who have slept out of the prison are admitted at the gates, and then the officers in [-260-] charge of the several warders' towers let them into the wards of their respective pentagons, when they one and all go round and knock at the different cells, as a notice for the prisoners to put out their signal-sticks - (this is expected to be done immediately after the first bell rings at five minutes to six). The warder then counts the signal-sticks, and if he finds all the prisoners under his charge are present in their cells, he reports his ward as all correct to the principal warder of the pentagon, whose duty it is to be in his tower at six o'clock. The principals then proceed to the sergeant of the main guard, and report 'all correct,' or the contrary, to him; whereupon he communicates as much to the sergeant of the outer guard, who at six waits at the inner gate for orders, and then the garden sentries are dismissed.''
In addition to the outer guard-room, with its stand of arms, there is also an arm-room at the inner gate. This is curiously enough placed in a kind of loft above the bed-room of the inner gate-keeper, so as to be of difficult access to the prisoners, in case of an outbreak; this gate-keeper's bed-room is on one side of the archway opposite to the lodge in which he rests by day, and where there is likewise a stand of three or four blunderbusses kept in a rack, ready loaded, to be given out to each warder passing this gate with a party of men.
In the little triangular bed-room of the porter we found a tall slender ladder resting against the wall, near the tidy white counterpaned bed, that was turned down ready for the night, and a small trap-door let into the ceiling. The ladder was placed at the edge of the trap, so that we might inspect the apartment above. The hole was not large enough to allow our body to pass, so, standing on the top rungs, we thrust our head and shoulders into the room, and found the walls covered with rows of dumpy thick-barrelled blunderbusses, and bright steel bayonets and horse-pistols, with a bunch or two of black-handled cutlasses at the top. Beside the window were a vice and a few tools for the repairing and cleaning of the weapons. and in the ceiling above another trap was visible, leading, we were told, to a similarly- stocked apartment on the upper floor.
At six o'clock the second bell begins, and this is the signal for unlocking; whereupon the prisoners are turned out of their cells, and the cleansing operations for the morning begin. For this purpose the men are turned out three at a time to empty their slops, and then to sweep their cells into the adjoining passage.
The process of cleaning the prison at Millbank differs but slightly from that of Pentonville. It forms, of course, the first portion of the day's work, and is executed by the prisoners, each man having to clean out his own cell, and some few being "told off" for the sweeping of the passages as well as the court-yards.
One of our visits to Millbank prison began as early as half-past six in the morning, at which time we found the court-yards and passages alive with cleaners. In the outer courtyard was a gang of men and a warder, the latter armed with a carbine, the brass barrel of which flashed in the light as he moved to and fro; for it is the custom at Millbank as we have said, to allow no prisoner outside the inner gate, unless attended by an officer under arms. lucre the men were engaged in tidying the gravelled area; one was rolling the ground - the heavy metal cylinder that he dragged after him emitting aloud, metallic crushing noise as he went; another was drawing along behind him a couple of brooms, ranged side by side, and so lining the earth almost as regularly as the sky of a wood-engraving, till it showed the marks of the comb, as it were, as distinctly as the hair of a newly-washed charity-boy.
"Those men you see there," whispered our guide as we passed, "are short-sentence men; for they have, of course, the least disposition to escape. Some are in only for four or five years-anything under ten years we consider a short sentence, and such men only are put to clean in the yards. Again, they are all men in association, and who have therefore gone through their probation in separate confinement, so that we have some knowledge of their character and conduct before they are let out even thus far."
Then, as we passed the inner gate, we came upon more men sweeping, and rolling, and [-261-] combing the other court-yards, whilst in the passages we encountered prisoner after prisoner, each down on his knees, and, with his jacket off, scouring away at the flags with sand and holystone. On entering the warders' tower, too-the martello-like building that stands in the centre of the exercising yards within each pentagon - the boards of the circular apartment were a dark-brown, with their recent washing. "Here," said our informant, "the officers of this pentagon dine. The tower is in charge of an acting principal warder, and he is responsible that all doors leading to it are 'double-shotted.' No person can go in and out without his permission, excepting a superior officer, who has similar keys."
Against the walls, here, was a fanciful placard, drawn in red and blue ink, which, we were told, was a general roll of all prisoners located in the pentagon; and here, too, was affixed, near the door, another written document, headed "GOVERNOR's ORDER - Scale for Cleaning Wards."* We went up-stairs to the principal warder's room, and found the officer in his shirt-sleeves busy writing out some official papers for the morning.
* GOVERNOR'S ORDER. - SCALE FOR CLEANING WARDS.
9th January, 1856.
Monday Morning .- The officers of the wards will commence their duties at 5·55, by seeing (between first and second bells) that all prisoners put out signal-sticks; and they will report to the principal or tower warder at 6AM. (when second bell rings) if all is correct or otherwise. They will then lock the gates at the end of their wards, and the centre gate, leading to No. 2 passage. They will next commence unlocking the gates and unbolting the cells themselves in No. 1 passage, calling out prisoners three at a time, to empty slops, taking care that only one at a time enters the closet. When all the prisoners have emptied their utensils, and swept out their cells into the passage, they will then direct the prisoners to place their dirty linen on their cell-gates, and to show each article separately. Then they will take a prisoner with them, who will carry the linen bag, and place each man's kit in the same bag, as it is counted by the officer, after which they will lock and bolt all gates and doors in No. 1 passage, proceed to No. 2 passage, and perform the same duties. They will then take out eight prisoners, placing one in the centre of the ward, to clean the closet, &c., six others, with their tables and buckets, to clean the windows. The eight prisoners they will cause to sweep the passages and dust the walls. After completing the above duties, they will lock and bolt up their prisoners, when the bell rings, at 7·25, for brealcfast. They will then take two prisoners to the kitchen, fetch breakfast, and serve the same in the following manner:- By unbolting and bolting the doors themselves at the same time they will hand to each convict his bread, and measure his cocoa from the can. Alter having served all their prisoners, they will proceed with one prisoner to the kitchen, with the can and basket, take the prisoner back to his cell, lock and bolt him up; also examine all their gates and doors before going to their rooms, to prepare fur their own breakfast, at 8·20 A.M.
Tuesday - Passages to be stoned; the men to work backwards, and facing the centre of ward. Four cells are to be cleaned every morning, and one passage stoned (beginning on Tuesday, and going on to Friday - four days - so that passages may be stoned twice a week).
Saturday - All wards to be washed with brush and cloth.
Sunday - Nothing required to be done, only the wards swept out and dusted. On this day the men rise an hour later than on week days.
For sweeping the yards, we were informed that the officer of the ward appoints any one he pleases for such duty, each exercising-yard being cleaned by the first ward coming down in the morning. There are three yards to each pentagon, but the centre yard is not used at all for exercising - only those on each side - so that, as there are six wards to each pentagon, each exercising yard belongs to three wards.
Breakfast, &c.- The cleaning of the prison
lasts up to twenty minutes past seven, and at twenty-five minutes the bell rings
to prepare for the serving of breakfast.
There is a cook-house to every two pentagons, situate on the ground-floor, at the point where the sides of the neighbouring pentagons join. The principal warder who accompanied us on our rounds, knocked with his keys against the door as we approached one of the kitchens. We entered, and found it a sufficiently spacious apartment, the floor of which was brown as the top of a custard, with its fresh coating of sand. The warder-cook was habited in the approved white jacket and apron, and had five prisoners under him, who were dressed in the prison gray trousers and tick-like check shirts, and had each a leathern "stall," or pad, about their knees. Here were large black boilers, with bright-red copper lids, at the end of [-262-] the kitchen, steaming and humming with their boiling contents, under the capacious, hood-like chimney and long dressers at the side, and large high-rimmed tables in the centre, that seemed like monster wooden trays.
"They are now preparing for breakfast," said our guide. "There, you see, are the cans for the cocoa," pointing to a goodly muster of bright tin vessels, in size and shape like watering-pots, and each marked with the letters of the wards from A to H. On the table were rows of breads, like penny loaves, arranged in rank and file, as it were.
"This is the female compartment. Here, you see," said the officer, pointing to the farther side of a wooden partition that stood at the end of the kitchen, "is the place where the women enter from pentagon 3, whilst this side is for the men coining from pentagon 4." Presently the door was opened and files of male prisoners were seen, with warders, without.
"Now, they're coming down to have breakfast served," said the cook. "F ward!" cries an officer, and immediately two prisoners enter and run away with a tin can each, while another holds a conical basket and counts bread into it - saying, 6, 12, 18, and so on.
When the males had been all served, and the kitchen was quiet again, the cook said to us, "Now you'll see the females, sir. Are all the cooks out ?" he cried in a loud voice; and when he was assured that the prisoners serving in the kitchen had retired, the principal matron came in at the door on the other side of the partition. Presently she cried out, "Now, Miss Gardiner, if you please!" Whereupon the matron so named entered, costumed in a gray straw-bonnet and fawn-coloured merino dress, with a jacket of the same material over it, and attended by some two or three female prisoners habited in their loose, dark- brown gowns, check aprons, and close white cap.
The matron then proceeded to serve and count the bread into a basket, and afterwards handed the basket to one of the females near her. "I wish you people would move quick out of the way there," says the principal female officer to some of the women who betray a disposition to stare. While this is going on, another convict enters and goes off with the tin can full of cocoa.
Then comes another matron with other prisoners, and so on, till all are served, when the cook says, "Good morning, Miss Crosswell," and away the principal matron trips, leaving the kitchen all quiet again - so quiet, indeed, that we hear the sand crunching under the feet.
Exercising - In the space enclosed
within each pentagon there are two large "airing yards," one of which
contains a circular pump, with a long horizontal and bent handle stretching from
it on either side. Here one ward of each pentagon is generally put to exercise
at a time, though sometimes there are two wards out together. Exercising
usually commences directly after chapel in the morning (quarter past nine). Each
pentagon has six wards to be exercised every day, and the practice is generally
to put three to exercise before dinner and three after. Those wards which are
for school in the afternoon exercise in the morning, and those which are for
morning school exercise in the afternoon. The exercise lasts one hour. The men
walk round the large gravelled court, with the walls of the pentagon surrounding
them on all sides.
The turn at the pump lasts fifteen minutes, and generally sixteen men are put on - four at each large crank-shaped handle. The others walk round at distances of five or six yards between each anon. They go along at an ordinary pace. They may walk as they like - slowly or quickly, only they must keep the fixed distance apart. At the pump the men take off their jackets, and stand generally two on one side of the handle and two on the other. At a given signal they commence working.
In the yards of some pentagons there are no pumps, and there the men walk round merely. The lame are generally placed in the centre, and the attending warders stand oh one side. In the warder's tower, which occupies the centre of these airing-grounds, we
[-263-] could see the men
exercising all round us-some in gray, and some in brown suits, circling along,
one after another, till it made one giddy to watch them.
In the airing yards of the general ward belonging to pentagon 5, we, at a later period of the day, found the bakers exercising, walking round and round, each man being about fifteen or twenty feet apart from the next - the least distance allowed is six feet. The clothes of these men were stained with the flour into a kind of whitey-brown, and the master baker, in his white jacket, stood on one side watching them the while.
Large Associated Rooms.-These large rooms
constitute one of the peculiarities of Millbank prison. There are four such
associated rooms, all on one floor, and each room of the size of fifteen cells
and the passage, thrown into one chamber. They are all in pentagon 4 ; three of
them are workshops - where the men work, as shown in the engraving- and the
other is the infirmary. Men are put into these associated rooms after having
been six months in separation.
The term for separate confinement in Millbank, it should be remarked, is one-third less than at Pentonville. The governor limits the separation to half a year, we were told, because such was the practice at the prison before the order came out, and he therefore continues to restrict it to that number of months, by a discretionary power from the prison directors.
"Now we'll go into one of the large rooms, and see them all at breakfast, if you please," said Warder Power to us, as we were leaving the kitchen.
Accordingly we mounted the narrow stone staircase, the steps of which were white and sanded. Here we found a warder at the door.
"Stand on one side! Stand on one side !" cried our companion, as we entered.
It was a finely-ventilated apartment, and the air swept freshly by the cheek; nor was the slightest effluvium perceptible, though there was half a hundred people confined in it.
The men sleep here, work here, take their meals here. They roll their beds up into the shape of big muffs, and place them above on the shelf. The tables are "unshipped'' at night, · and the hammocks are slung to the hooks along the rails on either bide of the gangway down the centre.
Our informant explained that these large rooms are exactly the length of a passage, and five yards wide. "They'll hold eighty-three," he said; "but there's not more thou fifty-six allowed now."
The roof is lined with sheet-iron, the first or upper roof being boarded; the lower one arched, and of corrugated iron-plate, with small iron rafters below.
These large rooms are severally divided in the centre by a hot-air shaft, which is somewhat like a square kiln whitewashed, and with a huge black letter inscribed in a circle upon it. By this shaft sits the warder, so as to have one entire half of the room under his eye. The men as we entered were sitting upon forms, two at each table, and so silent was the ward, that the warder's voice, speaking to us, sounded distressingly loud, and we could hear the munching of the men at breakfast. Each man was newly washed, and had his hair lined with marks of the comb as regularly as the newly-swept gravel in the court-yards, whilst all had a bright tin mug, full of cocoa, and a small loaf of bread before them. There are seven tables on either side of each half of the large room, and two men at each table. In the centre, by the hot-air shaft, is a small desk with physic bottles on it, each labelled, "- table-spoonfuls to be taken - times a day," and the bottle divided into "I, II, III, IV" parts.
Against the walls, on either side, were rolls of hammocks on the top shelves; and on the shelves below were small pyramids of Bibles and Prayer-books, surmounted with a combs and brush, while in the centre of the ward hung a thermometer. This is the instructing officer of the ward, our attendant whispered, as the officer passed by. "They'll commence their work at 8 o'clock."
[-264-] Presently, when the breakfast was finished, the instructing warder, at the end of the large room, cried "Attention! Stand up!" Whereupon a prisoner repeated as follows "Bless, O Lord, these, Thy good creatures, to our use, and us to Thy service, through Jesus Christ. Amen."
All the prisoners exclaimed, "Amen!" in response, and immediately proceeded to sweep up the crumbs, and put their tins on the shelves above, while some wiped their cocoa cans with cloths, and others swept clean the stones under the tables.
After this they unshipped the tables, and proceeded to work.
"These men," said our warder, "are shoemaking and tailoring. One division is occupied with one trade, and the other with the other."
From H large room we passed into that marked G, where we
found the men all tailoring. The place was intensely silent - as silent, indeed,
as a quakers' meeting. And thence we passed into F room, where we found them
engaged partly in tailoring and partly in biscuit-bag making.
"We have made as many as 20,000 biscuit-bags for the navy in a week here, and wove a greater portion of the cloth, too," the warder said to us, with no little pride in the industry of his men.
We found some of the prisoners here engaged in reading, while waiting till the officers returned from their breakfast. One was perusing a treatise on "Infidelity; its Aspects, Causes, and Agencies;" another, the "Home Friend-a weekly miscellany;" a third, the "Saturday Magazine;" a fourth, the "History of Redemption;" and a fifth, the "Family Quarrel-an humble story."
Suddenly the warder cried, "Attention!" and (these having said grace before we came in) immediately up started the whole of the men; some seized their table, and, unshipping it, ranged it against the wall; others placed the forms in their proper places.
"Sit down to your work, now! Come, sit down to your work quickly!" was then the order. Accordingly, some of the prisoners seated themselves on tables, said commenced working at convict clothes; others, on benches, began stitching at the coarse bags - the bags being fastened to the hammock-hooks. At the end of the ward was a huge pile of new brown bags, ready to be conveyed to the manufacturer's department.
"Let's see, my lad, whether you belong to the forty," said our guide to one of the workers.
The boy, smiling, put out his hand, and sure enough, there were the five blue dots between the finger and thumb indicative of his being a professional thief.
"If they're not closely watched," added our informant, "they scrape on their cans the cant name that they go by outside, as well as their sentences, so that their pals may know they're in here, and for how long."
The Infirmary.- The next place we visited was the
large room devoted to the sick. Here, outside the door we noted big baths, like
huge tin highlows; and on entering we found the room of the same extent, and
fitted with the same kind of roofing as the rooms we had just left, but down
each side here were ranged small iron bedsteads (seven on either side of the
ward), and fitted with the ordinary yellow-brown rugs and blue check curtains.
Some of the men were in bed and sitting up reading, and others lying down,
looking very ill. The flag-stones were intensely white, and set with small brown
cocoa-fibre mats next to every bed. Near these was a small stand, covered with
medicine bottles and books.
Here the first man we saw had a large black caustic-made ring round his cheek. He was suffering from erysipelas, and the black circle was to keep it from spreading any farther. Presently a prisoner brought a linseed-meal poultice to one of the invalids. "He's an Italian," the warder whispered in our ear (the dark, raisin-coloured eyes, and the blue [-265-] mould of the sprouting beard said as much). "He's got an abscess in the groin. It's venereal, I dare say."
The men who are upon the other side of the ward place themselves at the head of their beds, and, as we pass, stand straight up in the attitude of attention.
Now we come to another prisoner, in bed with a bad knee, and he is sitting up and binding a bandage on the joint. Beside him is a convict, who acts as the attendant in the infirmary, and habited in a loose light blue dress, similar to that worn by the convalescents in the "Unité" hospital ship, at Woolwich. Now there is the sound of a bell. "That's the doctor's bell," we are told.
On the other side of the ward is a little brown-faced negro boy, with his tar-coloured cheeks and short-crept woolly head, just showing above the white sheets. He has a poultice on one side of his face. "What's the matter with you ?" says the warder. "Got a breaking out in my cheek, sir," he answers, pointing to the bandage.
"No bad cases, have you?" asks our attendant. "No, sir," is the reply. "That man at the end of the room is the worst - him with the erysipelas. The other man's recovering fast."
"What's the matter with you?" says Warder Power, to an old man in a flannel jacket, said in bed. "I've had a very bad throat, please, sir." Then we pass more men, who are up and dressed, and standing at the head of their beds, saluting us as we go by; and presently we reach one bed where the clothes are hooped up in a grave-like mound. "What are you suffering from ?" our attendant again inquires.
"Case of white swelling, sir," is the answer of the infirmary warder, who walks at our side; and so saying, he turns back the bed-clothes, and reveals a knee as big at the joint as a foot-ball, and the white parchment skin scarred with the still red wounds of old leech-bites. The poor lad is a pasty-white in the face, and has his shoulders swathed in flannel.
Next we noted another bed, with a prisoner half concealed in it. "What's he got?" our warder asked. "Inflammation of the lungs," we were told; and the man, as we went, coughed sharp and dry. "Bad case," whispered the infirmary officer.
"That man, there," says our guide, pointing to another who sits beside the bed, with his head hanging down on his chest, "was paralyzed here for a long time and on the waterbed. We thought he'd never recover; and now he's quite an idiot."
At the end of the infirmary is a man huddled in bed. "Bronchitis, sir," says the infirmary warder, as he sees us look at the poor fellow.
The man never stirs nor raises his eye, and seems as if unwilling to be noticed.
On our leaving the sad place, the warder stops in the passage immediately outside the door and says to us, "He's in for embezzling a large amount. He was collector of inland revenue in the county of York, and made away with the money he received - several thousands, I've heard."
The General Ward.-The only
other large room is the "general ward," as it is called. This is a
separate apartment, built out in the open space or court within pentagon 5. It
was originally constructed for juvenile prisoners under eighteen years of age;
and, at that time, a system of tailoring, shoemaking, &c., was carried out
by the lads located in it. They worked, ate, and slept, in common, in this one
room. But when the class of convict boys was found to be diminishing, and the
system of transportation was discontinued, excepting for long sentences, the
juvenile ward was then converted into the "general ward," for the
purpose of receiving prisoners in association; for at that time the associated
wards were not large enough to accommodate all the prisoners - the system at
Millbank being to place every man in silent association, after having been six
months in separate confinement.
"Mr. Hall," said our attendant to a warder near at hand, "just fetch me the key of the general ward." And when the warder returned, we were ushered into the apartment. We [-266-] found it a large square room, as spacious as a law-court, but under repair-in the course of being whitewashed. In its desolate condition, it struck us as being not unlike a small marketplace on a Sunday. The skylighted roof was of light iron-work, like a railway terminus; and there was a kind of a large square counter fixed in the centre of the ward, having a desk within. All round the sides was ranged a series of large compartments, called "bays," and each separated by a light partition from the next. In each of these bays six men, we were told, worked, dined, and slept: three in hammocks below, and three above. These bays were like the boxes at "dining-rooms." The table to each of the compartments had a kind of leg, that "flapped up," and the table itself admitted of being hooked into the wall at the end of the bay. "When the prisoners have finished their meals," our informant said, "they turn over the leaves of the upper part of the table, and draw out supports from the side of the bay, for the leaves to rest upon; and so, by covering over the entire bay, the table forms a shop-board for the prisoners to work upon as tailors. Nothing but tailoring is carried on in the general ward." The flooring is of asphalte, blacked and polished as at Pentonville.
Round the platform, in the centre, were four counters; and here, we were informed, the instructors stand and give out the work to the prisoners in the bays. An instructor is told off for each division, besides discipline officers; and the instructor goes round to the bays and looks after work. All the men - and there are 216 located here when the place is full - work with the greatest precision, and in perfect silence, so that, as the warder assured us, one might hear a pin fall on the floor. The principal warder sits at the central desk on a raised platform, and there are benches ranged on one side of the ward for the school. Each bay has its gaslight, and in summer the skylights can be raised by a simple contrivance. On Sunday the general ward is used as the Catholic chapel, and such prisoners as belong to the Church of Rome attend worship there.
The Prison Garden and Churchyard.-
Millbank, owing to the large extent of ground surrounding the prison, like a
broad moat within the walls, there is what is termed a garden class of
prisoners. This consists principally of convicts labouring under scrofula or
falling away in flesh, and it is sometimes termed the "convalescent
class" also. Prisoners belonging to it are allowed extra food. They have a
pint of new milk in the morning for breakfast, one and a half pound of bread a
day, nine ounces of mutton in broth, a small quantity of beer, and a pint of
milk again in the evening; they are also permitted to walk in the outer garden
for two hours every day. These prisoners are lodged in B ward of pentagon 4. It
was here that we met three "privileged men," in light-blue clothes,
with two red stripes on the arm. Such men can be kept here instead of being sent
to the Hulks or the other public works, we were told. They are always the
best-behaved and most trusty of the prisoners. The last of the privileged men
that passed us had so different a look from that of the ordinary convict, that
we could not help noticing him particularly, and then we recognized the once
eminent City merchant, who was sentenced to transportation for fraud some months
ago. He saw by our look that we detected him even in his convict garb, and
hurried past us.
"Yes, sir," said the warder, "the life here must be a great change, for such as him especially. Some of the prisoners are better off than ever they were; but a person like that one, who thought nothing of dealing to the extent of a quarter of a million a day, must feel it sorely."
This person, we were told, found special consolation in the study of languages, and on the table of his cell was a high pyramid of books, consisting of French and German exercises, with others of a religious character.
At another part of the day we visited the garden. Passing through a small door in the large wooden gate, by the side of the main entrance, we found ourselves in a spacious yard in front of pentagon 6, and with the high boundary wall shutting it off from the public way [-267-] without. Here, in the centre, was an immense oval tank or reservoir (like that formerly in the Green Park, but much smaller), and with a whitewashed bricken rim, standing above the ground. This was divided into three compartments, and was supplied with water from the Thames, originally for the use of the prisoners. The centre compartment was intended to act as a filter for the water passing from one end of the reservoir to the other; but this was found a failure, and so it certainly appeared, for the colour of the liquid on the filtered side was the light-green opaque tint of diluted "absinthe," and but a shade clearer than the unfiltered pool which partook strongly of the horse-pond character - a weak slush. This reservoir is no longer used to supply the prison with water, for after the outbreak of the
cholera in '54, the several pentagons were provided with
water pumped up from the artesian wells in Trafalgar Square.
Hence we passed through small palisaded gates into the prison kitchen-garden· where there was a broad gravelled walk between trimly-kept beds on either side.
"The garden next the prison," said the warder, who still accompanied us, "belongs to the governor, and that next the boundary wall to the chaplain. The deputy-governor's garden adjoins the chaplain's, a little farther on. There is a gardener, with three prisoners, to manage the whole." Here we found fruit-trees, and currant and other bushes, as well as carefully-tended beds of fresh-looking vegetables.
At the entrance to the tongue or V-shaped strip of land, lying between pentagons 5 and 6, stood a warder, with the barrel of a blunderbuss resting across his arm.
This told us that the prisoners employed in the garden were at work at that part. We went across to see the kind of labour performed, and here, among the convict gang, we noted [-268-] one whose estate had recently sold for £25,000, dressed in the prison garb and busy hoeing between the rows of beans that were planted there.
Thence our path lay past the deputy-governor's long strip of garden, and so through another low gate in the palisading that divided the kitchen-garden from the ground devoted to the general purposes of the prison. Here on one side of the central pathway the ground was planted with mangold-wurzel, and on the other with white carrots. There are six prisoners at work here all the year round, watched over by an armed officer, either cultivating the ground or rolling the paths.
At the edge of the pathway stood a desolate-looking black sentry-box, erected for the officer who is on duty in the garden at night. The next tongue of land between pentagons 4 and 5 was covered with a crop of rank grass, so thick and tall that it positively undulated in the breeze like a field of green corn. "Nothing else will grow in those places, unless in the very best aspect," our attendant told us. He thought there were altogether about four acres of garden ground round about the prison.
Then as we turned the corner by the general centre tower, at the apex of pentagon 4, we discovered, on the side of the path next the boundary-wall, an oblong piece of land, enclosed within a low black iron rail, and with a solitary cider-tree growing in a round green tuft close beside the fence. This was exactly opposite to the tongue of ground between the pentagons 3 and 4, so that it occupied very nearly the same position at the back of the jail as the outer gate does in front of it.
"That," said Warder Power, "is the churchyard of the prison. It's no longer used as a burying-place for the convicts now. In the cholera of 1848, so many corpses were interred there that the authorities thought it unhealthy. The bodies of convicts dying in the prison arc buried at the Victoria Cemetery, Mile End, now. After a post-mortem examination has taken place, an officer of the prison goes with the coffin, and is generally the only person present at the ceremony."
We entered the sad spot, and found the earth arranged in mounds, and planted all over with marigolds, the bright orange flowers of which studded the place, and seemed in the sunshine almost to spangle the surface. At one part were three tombstones, raised to the memory of some departed prison officers; but of the remains of the wretched convicts that lay buried there, not a single record was to be found. It was well that no stone chronicled their wretched fate, and yet it was most sad that men should leave the world in such a way.*
*THE FOLLOWING ARE THE INSCRIPTIONS ON THE TOMB-STONES
The Female Convict Prison at Millbank.
The female prison, though forming part of the same
building as that devoted to the male prisoners, may still be regarded as a
distinct establishment, for it occupies one entire pentagon (pentagon 3), and
has not only a set of officers peculiarly its own, but is entered by different
The female prison here is to Brixton what the male prison is to Pentonville - a kind of depot to which the convicts are forwarded as vacancies occur.
At the time of our visit there were 173 female prisoners located in this establishment, throughout the several wards; a portion of whom were in separate confinement, and the remainder working in association.
"This is Miss Cosgrove," the principal matron, sir, said the warder, as we entered the gate and were introduced to a good-looking young "officer."
"The female uniform, you see," the warder added, "is the same as at Brixton, with the exception of the bonnets - their's is white straw, and our's is gray."
"This yard," said Miss Cosgrove, opening a door at the side of the passage into a long narrow airing ground, where a fat-looking prisoner, in her dark claret-brown gown and cheek apron, was walking to and fro by herself, "is for such convicts as are too bad to be put to exercise with others. That is one of the women who has been acting in the most obscene and impudent manner at Brixton. When they're bad, they're bad indeed!" said the young matron, as we turned away.
"The female officers," replied the warder, "carry out better discipline here than even at Brixton; a great deal of determination and energy is required by female officers to do the duty."
The matron now opened a heavy door that moaned on its hinges. "This is A ward, and has thirty cells in it, exactly the same as those in the male pentagon."
The cells had register numbers outside, but the grated gate was considerably lighter, though equally as strong as those in the other pentagons.
As we peeped into one of the little cells, we saw a good-looking girl with a skein of thread round her neck, seated and busy making a shirt. The mattress and blankets were rolled up into a square bundle, as in the male cells. There was a small wooden stool and little square table with a gas jet just over it; the bright tins, wooden platter, and salt-box, a few books, and a slate, and signal-stick shaped like a harlequin's wand, were all neatly arranged upon the table and shelf in the corner. The costume of the convicts here is the same as at Brixton.
"The women are mostly in for common larcenies," said the matron, as we walked down the long narrow passage between the cells; "and many of them have been servants; some have been gentlemen's servants, and a good number have been farm servants; but the fewest number are, strange to say, of the unfortunate class in the streets."
"Yes," chimes in the warder, "not a great many of them come here."
"Generally speaking," said the matron, as she conducted us through the pentagon, "those who have been very bad outside are found the best in prison both for work and behaviour; and the longest-sentenced females are usually the best behaved."
"The long sentences are, mostly, for murder-child-murder," she added; "and this is usually the first and only offence; but the others are continually in and out, and become at last regular jail people."
"The farm servants," continued Miss Cosgrove, "are, ordinarily, a better class of people; but some are very stubborn. Yes! one we had in here was very bad."
[-270-] The convicts pick coir for the first two months, and, if well-behaved for that time, they are then put to needlework. Their door is bolted up for the first four months of their incarceration.*
* NOTICE TO FEMALE CONVICTS.
Prisoners of good conduct, and maintaining a character for willing industry, will, by this rule, be enabled, after certain fixed periods, to obtain the higher stages, and gain the privileges attached to them.
For the present, and until further orders, the following Rules will be observed:-
The first stage of penal discipline will be carried out at Millbank prison, where two classes will be established, viz., The Probation Class, and the Third Class.
The second stage of discipline will be carried out at Brixton, where the prisoners will be divided into the First, Second, and Third Classes.
The third stage of discipline and industrial training prior to discharge will be carried out at Burlington House, Fulham, for those prisoners who, by their exemplary conduct in the first and second stages, appear deserving of being removed to that establishment.
Millbank Probation Class.
1. All prisoners, on reception, will be placed in the probation class, in ordinary cases, for a period of four months, and, in special cases, for a longer period, according to their conduct. During this time their cell-doors will be bolted up.
2. The strictest silence will be enforced with prisoners in this class on all occasions, and they will be occupied in picking coir, until, by their industry and good conduct, they may appear deserving of other employment.
3. No prisoner in the probation class will be allowed to receive a visit.
4. Every prisoner having passed through the probation class is liable to be sent back thereto, and recommence the period of probation, upon the recommendation of the governor, and with the sanction of a director.
5. On leaving the probation class, the prisoners will be received into the third class.
Discipline of the Third Class.
6. No prisoner will be allowed to receive a visit until she has been well-conducted for the space of two months in the third class.
7. The strictest silence will be enforced with prisoners in this class on all occasions.
8. Prisoners, whose conduct has been exemplary in the third class for a period of four months, will be eligible for removal to Brixton when vacancies occur.
RULES FOR THE PENAL CLASS OF FEMALE CONVICTS AT MILLBANK PRISON.
1. To have their cells bolted up, and be kept in strict separation.
2. To be employed in picking coir or oakum, or in some such occupation, for the first three months after reception.
3. Not to be allowed to receive visits or letters, or to write letters.
4. Not to attend school for the first three months after their reception, and not then unless their conduct may warrant the indulgence. In the event, however, of the governor and chaplain agreeing that any individual female convict in the penal class may be permitted to attend school at an earlier period than three months, she may attend accordingly.
5. In the event of a female convict in the penal class committing any offence against the prison rules, the governor shall have the power of punishing such a prisoner, as laid down in rule 13, page 11, of the rules applicable to the governor, for any term not exceeding seven days.
We now entered the laundry, which reminded us somewhat of
a fish-market, with its wet-looking, black, shiny asphalte floor. The place was
empty-work being finished on the Friday. On Saturday mornings, the convicts who
are usually employed to do the washing, go to school, and in the afternoon they
clean the laundry, so as to have it ready for work on Monday morning. Long
dressers stretch round the building; there is a heavy mangle at one side, and
cloths'-horses, done up in quires, rest against the wall.
We are next led through the drying and getting-up room, and so into the wash-house. Here we find rows of troughs, with brass taps, for hot and cold water, jutting over them. There is a large bricken boiler at one end of the apartment, pails and tubs stand about, and a few limp-wet clothes are still on the lines. "There are only ten women washing every week now," observed the matron; "we have had thirty-six or forty-quite as many as that. We used to do for the whole service, but at present we wash only for the female prisoners and their officers."
[-271-] We've five matrons, ten assistant-matrons, one infirmary cook, and one principal matron, said Miss Cosgrove, in answer to our inquiry as to the official staff for the female portion of the prison.
"This is 113 ward-the first probation ward," says the matron, as we enter another passage.
Here we find the inner wooden doors thrown back. "These women have all been here less than three months," adds the principal matron. " Such as you have already seen at needlework have been here over two months, and those that have coir to pick have been in less than two months."
"Oh, yes; the brooms and scissors are all taken out every night, the same as at Brixton," said the matron to us.
As we pass, the convicts all jump up and curtsey-some of them bobbing two or three times. All wear the close white prison cap. Some are pretty, and others coarse- featured women; many of them are impudent-looking, and curl their lip, and stare at us as we go by.
"We've got many Mary MacWilliamses (a model incorrigible) here," said the warder to us. "Ah, she's a nice creature! I brought her from Brixton."
" She's going back again," interposed the matron.
"Is she, by George!'' rejoined the warder. "Then they'll have a nice one to look after. I went to get the incorrigibles from Brixton, and brought them here. We went on very nicely till we got them, and they've done our business. Some of them have softened down wonderfully well though; we'd hard battles at first, but we conquered them at last. I do think those who were brought down here were the very worst women in existence. I don't fancy their equal could be found anywhere."
" There's one of our punishment cells," says the dark-eyed voting matron, as we quit B ward, passage No. 2. The cell was not quite dark; there was a bed in the corner of it.
"What can the women do there?" asked we. "Do!" cried the matron; "why, they can sing and dance, and whistle, and make use, as they do, of the most profane language conceivable."
We now proceeded up stairs to the punishment cell on the landing. This one was intensely dark, with a kind of grating in the walls for ventilation, but no light-hole; and there was a small raised wooden bed in the corner. The cell was shut in first by a grated gate, then a wooden door, lined with iron, with another door outside that; and then a kind of mattress, or large straw-pad, arranged on a slide before the outer door, to deaden the sound from within. "Those are the best dark cells in all England," said our guide, as he closed the many doors. " They're clean, warm, and well ventilated." There were fire such cells in a line, and each with the same apparatus outside for deadening the sound within, as we have before described.
[-272-] "That's one of the women under punishment who's singing now," said the matron, as we stood still to listen. "They generally sing. Oh! that's nothing - that's very quiet for them. Their language to the minister is sometimes so horrible, that I am obliged to run away with disgust."
"Some that we've had," went on the matron, "have torn up their beds. They make up songs themselves all about the officers of the prison. Oh! they'll have every one in their verses - the directors, the governor, and all of us." She then repeated the following doggerel front one of the prison songs :- "If you go to Milbank, and you want to see Miss Cosgrove, you must inquire at the round house; - and they'll add something I can't tell you of."
We went down stairs and listened to the woman in the dark cell, who was singing "Buffalo Gals," but we could not make out a word - we could only catch the tune.
In F ward is the padded cell. "We've not had a woman in here for many months," said the matron, as we entered the place. The apartment was about six feet high; a wainscot of mattresses was ranged all round the walls, and large beds were placed on the pound in one corner, and were big enough to cover the whole cell. "This is for persons subject to fits," says the matron; "but very few suffer from them."
The matron now led us into a double cell, containing an iron bed and tressel. Here the windows were all broken, and many of the sashes shattered as well. This had been done by one of the women with a tin pot, we were informed.
"What is this, Miss Cosgrove ?" asked the warder, pointing to a bundle of sticks like firewood in the corner.
"Oh, that's the remains of her table! And if we hadn't come in time, she would have broken up her bedstead as well, I dare say." We now reached the school-room, where we found four women, with a lady in black teaching them.
"They get on very well while in separate confinement," says the teacher to us, "but rather slow when in association."
"That's where we weigh the women when they come in," said the matron, as we passed along. "The men are not weighed; it has been discontinued since Major Groves' time. We find some go out the same weight, but very often they are heavier than when they came in, and we seldom find that they have lost flesh."
We next entered C ward, on the middle floor. Here we noted some good-looking women; though the convicts are not generally remarkable for good looks, being often coarse-featured people.
"Some of our best-looking are among the worst behaved of all the prisoners in the female ward," says the matron.
One woman was at work picking coir, with her back turned towards us. We looked at her register number above the door, and read on the back of the card the name of Alice Grey.
We now reach D ward, passage No. 2; this is the penal ward.
Here the windows were wired inside, and had rude kinds of Venetian blinds fixed on the outside; the cells were comparatively dark, and the prisoners younger and much prettier than any we had yet seen. Many of them smiled impudently as we passed. Here the bedding was ranged in square bundles all along the passage, because the prisoners had been found to wear them for bustles.
"Those bells," points out the matron, "are to call male officers in case of alarm."
Presently we saw, inside one of the cells we passed, a girl in a coarse canvas dress, strapped over her claret-brown convict clothes. This dress was fastened by a belt and straps of the same stuff, and, instead of an ordinary buckle, it was held tight by means of a key acting on a screw attached to the back. The girl had been tearing her clothes, and the coarse canvas dress was put on to prevent her repeating the act.
"These two girls are reformed since I brought them over from Brixton," says the warder to us. "Those three also are quite reformed; it's nine months since I brought them [-273-] over. They're well-conducted now, or they wouldn't be together." The girl in the canvas dress was now heard laughing as we passed down the ward.
The matron had a canvas dress brought out for our inspection; and while we were examining it a noise of singing was heard once more, whereupon the warder informed us that it proceeded from the lady in the dark cell, who was getting up a key or two higher. The canvas dress we found to be like a coarse sack, with sleeves, and straps at the waist- the latter made to fasten, as we have said before, with small screws. With it we were shown the prison strait-waistcoat, which consisted of a canvas jacket, with black leathern sleeves, like boots closed at the end, and with straps up the arm.
The canvas dress has sometimes been cut up by the women with bits of broken glass. Formerly the women used to break the glass window in the penal ward, by taking the bones out of their stays and pushing them through the wires in front.
"Oh, yes, they'd sooner lose their lives than their hair!" said the warder, in answer to our question as to whether the females were cropped upon entering the prison. "We do not allow them to send locks of the hair cut off to their sweethearts; locks, however, are generally sent to their children, or sisters, or mother, or father, and leave is given to them to do as much; they are allowed, too, to have a lock sent in return, and to keep it with their letters. All books sent here by the prisoners' friends, if passed by the chaplain, the convicts are permitted to retain."
"The locks of hair sent out," adds the officer, "must be stitched to the letters, so as not to come off in the offices."
Our conversation, as we stood at the gate, about to take our departure, was broken off by the cries of "You're a liar!" from one of the females in the cells of the neighbouring wards; whereupon the amiable young matron, scarcely staying to wish us good morning, hastened back to the prison.*
* As regards the ages, sentences, and education of the male convicts at Milbank prison, the following are the official returns for 1854
|17 years and under 21||383|
|21 years and under 30||453|
|Total under 30 years||836|
|30 years and upwards||455|
|For 3 years||1|
|Neither read nor write||233|
|Can read only||216|
|Under 12 years||6|
|12 years and under 14||22|
|14 years and under 17||195|
|For 4 years||168|
|Neither read nor write||68|
|Can read only||42|