Victorian London - Prisons - Millbank Prison The Penitentiary Prison, Millbank. This important establishment was formed for the purpose of trying the effect of a system of imprisonment, founded on humane and rational principles; in which the prisoners should be separated into classes, be compelled to work, and their religious and moral habits properly attended to. The external walls form an irregular octagon, and enclose no less than eighteen acres of ground. This vast space comprehends seven distinct though conjoined masses of building, the centre being a regular hexagon, and the others branching from its respective sides. By this means the governor or overseer may, at all times, from the windows in the central part, have time power of overlooking every division of the prison. The buildings are sufficiently capacious to accommodate 1000 persons. No person can be admitted to view this prison without an order from the Home Secretary of State, or unless he is accompanied by one of the committee of management.

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

MILLBANK PRISON. A mass of brickwork equal to a fortress, on the left bank of the Thames, close to Vauxhall Bridge; erected on ground bought in 1799 of the Marquis of Salisbury, and established pursuant to 52 Geo. III., c.44, passed Aug 20th, 1812. It was designed by Jeremy Bentham, to whom the fee-simple of the ground was conveyed, and is said to have cost the enormous sum of half a million sterling. The external walls form an irregular octagon, and enclose upwards of sixteen acres of land. Its ground-plan resembles a wheel, the governor's house occupying a circle in the centre, from which radiate six piles of building, terminating externally in towers. The ground on which it stands is raised but little above the river, and was at one time considered unhealthy. It was first named "The Penitentiary," or "Penitentiary House for London and Middlesex," and was called "The Millbank Prison" pursuant to 6 & 7 of Victoria, c.26. It is the largest prison in London. Every male and female convict sentenced to transportation in Great Britain is sent to Millbank previous to the sentence being executed. Here they remain about three months under the close inspection of the three inspectors of the prison, at the end of which time the inspectors report to the Home Secretary, and recommend the place of transportation. The number of persons in Great Britain and Ireland condemned to transportation every year amounts to about 4000. So far the accommodation of the prison permits, the separate system is adopted. Admission to inspect - order from the Secretary for the Home Department, or the Inspector of Prisons.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

for more detail ...

see also Mayhew and Binny in The Criminal Prisons of London

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

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Millbank Prison stands on the river bank, near Vauxhall-bridge. It is built on Benthams “Panopticon” plan, six different buildings radiating from a common centre. The building is intended to hold 1,000 prisoners, and cost half-a-million, which, with ground rent, &c., represents an outlay per head for rent, &c, of about £50 per annum, or, as the prison is rarely more than half full, practically not far short of £100. Prisoners pass through here from Newgate and elsewhere as the first stage of  “penal servitude,” and the discipline is somewhat severe. Orders to view from Home Secretary, or Directors of Convict Prisons, 44 Parliament-street, S.W. NEAREST Railway Station, Vauxhall; Omnibus Routes, Vauxhall-bridge-road and Palace-road ; Cab Rank, Vauxhall-bridge.

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

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