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Coordinates: 51°30′25.48″N 0°05′30.95″W / 51.5070778°N 0.0919306°W / 51.5070778; -0.0919306

entrance The Clink prison museum

The Clink was a notorious prison in Southwark, England which functioned from the 12th century until 1780 either deriving its name from, or bestowing it on, the local manor, the Clink Liberty (see also the Liberty of the Clink). The manor and prison were owned by the Bishop of Winchester and situated next to his residence at Winchester Palace. The Clink was possibly the oldest men's prison and probably the oldest women's prison in England.[1]



Blue plaque on the site


It was originally used for the detention of religious non-conformists (both Protestant and Catholic, as English religious winds changed). At one point the Clink was reserved for priests who refused the Oath of Allegiance, but came to be used for people who broke the peace on Bankside or in Southwark's numerous brothels.

Shakespeare visited an old school friend here.


The prison probably fell into disuse after the English Civil War, though it was described in 1761 as being "a very dismal hole where debtors are sometimes confined, but little used". The Clink was burned down during the Gordon Riots of 1780 and never rebuilt.


The Clink Prison Museum is currently located on the original site in Clink Street, in the basement of a former warehouse.


The Clink Prison was the first prison in which women were regularly confined.

"In the clink"

The name of the Clink is the origin of the phrase "in the clink" (meaning "in prison"). The origins of the name "The Clink" are uncertain, but it is presumably from onomatopoeiac "clink", for the sound of striking metal, referring either to the sound made by the prison's metal doors as they closed, or to rattle of the chains the prisoners wore.

Notable prisoners

English Catholics

English Protestants


  1. ^ Clink Prison Museum
  2. ^ Bernard Basset, S.J., The English Jesuits: From Campion to Martindale (Great Britain : Ditchling Press for Herder and Herder, 1967).

See also

External links

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