At the end of the ghost walk around Southwark, we ended up at the Cross Bones Graveyard and were able to go inside. Cross Bones may have been a burial ground for medieval prostitutes, who could not be buried in consecrated ground. Later it was used as a burial ground for the poor. The graveyard was “rediscovered” a few years ago and hosts a vigil every month to remember “the outcast dead”. Currently a memorial garden is in the process of being constructed.
I signed up for a Christmas ghost walk to explore Southwark, run by poet John Constable who wrote The Southwark Mysteries. The walk began near Borough Station and ended at Cross Bones Graveyard.
There was a Dickensian element to much of the walk: it began at the St George the Martyr Church, where Little Dorrit once fell asleep in Dickens’ novel of the same name.
Nearby was the site of the Marshalsea prison, in which Little Dorrit’s father lived: Dickens’ own father was imprisoned here for debt when Dickens was a child. The wall used to be the original wall from the prison, but it has been rebuilt recently.
We were shown a pub nearby that is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered by her husband. The ghost of a crying baby has also been heard there, although no one is quite sure what connection the baby has to events.
On the same street that Dickens lived when he was a young boy and his father was in prison, we saw the National Trust houses established by Octavia Hill.
Travelling towards London Bridge, we passed the location of the inn at which Chaucer’s pilgrims set off on their travels.
We then popped into the George Inn, London’s only surviving galleried inn, and heard a few more ghost stories.
We stopped off by Southwark Cathedral after walking through Borough Market.
By the Golden Hind, we heard a story about the land surrounding Southwark.
We stopped to admire the remains of Winchester Palace.
The walk ended at Cross Bones Graveyard.
My friends Gemma and Elizabeth, like me, are history geeks and when we got together in London we decided to go to a couple of museums. The Clink Prison Museum had been on our radar for a while, so when we met on Bankside we decided to venture over to London Bridge to check it out.
The museum is built on the site of the original Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144. The prison supposedly got its name from the clinking sound the prisoners’ chains made as they jangled together, and the name became a nickname for prisons all over the country. For over 600 years the prison housed debtors, drunkards, heretics, prostitutes and other criminals within Southwark, an area notorious for being morally dubious – everything that was banned in the more staid City across the river took place here instead.
The prison was originally established as two separate prisons, one for men and one for women, in the grounds of Winchester Palace, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester. Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen, became Bishop in 1129 and his palace, of which only the wall of the Great Hall containing the Rose Window is still visible today, was completed in 1144. Bankside was subject to the laws of “the Liberty of the Bishop of Winchester”, later “the Liberty of the Clink”.
Notable criminals housed within the Clink at various points include Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, who rebelled against Queen Mary I; Royalist supporters during the English Civil War; and Puritans who ended up settling in the New World as Pilgrim Fathers. However, hundreds of ordinary people were imprisoned here, though often the only record we have is a name. The museum website lists several examples, including the wonderfully named prostitute Prusanna Carnall (imprisoned 1661) and William Albaster, imprisoned in 1599 for refusing to attend church (!).
Attempts were made to destroy the prison during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 and Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450; after each occasion the Clink was rebuilt, with the final two-storey prison occupying the current site of the museum. The end came during the Gordon Riots in 1780: Lord George Gordon, angry that Catholics had been granted favours in the new “Papists Act”, gathered together members of the Protestant Association and, among other things, broke into the Clink, burned it to the ground and released all the prisoners (none of whom, thankfully, were ever recaptured). Today, the remains of the Clink consist of the Winchester Palace stonework, the passage called Clink Street, and the structure preserved within the museum itself.
We arrived at the Clink at about eleven on a Saturday morning. We entered down the steps and were greeted cheerily by a costumed assistant (who, we found out later, was also manning the gift shop round the other side). We paid our entry fee and entered. The museum is atmospherically contained in a dingy basement; some of the structure was part of the original Clink. Evil-looking waxworks were dotted about, representing blacksmiths, gaolers and unfortunate prisoners.
Information boards displayed lots of interesting facts about the Clink, but in some cases they didn’t look very professional – there were some glaring spelling errors including, in one case, the misspelling of the word “prisoners”. Having said that, I learned a lot from them: the boards gave information about the history of the Clink, the prisoners kept here and the punishments used. As we went round the museum we noticed that the information was sometimes a little disjointed, although it did follow an approximate chronological order.
The museum concentrated on the kinds of punishments used – the oubliette, the stocks and other forms of torture – and I thought that this was rather a shame. It seemed as though the curators were trying to sensationalise the prison and turn the museum into something like the London Dungeon. I felt that they missed their chance to create a more “serious” but really worthwhile museum about the rich history of the Clink.
That said, I did enjoy my visit, and it was certainly an experience. I wouldn’t recommend going alone, though!
Address: 1 Clink Street, London, SE1 9DG
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (winter)/9pm (summer), 7 days a week
Prices: £7.50 adults, £5.50 children/concessions
I’ve wanted to visit Southwark Cathedral for quite a while, and finally got my chance the other week. I was hanging around the London Bridge area one Sunday waiting until the right time to take the train to New Cross (I was going to the theatre) and decided to pop in.
Southwark Cathedral has a long and distinguished history. There has been a church on this site since (probably) the first millennium, and it is recorded that it was refounded as a priory in 1106. Parts of the current building date from this time, although the church was restored in the 19th century and new extensions were added in 2000. The church became a cathedral in 1905 on the creation of the area’s diocese.
While the building itself is worthy of a visit, there are other aspects of the cathedral which mark it out. It was probably Shakespeare’s place of worship, as he lived and worked nearby, and is in fact the burial place of one of his brothers. It also contains the tomb of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, one of the translators of the King James Bible, and the founder of Harvard University was baptised here in 1607. Of particular interest to me was the tomb of John Gower, Poet Laureate to King Richard II and King Henry IV, and author of the Confessio Amantis, of which a manuscript exists in my old workplace in Cambridge (hence my interest). You can see the title of the book engraved on the volume carved in his tomb effigy.
It is requested that £4 is donated to the cathedral to contribute towards its upkeep, which I was happy to pay. Even without the noteworthy individuals associated with the place, the cathedral is still a stunning building that is well worth a visit.