Victorian London - Prisons - Pentonville Prison

pentonville.gif (261427 bytes)

pentonville2.gif (74670 bytes)

The Cells are each 13 feet long, by 7 feet broad, and are all of them of one uniform height of 9 fret. The piece or partitions between them are 18 inches thick, and are worked with close joints, so as to preclude as much no possible the transmission of sound. The ceiling is arched, and the light is admitted by a window (a fixture), filled with strong glass, of similar form, in the hack wall, and crossed by a wrought-iron bar, in the direction of its length, so so to divide it into two portions, of about 5 inches each. The engraving shows the interior of a cell; on the left is a stone water-closet pan, with a cast-iron top, acting on a hinge let into the wall. Next is a metal basin, supplied with water, to prevent the waste of which, the quantity is limited to one cubic foot, or about 6 gallons; the service-pipe from the water-trough being beat in the form of  a trap, to prevent any transmission of sound. Opposite these conveniences is a strong three-legged stool, and a small table, with a shaded gas burner above it. Across the cell is slung from iron staples in the wall the prisoner's hammock, with mattress and blankets, which are folded up and placed upon a shelf to the left of the door in the day time. Here also is a hand-spring communicating with a bell, which when pulled causes a small iron tablet, inscribed with the number of the cell in the engraving, to project from the wall, so that the officer on duty in the gallery may be apprised of the precise cell where he is required. Each cell is warmed by air, through perforated iron plates in the floor, supplied through flues, communicating with immense stoves in the basement of the wing. The foul air is carried off, and a circulation of atmosphere maintained by means of perforated iron plates above the door of the cell, which communicate with an immense shaft ...

from The Illustrated London News, 1843

The Model Prison, in the Holloway Road, which leads from the foot of Pentonville Hill, near King's Cross, to Holloway, has recently been completed at a cost of 85,000l. The Model Prison, intended to form the standard upon ·which our county gaols are hereafter to be erected, is an emanation from the collective wisdom of the inspectors of prisons, and consists of five divisions of three stories each, radiating from a common centre, and subdivided into cells that are calculated to contain 520 prisoners. It is formed in furtherance of the separate and silent system, which, as here carried out, prevents the possibility of intercourse between the wretched inmates, who, confined in solitary cells, and exercised singly between bare walls, so far from holding intercourse with, are never permitted to see each other. The chapel, which is of curious construction, is very complete, and furnished with an organ by Gray.

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

MODEL PRISON, PENTONVILLE. Established pursuant to 5 & 6 Vict., sess.2. c.29, for the detention of convicts condemned to and intended for transportation. The prison contains 1000 separate cells. The inmates are detained for two years in this prison and are taught useful trades. The cost of each prisoner is about 15s. a week. The first stone was laid April 10th, 1840, and the building completed in 1842. The total cost was 84,186l. 12s 2d.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

for a very detailed description ...

see Mayhew and Binny's Criminal Prisons of London - click here

see also Thomas Archer in The Pauper, The Thief and The Convict - click here

[ ... back to main menu for this book]

Pentonville Prison—commonly called the Model Prison— in Caledonian-road, about 200 yards south-east of the Cattle-market. It consists of a central hall, with five radiating wings, contains a thousand cells, and is conducted on a modification of the silent and solitary systems. Orders to view from the Home Office. NEAREST Railway Station, Barnsbury; Omnibus Route, Caledonian-road; Cab Rank, Offord-road.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

see also James Greenwood's The Wilds of London - click here

see also Mary H. Krout in A Looker-On in London - click here