THE RICH & GORY HISTORY OF THE CLINK PRISON
 

A photo of London by night

In 1129, Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen (and grandson to William the Conqueror) was invested Bishop of Winchester, and became second in power only to the King himself. His Thames fronted residence, Winchester Palace (of which The Rose Window of the Great Hall is still visible today), was completed in 1144 and contained two prisons within the palace grounds: one for men, and one for women. Thus Bankside became subject to the laws of ‘The Liberty (or jurisdiction) of the Bishop of Winchester’ (later the ‘Liberty of The Clink’) and was governed accordingly.

The name ‘Clink’ seems to have been attached to the prison in the 14th century. One of the most commonly argued derivatives is that of the sound of the blacksmith’s hammer closing the irons around the wrists or ankles of the prisoners, although the Flemish word ‘klink’ meaning ‘latch’ (perhaps referring to the latch on the gaol door) could also have influenced its attachment. Whatever the etymology, the prison subsequently bequeathed this name to all others, resulting in the development of the expression, "to be thrown in The Clink."

During its remarkably long span, besides the usual drunken vagrants, vagabonds and other seemingly petty criminals, The Clink also housed more historically significant criminals. Famous examples include Sir Thomas Wyatt The Younger (son of the Renaissance poet of the same name), who rebelled against Queen ‘Bloody’ Mary I; John Rogers, the man responsible for translating the Bible into English from Latin during the reign of the aforementioned Roman Catholic Queen; Royalist supporters during the English Civil War, and Puritans who went on to become the first Pilgrim Fathers, settlers of the New World in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in the United States.

Throughout this long existence, The Clink did not remain unscathed however; several attempts to destroy the prison were enacted through rebellion, such as during the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381, or during Jack Cade’s rebellion of 1450, both of which resulted in the rebuilding of The Clink, with the latter resulting in a new, two-storey men’s prison on the site of what is now The Clink Prison Museum.

A photo of London by night

It endured until 1780, when Lord George Gordon, dissatisfied with the favours granted upon Catholics during the ‘Papists Act’ as a result of the American War of Independence, assembled The Protestant Association and broke into The Clink, releasing all of the prisoners and burning the building to the ground. The Clink was never rebuilt, and as somewhat of a happy postscript, none of the prisoners seem to have ever been recaptured. Today, all that remains of Bankside’s once most notorious prison is the stonework of Winchester Palace, the passage ‘Clink Street’ and that which has been preserved within The Clink Prison Museum, including an original wall.

NOTEABLE EVENTS at
The Clink PRISON MUSEUM


1300s

1386 -1486
No trespassing

Inmates imprisoned due to an act of trespass conducted in a dilatory manner. Paul Crosse, Pears Shattle,Harry Joanysserson, Wendall Gretlose, John Hewhet due to discharge from obligation without quittance being given (presumably running away from the master he was apprenticed to) John Wright found guilty of trespassing.

1400s

the escort & the Escorted

John Norys convicted clerk, escorted from here to Farnham by two paid men on hired horses, with an extra horse for himself.
Ellen Butler imprisoned as an unlicensed prostitute

1409-10
pay for your life

John Samoun, before being hung as a villain the bishop received £21 5s. 3d from John’s possessions and goods.
John Boys and Thomas Terying paid £5 5s. for the terms of their lives.
John Bocher and John Estyler imprisoned.

1437-57
the oldest profession

Margaret Hathewyk appears to have been a stew house keeper

1460
boys again

John Boys and John Hakett transferred to Winchester Prison escorted by three horsemen.

1486 – 1529
unknown issues

Thomas Peryell imprisoned in Clink from for refusal of bail,
contempt of writ, and other unknown issues.

1500s

1500-10
a long list of sins

Laurence Vaux – Catholic, died in prison due to starvation and ill treatment – author of a catechism
Dr Taylour removed from The Clink and moved to the Counter by St Mildred’s Church in the Poultry Counter.
Venerable Richard Leigh – arrested for keeping a book called ‘My Lord Leicester’s Commonwealth’ and also aiding the escape of the Venerable William Dean from Bridewell. Leigh was moved to the Tower in 1588.
Father Southwell
Henry Pratt – Secular Priest.
Priest Saxy – hung himself in his cell rather than face torture.

1515
hunger games

Alice Skeyling, widow – taken to court for meat and drink paid for by Lord Audley.

1538-44
don't mess with the blacksmith

Henry Babington of Co – found guilty of trespassing.
Thomas Hopkins – Assault on Walter Upton and refusal to pay for the dying of 4 yards of cloth.
John Stones – debt of £15 owed to blacksmith.

1550
a different tale

John Rogers – published the Matthew Bible.

1555
late release

Bishop Hooper published the Matthew Bible.

1556-58
the usual suspects

Thomas Tyler
Myles Nylson
John Draper

1568
12 year plea

Jane Gouldwar pleading for release in 1580 having been in prison, bringing up a family, for 12 years.

1574
the other one

Latymer – ‘an old priest’
(not to be confused with Bishop Latymer, burned to death 1555)

1577
sick leave

Robert Clibon – released for six month period to go to Bath and recover from illness.

1580
prison rat

Anthony Tyrrell apparently a Jesuit tasked by the Pope to assassinate Elizabeth I, served as a spy in The Clink vainly trying to implicate William Weston in Babington Plot, though he did implicate John Lowe and John Adams, both of whom were executed at Tyburn in 1586

1584
live & die in the clink

Anne Launder - imprisoned 22nd March 1586; Anne died in The Clink 1589, John in 1591.
Jasper Heywood, a Jesuit locked up here, later moved to The Tower. Nephew of Sir Thomas More.
John Launder – John imprisoned 18th June 1584, John died in The Clink in 1591
Venerable William Way (aka Flowers and May) – imprisoned for his religion, taken to Newgate for questioning, 1588.

1586
hanged, drawn and quartered

John Lowe and John Adams – Friends of Father Weston, believed to be influential among the heretics of The Clink; hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in 1586 over their complicity in the Babington Plot.
Father William Weston – Jesuit arrested 3rd August in connection with Babington Plot, put in The Clink on 11th September and questioned several times.
Richard Claybourne – a gentleman imprisoned for refusing to attend service (Protestant service presumably).

1590s

1592
the puritan church

Henry Barrowe and John Greenwood – released from The Clink 1592, founded the Independent Church (Puritan), returned to The Clink in 1593 and then hung at Tyburn. (The Independent Church congregation eventually sailed to America on the Mayflower). John Greenwood was previously imprisoned in The Clink in 1586 ‘for reading scripture’ (presumably in a very Puritan manner!);
after six weeks Barrowe visited him, and the keeper refused to let him out again!

1593
short sentence

George Butcher

1596
ball & chains

Francis Johnson, Puritan, during his time in The Clink he secretly married a widow, Thomasina Boyes. Johnson was released in 1596, and may have become involved with the Barrowists.

1597
the one that got away

John Gerard – Jesuit, moved here from the Poultry Compter in after his friends had bribed Young to move him (whoever Young was). Said Mass in the Clink and took confessions – even to the point of converting other prisoners and some of the guards! Seems to have been a highly impressive character – even after he was tortured in The Tower, he went on to escape!

1598
end of the line

John Jones – Franciscan, executed

1599
friend of a friend

William Houghton – actor and playwright imprisoned for debt (a friend of a friend of Shakespeare’s brother in law – this would appear to be the much vaunted Shakespeare connection – Houghton worked for the Henslowe/Alleyn company, rather than that run by Burbage/Shakespeare)
William Albaster – refusal to attend church.
St John Rigby – non-attendance at church over 2-3 years, hanged 1600

1600s

1601
wrongfully accused

Thomas Preston – heretic, last surviving monk of Westminster.
Robert Davison – wrongfully arrested for murder of Edward Woodye
William Warmington
John Duke – famous actor locked up for a debt of £8.

1602
spies & conspirators

Adam Dowse – arrested as ‘an impudent spy’.
Francis Barnaby – Catholic priest
William Clark – Bye Plot conspirator, executed December 1603.

1605
a changed man

Henry Jacob – Congregationalist, begged for release and promised good behaviour.

1608
paid in full

Henry Lok – poet and debtor.

1609
say no more

Mr Collington – Heretic.

1613
business as usual

John Colleton – secular priest.
George Blackwell – died in Clink.

1618
a fair exchange

Richard Davies and William Davies – Catholics, sent to Wisbech Prison to be with other Catholics

1621
bad religion

Father Edmond Cannon – Jesuit.

1624-40
money is not an issue

Father Thomas Preston, lived richly in The Clink.

1629
close friends

John Dayley and Thomas Leake – moved to Clink from Newgate to be held in close confinement.
Matthew Wilson, aka Edward Knott, Jesuit.

1630
catholics & heretics

St John Southworth – Catholic priest, imprisoned here with 15 others
Jasper Loberick – Heretic.

1632
the only way is out

John Lothropp’s fellow Puritans were released in 1634, but Lothrpp was considered too dangerous, and retained. He eventually sailed to the New World on The Griffin in 1634.

1640
the only way out

Thomas Preston - Benedictine.
Spent many years in prison and died in the Clink Prison, 5 April.

1643
rebel souls

Sir Kenelm Digby – prisoner of Civil War.
John Ogle, quite possibly prisoner of the Civil War, as there was a Lord Ogle fighting for the king in the West Country, notably holding Winchester in 1645.

1645
rebel souls

William Wilkinson – released from Winchester House on bail. He was another possible prisoner of the Civil War

1650
one in a million

Robert Cox – died in The Clink.

1661
a falling star

Prusanna Carnall – prostitute, (that must be a professional name).

1680
the arsonist

Margaret Clark – conspiracy to arson.

1700s

1705
had to pay

Thomas Bamlett – probably debtor.

1712
a free man

Henry Broncker – probably released