In The Clink- London Prison Museum

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We were, we were in the clink a few days ago. The original Clink, the medieval prison that gave its name to all other prisons, and it was a lot of fun! A review of The Clink London and some background history. We were visiting London with kids and this museum is great for them and adults, but smaller or sensitive kids may get spooked.

The Clink London. The Prison Museum on Clink St

The Clink Prison Museum sits on the site of the original prison in Clink St. on the South Bank of the Thames at Southwark. Southwark sits in South London.

The street is named after the prison, not the other way around. It’s thought that the name came about through the clinking sounds of cell bolts and leg irons as tormented inmates begged for money, food and clothes at the barred street-level windows. Sounds fun doesn’t it?

Bishops Palace World Travel Family blog
What’s left of the old Bishop’s Palace sits right next door to the prison museum.

Southwark is a fascinating part of London with a colourful history and this little lane is particularly well preserved.

Next door, the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace still stand.

It was the Bishop of Winchester who started the gaol, back in the 12th century, there had been a cell or cells associated with Winchester Palace for 200 years before then, but 1108 is commonly given as the opening date of the prison.

The Clink Prison Museum world Travel Family blog London
The Bishop is still there to welcome new inmates at The Clink.

The medieval priory for the London Borough of Southwark was nearby and exists today as Southwark Cathedral, an impressive building overlooking Borough Market and London Bridge.

The original prison was burned down in 1780 by the Gordon rioters but the Clink Prison Museum have done a great job in recreating some of the atmosphere of the old gaol.

Yes, we think the Clink Prison museum is good and worth visiting.

It’s a fairly small museum and more suitable for younger children than some other dungeon and horror museums and attractions in London.

There are some very large, very popular, horror-based attractions in London. The London Dungeon has been going a long time and now it’s been joined by the London Tombs and London Bridge Experience.

We’ve been trying to decide whether or not to take the kids, and in the end, decided against it. These attractions are incredibly well done and great for older children and adults, but just a bit too scary for one of my boys.

Maybe we’ll send Chef along to the London Tombs to check it out, he’s a big fan of the London Dungeons and took me there on one of our first dates. He’s so romantic.

The Clink London. The Prison Museum on Clink St

The Clink, although a relatively small attraction, was a great place for us to spend a fun hour or so and learn more about the darker side of London history without being totally spooked or grossed out.

The prison museum tries to recreate the conditions the ancient prisoners endured while highlighting punishment methods from the era and padding the experience out with some great historical facts.

Do you know your stocks from your pillories and gibbets? I’ll hold my hand up, I didn’t.

The Clink London. The Prison Museum on Clink St
The Clink Prison London World Travel Family
Prisoners would pay the gaolers for lighter irons. What small boy wouldn’t enjoy this sort of fun?

There are plenty of gruesome details and models of decaying corpses hanging in gibbets, but nothing terrifying, no bad dreams for my two after this day out and a fair chunk of solid education went on.

This is, in part, worldschooling, and little worldschoolers learn about history from attractions such as these.

Thanks to The Clink, we now know that a vertebra from King Charles II was gold plated for use as a salt shaker at The Tower of London until Queen Victoria got wind of it and was not amused.

There are plenty of interesting facts like these to discover and learn at The Clink Prison Museum, along with hands-on fun with torture implements.

We think The Clink a great little museum and we hope our short review makes you keen to go. This was actually a return visit for me, I went years ago and knew the kids would enjoy it. Maybe we’ll move on to the big horror attractions (The London Tombs and London Dungeons- we have now visited all 3)  when they’re a little older, for now, The Clink is enough for us.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

5 thoughts on “In The Clink- London Prison Museum”

  1. I didn’t know the term originated with a particular London prison. Thanks for this.

  2. Fantastic. I love the explantion of the word “clink,” like all good trivia it’s something I’d never wondered, but now I don’t know how I could do without. Things like this are often so much more fun and interesting than the “must sees.”

  3. Cool. We were taken to places like this in London when we were kids – and usually threatened with being left there – but I don’t think we ever went here.

  4. Hey, this is funny … I didn’t know about the Clink – but we have a flemish expression “to lie in the clinch with someone” (in de klinch liggen met iemand), meaning to be at odds with someone – and nobody seems to know where it comes from. Maybe the clink is the ethymological answer !
    I am off with our youth association to the French Alps, 7 days with 27 teenagers … Yes!


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