CRIME & PUNISHMENT - Route & what to see
site  map

I first called this walk 'Sites and Remains of some London Prisons' but this seems a more appropriate title as it also includes courthouses and execution sites. There is a companion walk around Southwark. Have you read of prisons such as Bridewell and the Fleet and wondered where they were located? The chances are that you have walked past their sites without realising it. This walk takes in places where you could have found yourself behind bars in the past.

This linear walk is about 1 miles and finishes at Mount Pleasant. Bus 63 goes back to the start. There are plenty of places for refreshments.

Begin at Blackfriars Station (District & Circle lines or main line)
Use the subway system to exit 8 and walk along New Bridge Street

Site 1 BRIDEWELL on the west side between Tudor Street and Bride Lane (Bridewell Place)
This was built as a palace for Henry VIII but his son Edward VI gave it to the City for use as a workhouse and prison for petty offenders. The name was adopted by other similar institutions. The present building at No.14, which dates from 1802, has a plaque and a keystone above the gateway depicting Edward.

Continue to Ludgate Circus and turn right into Ludgate Hill

Site 2 LUDGATE spanned Ludgate Hill where now stands Ye Olde London pub.
As with other gates in the city wall this was demolished as a traffic hazard in 1760 having served as a prison from the late 14th century. There is a plaque on St. Martin-within-Ludgate Church.

Return to Ludgate Circus and turn right along Farringdon Street

Site 3 THE FLEET on the east side of Farringdon Street between Old Sea Coal Lane & Old Fleet Lane
The Fleet was the first purpose-built prison and operated from soon after the Norman Conquest until Victorian times. Until the 1730s it would have been on the banks of the Fleet River.

Right along Fleet Lane to the end

This replaced the notorious Newgate Prison in 1902. Stones from the demolished prison were used in its faade and doors and other fitments are on display in the Museum of London. The public galleries of the courts are open 10-1 & 2-5 Monday – Friday (entry restrictions)

Left along Old Bailey and right into Newgate Street

Site 5 NEWGATE stood across Newgate Street at No. 121/2.
Newgate was originally a gatehouse prison which was rebuilt with a bequest from Richard Whittington in 1423. It was from here that Jack Shepherd famously escaped having been chained in a third floor cell. Following the construction of the new building in the 1770s most of the old prison was demolished, although some remained on the north side until 1781. There is a plaque on the Central Criminal Court, which stands on the extended Newgate site.

Return to the crossroads

The bells of this church were tolled for an execution at Newgate. It has on display a handbell rung by the priest who visited condemned prisoners on the morning of their execution. A tunnel ran between the church and the prison.

This Victorian pub uses former cells as storage areas

Go into Giltspur Street

Site 8 GILTSPUR STREET COMPTER on east side now Merrill Lynch premises (marked with a plaque)
This was a sheriff’s prison designed by George Dance the Younger in 1791

Continue along this street

A place of execution. There are monuments with ‘themed’ ironwork to William Wallace (Scottish Patriot) & the protestant martyrs of Mary I reign on the walls of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Go through the Grand Central Avenue of Smithfield Meat Market. Cross Charterhouse Street and bear right along St John Street

Site 10 HICKS HALL was sited in the middle of the road
Sir Baptist Hicks had a sessions house built at his own expense in 1612. There was a room where bodies of criminals were publically dissected. Much decayed, it was demolished in 1782 to be replaced with the Middlesex Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. (Site 12)

Bear left along St John’s Lane. Beyond the gate this becomes St John’s Square which continues across the Clerkenwell Road. Continue through Jerusalem Passage and left into Aylesbury Street

This has been a site of execution with a pound, pillary and Watch House at one time.

Site 12 OLD MIDDLESEX SESSIONS HOUSE West end of Clerkenwell Green
Dating from 1779 this was once the largest and busiest court house in England. It served as courtrooms until the 1920s. Now a Masonic Centre the basement cells, including a condemned cell, have become a bar area. It has two ghosts from its past history.

From the Green follow Clerkenwell Close (the Crown pub is on the corner). Go right into Sans Walk and take the passage on the left

The basement areas remained below the former Hugh Myddleton School, now re-developed as apartments. For a time these were open to view with displays on prisons and prison life. As a remand prison it was one of London’s busiest between 1846 and 1878.

Return to and continue along Clerkenwell Close then right into Corporation Row

The Fenian Society, forerunners of the I.R.A. in attempting to release prisoners blew up several houses in this street. There is a memorial to the people killed in St James’s Church, Clerkenwell. The ringleader Michael Barrett was the last person to be publicly executed outside Newgate Prison in 1868.

Return and follow Northampton Road to the right past the LONDON METROPOLITAN ARCHIVES
These are open to the public for research and contain amongst other things records of the Middlesex Sessions.

Right into Catherine Griffiths Court continuing through Pine Street then left to road junction

In 1790 the site of medicinal springs was cleared for the Middlesex House of Correction, opened in 1794. This was later known as Cold Bath Prison then Clerkenwell Gaol. Its harsh regime included working a treadmill that did nothing more than turning some sails. Originally a criminal jail it became a debtors prison before closing in 1885. The old prison site was transferred to the Post Office in 1889 and its buildings were gradually replaced. The last sections were demolished in 1929 for an extension of the Letter Office. 2006

[additional information] [walks list]