Victorian London - Prisons and Penal System - Prisons - Old Borough Compter

The Old Borough Compter belongs to the City, and has jurisdiction over five parishes: it was, previous to 1817, a mean and confined place, totally inadequate to its purpose; but it has since been very much improved. The different classes of offenders are now kept separate, the convicts are employed, and the whole prison is well arranged.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844


AN auctioneer has just enjoyed the privilege of "knocking down a prison." That well-known, but by no means favourite resort, the Borough Compter, has recently been brought to the hammer, or, rather, the hammer brought to it, and the whole has been knocked down in a variety of lots to the highest bidders. We do not quite understand the motives of the various purchasers at this sale; for we do not see what use can be made of a quantity of spikes, a parcel of iron bars, and a mass of miscellaneous prison properties. Perhaps to some people there would be a sort of excitement in fitting up a room as a prison, and undergoing a little voluntary incarceration, by way of giving a zest to liberty. That there must be some such feeling in existence, is proved by the fact stated in the reports that "several persons took the opportunity of visiting the prison." We did not hear that some persons took the opportunity of getting out of the prison, which would have been in our eyes a far more sensible movement.

Punch, January 19, 1856