London-based writer with incurably itchy feet always looking for the quirky and curious
Published January 27th 2010
If London's sprawling traditional museums don't do it for you, then this little gem could be right up your... alley. Tucked away in a back-street just off the South Bank, The Clink (London's oldest jail) offers a fascinating insight into law and order in London since the Middle Ages.
The original Clink Prison was burned down in riots that took place in 1780, but the museum is situated on the former site of the jail, in the basement of an old warehouse. The layout of the museum follows a general timeline and featured exhibits include information about medieval torture practices to the introduction of Justices of the Peace (who still operate today) to 'bobbies' and modern policing.
Although modest in size (thirty minutes is the suggested duration for a visit), there is plenty of information to digest – though some of it you won't want to read about on a full stomach!
You will find out about religious prisoners, the difference in conditions between female and male inmates and the origins of expressions such as to be 'on the fiddle'. There are one or two spelling mistakes in the information boards, but for me, these hand-corrected errors only add to the charm of this refreshingly humble museum.
Test out the torture chair, put on a chastity belt or even try 'the boot' – a horrific piece of metal footwear designed to crush the wearer's foot over a number of hours, or even days. This is undoubtedly hands-on history at its goriest best.