Pentonville prison throughout the 19th century (1842-1900)


This thesis will place the history of prisons and how Pentonville prison came approximately in 1842. It will convey in Millbank as an illustration to Pentonville, as it was besides a inmate prison. It will besides place how the offenses committed and the penalty placed on felons in London changed when Pentonville prison was built. It will besides demo how the prison reform changed the prison and how it affected Pentonville prison. Law and order in London will besides be identified. Information and research will be obtained from The National Archives in Kew and besides the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham. It will besides include primary beginnings such as the Times Newspaper, The Guardian and besides Parliamentary documents. Secondary information will be found at the University library and besides Liverpool library.

During the 19th century, the province of prisons changed dramatically. The authorities and functionaries began to detect that offense rates were non being reduced and the prison system needed to be improved as it was out of day of the month. Many victims of offense in the Eighteenth Century were taking non to prosecute the felons due to having community disapproval if the felon was a local individual who was liked or had a large household in the surrounding towns and small towns, it was expensive for the rate remunerator, going to the test was clip consuming and a waste of clip for many affairs as the felon would frequently be let off with a light punishment. Many wrongdoers ne’er even ended up in prison and many were ne’er even recorded.

Pentonville Prison was built in 1842, and was an original construction within society in this clip period. It shortly became a theoretical account for prison architecture and subject throughout the bulk of Europe.

General Prison Information

John Howard wrote a book in 1777 called ‘The State of the Prisons in England and Wales ‘ this peculiar book captured widespread public attending. The effect of this book was that it exposed the English to other states. It besides suggested that the book was badly draging behind all the other states when it came to prisons and penalty. His chief concern was to set up a new and better administration of the prison. He believed that a prison should non be like the existent universe but tougher and topographic point that people did non desire to travel to, a topographic point in which they feared. The Penitentiary Act was written up by William Blackstone and William Eden but was influenced by John Howard. It was this act that put the rough prison conditions into topographic point such as ; uniforms, harsh diets and difficult labor.

Mug shootings were created in the 1850s and 1860s by a Select Committee of the House of Lords snaping the captives in 1863. By the 1870s, mug shootings were common and the Home Office saw the advantages of them. By the terminal of the century fingerprinting had been introduced.

Not everyone who was convicted of a condemnable offense was known as a inmate. Anyone who had committed a minor offense would be known as a captive. A minor offense could have a sentence of anything from a few yearss to a upper limit of two old ages with or without difficult labor. A minimal offense for penal servitude was three old ages which increased to five old ages in 1864 for a first offense but seven old ages for any subsequent offenses.

The soundless system allowed for captives to set about work undertakings in a workroom in complete silence. The soundless system nevertheless proved to be really hard to obtain and led to it being uneffective. More staff was required to supervise and detect the captives.

The separate system was to forestall any association with the other captives and as a consequence would go aroused about the visits that the chaplain was required to make. The separate system was put in topographic point to forestall any taint and corruptness of the vulnerable captives. However, a fenian inmate functioning 15 old ages by the name of Michael Davitt spent 9 months in lone parturiency in Millbank. His wellness suffered go forthing the medical officer with no other option but to order him to half an hr exercising.

If the captive or inmate was a household breadwinner so there household frequently asked the parish for aid but if in the worse state of affairs and the parish were unable to assist or they refused so the household would hold to come in the workhouse.


The cells had bantam paned Windowss which were so high that it was necessary to stand on them to look out, but this was a punishable offense. Cells frequently became hot and stuffy in the summer and cold in the winter. The cells were frequently ailing lit, but when gas was introduced the cells had gas jets placed in the cells but they were shortly placed behind midst, fixed glass Windowss due to the captives perpetrating self-destruction by self suffocation or hanging. There was seldom a mattress for the captives that were in their first of their sentence, this changed to a difficult board bed in 1865. Oscar Wilde describes the Victorian prison cells darkness saying that ‘it is ever twilight in one ‘s cell, as it is ever midnight in one ‘s bosom ‘ . This statement identifies that the cells were really dejecting for the individual within it particularly when the lighting was besides minimum.

If the inmate was under the age of 50 so he was issued with a board bed that had no mattress for one month. The sawbones was the lone individual that could hold changed this uncomfortable destiny for the captive if he had deemed that the inmate or captive was unfit to kip without a mattress. Oscar Wilde recalled that the board bed ‘caused him to shudder all dark long and that, as a effect of its asperities, he had become an sleepless. ‘ [ 1 ]

A study that was made to the Royal Commission on the Penal Servitude Acts in 1879 claimed that the bed apparels could sometimes be covered with fecal matters.

Ailments were made about Pentonville cells being unbearably cold. This is slightly arguably dry due to the attempts that were put in topographic point to make the ideal theoretical account cells. The first commissioners ‘ study in 1843 was no more than two pages long. It commented on the temperature of the cells ‘the airing of the cells, and the agencies of maintain an equable and proper temperature.

Pentonville was originally designed to keep 520 captives whilst under the ‘separate system ‘ . Individual cells were 13 pess long, 7 pess broad and 9 pess high. They were placed in cells that contained a tabular array, chair, a shoemaker ‘s bench, knoll, broom, pail and a corner shelf which held a pewter mug and dish, a saloon of soap, a towel and a bible. When the cells were inspected by the inspectors the captives were required to hold these points in specific topographic points.

Millbank prison held up to 1000 cells, doing it the largest prison in London during the nineteenth century.

The Times Newspaper from 1850-1900 shows a few infusions which describe both the felons within Millbank and besides the province of the prison. An infusion on the 23rd January 1850 shows how a warder was attacked by a captive. The gap sentence went as follows, ‘Saturday forenoon last the inside of the Millbank Penitentiary was once more the scene of a most despairing indignation ‘ . The word ‘again ‘ identifies the deficiency of control that the warders had on the captives within the prison. The incident on the 23rd January resulted in a warder by the name of ‘Balls ‘ending up in infirmary after a violent onslaught from one of the captives. Balls let a captive out of his chamber to let him to clean out his chamber pot, the captive so followed Balls back to his cell and hit him over the caput. The captive was able to do several terrible hurts to the caput, face and weaponries before several other warders were able to procure the captive in a ‘strong cell ‘ .


The separate system was to guarantee that the captives would non interact with other felons in whom they would be able to go friendly with and fall in forces with when they got out of prison. This was an effort to halt inmates from going insistent felons and to halt the revolving door theory. When the inmates were moved around the edifice they were made to have on a mask with a beak on to forestall other inmates seeing their faces but Colonel Jebb argued in his subject and direction of convict prisons study that ‘the mask or extremum does non forestall captives from recognizing each other in the prison ‘ [ 2 ] They were besides stripped of their individualities when they entered the prison. The captives would besides go excessively world-weary sitting in their cells on their ain that they would finally implore for work to get the better of their ennui and forestall them from traveling mad. The Times Newspaper described the separate system in 1842 as the ‘maniac doing system ‘ bespeaking that people believed that the system was non a good thought and it would merely direct work forces and adult females insane but still the Home office agreed with the separate system. Two tierces of English prisons had adopted the separate system in 1856.

The 4th commissioners identifies that the captives were purely separated from fellow captives. They were supplied with books which were normally the bible and books that provided information and direction on a peculiar trade. They were allowed to go to school twice a hebdomad and besides harmonizing the study the captives were besides provided with sufficient diets, vesture and besides bedding but this can be argued due to the board beds and besides the hapless diets which resulted in many captives falling ailment.

The captives were required to digest 18 months in complete purdah in 1842, but after many captives became mentally insane the prison governments felt that the clip period should be decreased to 12 months in 1848 so decreased once more to 9 months in 1853. Even though they were in their cells on their ain, the adult male in the following cell was merely two pess off. The major job for the separationists at this clip was the belief held by many that the long periods of isolation for captives created insanity. Pentonville reduced periods of separation at Pentonville which was much to the Chaplains displeasure. When Pentonville separation clip period was decreased to 9 months it was the same sum of clip that the captives at Parkhurst had to digest.

Millbank Prison did non let felons to hold visitants without an order from the Home secretary of province, this was portion of the separate system as the authorities believed that if the captive saw anyone from the outside so they would travel back to their ‘old ways ‘ . When Henry Mayhew visited Pentonville he found from interviews with the captives that they disliked the separate system with a passion.

Even though captives were non allowed to speak or pass on to fellow inmates, it is apparent that many tended to disobey this regulation. The 6th Commissioners study states that 220 captives committed offenses whilst being within Pentonville, and that 110 out of the 220 were for efforts to pass on with other captives either by composing, marks or verbally. The entire figure of captives placed within Pentonville during the twelvemonth 1847 was 701, so merely 220 captives perpetrating offenses within the prison walls shows that many captives were afraid and obeyed the system. 341 of these captives were bing captives from the old twelvemonth whilst 360 captives were received to Pentonville in the class of the twelvemonth.

However, a new system known as the ‘stage system ‘ was put in topographic point in 1853 to implement subject and besides to honor good behavior. Penal servitude was divided into three phases, the first being 9 months in lone parturiency, the 2nd being where the inmate was required to work in close association with other captives and the last phase was where the inmate or captive was kept under supervising by the constabulary when they were released. Convicts were divided into categories and could be promoted to the following category by gaining ‘mark ‘ for difficult work. A upper limit of 8 hours could be earned in one twenty-four hours. The first and 2nd category were allowed tea alternatively of gruel before they were sent to bed.

Du Cane states that the chief elements of prison were ‘hard labour, difficult menu and difficult board ‘ Hard labor was both difficult and pointless, it included labor such as Oakum picking, the grouch, the treadmill and besides the shooting drill.

The treadmill involved walking up go arounding stepss for 10 proceedingss so holding a five minute interruption. This happened for several hours. It was invented by William Cubitt in 1818 and the prison subject society advised that every male should take part in 12,000 pess. The treadmill could be really unsafe for those who were new to it and besides for those who were exhausted. The Shot drill were heavy cannon balls weighing 32lb were passed from one to another down a long line of captives. It was non adopted by many prisons.

The conditions at Pentonville were improbably better than those at Newgate. The captives at Pentonville were besides healthier than captives at another prison. Like Millbank, captives were made to work and take part in occupations such as picking tarred rope and weaving. The occupations in which they made to make were pointless occupations which served no intent. The Times Newspaper states that the hours of work in the summer were 6am boulder clay 9pm and 7am boulder clay 8pm in the winter.

The captives were separated into categories when they entered the prison which resulted in the same ambiance that people endured outside the prison. They were besides made to work ; it was believed that if captives worked whilst in prison so they would non hold clip to believe of perpetrating more offenses. They were forced to make work such as shoemaking, orienting, picture, cleansing, gloss overing the prison, rinsing and run uping prison apparels.

In 1864, Oakum picking was introduced as portion of the difficult labor programme. This involved dividing the fibers of old ship ropes so they could be re used. In 1870 two grouchs were introduced to a local prison, Nottingham Gaol, this was a box with a grip on the side in which the captive was made to turn round in a circle. The captive was required to do 10,000 revolutions per twenty-four hours before breakfast. The undertaking of the grouch was one undertaking that was wholly unpointed, it served no significance but to annoy the captive and increase their upper organic structure strength so they were able to finish more heavy responsibility work whilst in prison and besides when they leave prison and acquire a occupation. Henry Mayhew states that ‘it is impossible to conceive of anything more ingeniously useless ‘ [ 3 ] . Labour was both long and without any purposes of ceasing.

The 1865 Prison Act accepted that the treadmill, grouch, capstan, shooting drill and rock breakage were all types of first category difficult labor and that if a captive or inmate was non sentenced to hard labor so they were still required to take part in light labors during their sentence.

Prisoners were made to work an hr and a half before breakfast, 3 hours before tiffin and a farther 4 hours in the afternoon numbering 8 and a half hours hard labour a twenty-four hours. The captives returned to their cells at 6pm and were allowed to hold two hours after their dinner to sit on their ain and reflect or read the bible. When the captive or inmate was functioning a long sentence, these two hours would go improbably deadening.

When public hangings were abolished in 1868, Pentonville had trapdoors installed over a 12 pess deep brick lined cavity within the exercising pace. Albert Pierrepoint described the trap in 1931 as ‘having two foliages each some 8 pess 6 inches long, 2 pess 6 inches broad. ‘ [ 4 ] The prison was besides a school to learn hangmen, there was a one hebdomad class at Pentonville in which work forces got involved in to go a hangman. They were taught how to cipher and put the bead of the gallows and besides how to transport out an executing expeditiously including the velocity of drawing the trapdoor unfastened and besides how long a human takes to decease from choking if the cervix did non interrupt from the bead. Albert Pierrepoint states that the hangman trainees used a silent person called ‘Old Bill ‘ whilst preparation. The last preparation class held at Pentonville was the hebdomad get downing 25th April 1960 for two work forces called Samuel Plant and John Underhill.

Whipping was besides a major penalty in the 19th century. The Home office in 1878 took duty for prisons and created three classs for the birch which was used for floging. A thin strip of birch was used for juveniles up to the age of 10, a medium for 10 to 16 old ages and midst for persons over the age of 16 old ages. The birch was applied to bare natess whilst pess were kept together and shirts lifted. The effects of floging were a small hemorrhage but chiefly terrible bruising. Once the hurting of the tanning was over and the ache of the bruising had gone down, felons could transport on perpetrating offenses within a affair of hebdomads. The birch and cat was besides used on captives all over the state for penalizing captives who assaulted or swore at warders.

Both male and female felons sentenced to transit were sent to Millbank before they were transported although Pentonville has been viewed as being the first phase of transit as Forsythe states ‘the portal to the penal settlement ‘ [ 5 ] . Transportation was a sentence in which could hold held a life sentence or for a set sum of clip. It was seen as a humanist version of executing. At one point, returning from a transit sentence was a hanging offense. Both major and junior-grade offenses could ensue in the transit penalty during the 17th to 19th centuries. Until 1868, inmates could be transported to a penal settlement on the other side of the universe. Transportation system felons were originally sent to the settlements in North America until the American War of Independence in 1775.Britain was so forced to direct their felons to Australia.

The 4th commissioner ‘s study on the 10th March 1846 identifies that 382 captives had completed their period and had been removed from Pentonville to Van Diemen ‘s land which was an Island of Tasmania but it is now portion of Australia. They were placed into categories which were as follows, the ticket of leave category was the first which contained 288 captives, Probationary base on balls holders was the 2nd which contained a farther 78 captives and so the penal packs category was the 3rd which contained the last 16 captives. Ticket of leave was where the captive had the advantage of freedom within the settlement, the provisional base on balls holders were able to work for themselves with limitations and the penal packs were where the inmate was required to function a certain period after they arrived in their allocated location. There was besides a journey in July 1845 in which a sum of 100 captives were transported on the Royal George Seymour ship. The commissioner ‘s study states that they received a satisfactory history of the captives conduct for the journey and the reaching.

Prisoners who were sentenced to transit were perceived as being the ‘pick of the condemnable harvest ‘ [ 6 ] identifying that the felons who were sent abroad to function their sentence were the worst sort of people and felons.


Prisons were run like machines and all the captives within Pentonville prison could hold their breakfasts delivered to them in 10 proceedingss. The prisons were instructed to do the captives nutrient every bit humdrum as possible as portion of the difficult menu factor and the captives had difficult beds alternatively of knolls as portion of the difficult board factor.

A missive written to the Times editor by a Mr Robert Hosking, who was Pentonville ‘s governor, identifies the costs of inmates at the Pentonville Prison. He states that ‘convicts in Pentonville prison are really rioting in gluttony ‘ [ 7 ] due to miss of nutrient. He identifies what the prisons have in relation to repasts. The infusion besides identifies that if a captive is on surveillance for bad behaviors so they would have less staff of life than the remainder of the captives. The inmate ‘s diet consisted chiefly of staff of life in which they receive a 10oz at breakfast, 5 oz at tiffin and a farther 5oz for their supper. Their diet included both saccharides and protein but really small else.

The captives were given H2O gruel and a little loaf of brown staff of life. The cooks put a batch of salt in their nutrient to add flavorer, but the salt made the captives thirsty which made get downing the nutrient improbably hard and painful. The murphies that were given to the captives were uneatable and were rotten, whilst the suet pudding was both dry and tasteless with spot of suet seeable to the bare oculus.

The 1864 study on the dietaries of inmate captives claims that there were two separate diets within the prison, the first being the penal category diet and the 2nd being the penalty diet. The penal diet consisted of the standard nutrient allowance that the captives were entitled to such as porridge murphies and staff of life but the penalty diet consisted of staff of life and H2O and every 4th twenty-four hours so they were allowed the penal category diet. Dartmoor was the lone inmate prison within the state that allowed its captives cocoa for supper three times a hebdomad.

The commission recommended that the dietetic demands for male inmates within separate parturiency and besides industrial employment consisted of 284oz per hebdomad of solid nutrient which contained 148 oz of staff of life, 96oz of murphies, 16oz of meat, 4oz of cheese and besides 4oz of meat that was in soup.

One captive commented on the suet pudding to the Gladstone Committee and stated that ‘mo count how hungry a adult male might be, his tummy would of course turn from it’ [ 8 ] . This identifies the extent of the grimness of the nutrient in which inmates and captives were required to eat particularly when some captives and inmates would eat candle terminals and boot lubricating oil to command their hungriness. Oscar Wilde told friends after go forthing prison that the nutrient was both revolting and besides insufficient.

The entire cost of each captive ‘s diet was 3s 11/2d per hebdomad or 8l 3s 41/2 for the twelvemonth. In the fourth commissioners report it mentions an addition in the diet disbursals and the ground being due to the rise in the monetary value of the flour and the murphies.

A Convict Prison

Pentonville prison began to be constructed on the 10th April 1840 and was completed in 1842. The entire cost of the edifice of the prison was ?84, 186 12s 12d and the entire care of each captive was 15s a hebdomad in the 1840s which is the equivalent of 75p in today ‘s money. Two Acts of the Apostless had to be passed to let the edifice of the prison. The inmate service was established in 1850 when Millbank, Pentonville and the giants became under the authoritiess control.

Like Millbank prison which was the first inmate prison in London, Pentonville was built on the thoughts and programs of Jeremy Bentham. The Pentonville Prison followed Bentham ‘s Panopticon thought ; the panopticon thought was the felons were under changeless surveillance.

The Prison had a cardinal hall which was surrounded by five wings, which all members of staff were able to study from the cardinal hall.

Pentonville shortly became the theoretical account prison for all British prisons during the Victorian epoch and over the following six old ages a farther 54 other prisons were built throughout Britain with the same design as Pentonville.

Even though Pentonville was known as the theoretical account prison, captives still managed to get away from it. An infusion in the Times in December 1850 identifies George Hackett, a professional felon who mastered in coach muggings and had a condemnable history with the Thames constabularies and Mansion House. Hackett as stated by the Times made an ‘extraordinary flight from the Pentonville ( theoretical account ) prison. ‘ When probe went into topographic point, it was found that Hackett escaped the constabulary tribunal with another adult male, and a prison guard had received a big sum of money. Hackett was functioning a sentence for a offense that he committed on the 29th May 1850 in which he about murdered a constabulary constable. He was sentenced to 15 old ages of transit. The probe resulted in governments believing that the prison guards had been tampered with. The following twenty-four hours on the fourth December, the Times commented on this guess one time once more by saying that the authorities inspectors of prisons launched an enquiry into a private probe into the flight of Hackett. They believed that the prison guards and the officers had helped Hackett flight from the prison which identifies that the functionaries at the prison were easy influenced and like Millbank held small control of the inmates.

There was six chief inmate prisons throughout Britain- Millbank was used as a transit dept, Pentonville as a theoretical account separation, Portsmouth and Portland for associated labor, Parkhurst for juvenile delinquencies, Brixton was a adult female ‘s prison and Dartmoor was for shut-ins that were unable to take part in labor.

Local prisons were immensely different from a inmate prison due to the difference in accomplishments. There was such a high turnover of captives within a local prison whilst captives within a inmate prison served longer periods of clip. A captive within the inmate prison would hold more than probably done clip in a local prison before being transferred to the inmate so the officers within the convict prisons were good informed of each captive as the paper work and review had already been done for inmate officers.

There were besides distinguishable differences within the captive ‘s adjustment, subject, work undertakings and the general intervention of the captives. If a inmate was good behaved during his sentence so he could be entitled to their sentences being shortened but a local captive who was sentenced to a upper limit of two old ages did non hold the option of holding the sentence shortened whether they were good behaved or non until 1898.

In 1877 these differences became minimum as the authorities took over all prisons in Britain including the local prisons. Each prison throughout the state was required to hold school staff ‘at an extra disbursal of ?2,230. ‘ [ 9 ] The inmate prison has school staff on site from 1870 onwards and the local from 1879 onwards.

The 4th Commissioners ‘ study in 1846 identifies that the province of Pentonville prison was in a perfect province of fix and merely several of import add-ons had been made to the prison during the old ages 1845-1846 one of these being the hard-on of a ‘complete setup for the industry of gas for the usage of the constitution ‘ [ 10 ] .

In the 6th Commissioners study in 1847-48 it claims that an extra six posings had been made within the chapel and besides a fire chief was laid down in order to provide the engine with H2O from a big armored combat vehicle in the roof.

It besides claimed that the ventilating, warming and cooking setups were in good order but ailments from the captives perceives a different narrative as they invariably complained of the cold cells.


When a convicted captive was sent to prison they travelled in a hearse like omnibus which was nicknamed the Black Maria when they went from the tribunals to the prison.

They would so get down their prison journey in the response ward where they were made to deprive bare and had their apparels and ownerships confiscated of him. They were so placed into a bath of waist high H2O which tended to smell like carbolic acid, this bath was non to clean them but to wipe out their original egos and replace it with their new prison lives. Their caputs were shaved and the captives were non allowed to turn their hair till 3 months before the terminal of their sentence. Uniforms were issued which were different colorss or markers depending on the prison sentence that the individual is functioning. Old or repaired boots were besides issued to each captive but underclothes was non issued boulder clay late 19th century. His name was changed to a figure which he would be known as for the clip he spent within the prison. If the captive was a insistent inmate so the figure would be different each clip.

Each captive was allowed one visit every 6 months and one missive every 6 months, which made captives experience really lonely but with their I.Ds stripped they were made to experience like wholly different work forces to what they were when they entered the prison. The warder besides listened in on the conversations and watched to do certain that nil was being passed between the captive and the visitant. The warder besides timed the meeting by utilizing a sandglass which allowed the meeting to be no longer than 15 proceedingss. The longer the captive was in prison the shorter the clip period for visits became. Prisoners functioning within the 2nd twelvemonth were allowed visits every 4 months and captives within the 3rd twelvemonth or more were allowed visits every three months. The letters that the captives wrote to household and friends were censored and read by the governor and the chaplain before they were sent off. They were forbidden to compose about the prison or other captives that were within it.

The inmates at Pentonville Prison were made to have on dark Grey outfits with ‘P.P embroided in ruddy into the neckband ‘ . The P.P stood for Pentonville Prison.

The first of all time reference of a captive holding a structured day-to-day modus operandi was in 1865, the day-to-day modus operandi of a captive from this day of the month was as follows: they were woken at 5.45am by the sound of a bell and returned to their beds at 8pm. They were allowed an hr or half an hr of exercising which was required to be done in silence within the particular paces. After, they were made to work for a farther 8 hours. The captive ‘s twenty-four hours would include waking up, working, eating repasts, sing the chapel, exerting, and an review stoping with the visible radiations being put out. The everyday differed on a Sunday with the bell pealing somewhat later and the twenty-four hours incorporating church services and exercising. Prisoners were made to digest 3 chapel services every Sunday, Christmas twenty-four hours and besides Good Friday. The chapel was merely able to suit half the captives so each captive was required to go to two services on a Sunday and so one upon the undermentioned. Daily supplications were read within the chapel every forenoon and eventide. Each captive would go to one of these day-to-day services.

This was to cleanse the captive ‘s psyche and do them a better individual when they were released back into society. It was attempts into doing the captive travel back into work instead than ensue to offense.

In the forenoon they were allowed out of their cells to hold a wash with which a pail of H2O was provided, this H2O would so be used to clean their cells and Sn ware. This was besides the clip in which they were required to clean out their slop pails and turn over up their bedclothes, which had to be done right.

Not all captives were guilty when they were sent to prison, an illustration of this is a adult male named Valentine Bambrick who was a receiver of the Victorian Cross. He was sent to prison for protecting a adult female against a adult male named Henry Russell, whilst protecting her in a battle broke out and Russell subsequently accused Bambrick and a adult female named Charlotte Johnson of stealing his decorations and violent assault. Bambrick had his Victorian Cross revoked by the Royal Warrant in December 1863. He fell into a deep depression and after composing a missive protesting his artlessness he committed self-destruction by hanging himself in his cell in Pentonville Prison.

The 6th Commissioners study shows that half the captives in Pentonville in 1847-48 were between the ages of 20-25 old ages old and two tierces were single. One tierce of 701 captives had been imprisoned in other topographic points of parturiency beforehand, 74 had been imprisoned twice earlier and 27 had been imprisoned three times before. Even with the harsh prison ordinances and conditions, people still take to continually interrupt the jurisprudence and happen themselves back in Pentonville ; five work forces during 1847-48 were functioning their 10th clip within Pentonville.


Prisoners were frequently observed and it was found that due to the separate system many captives would go forth prison enduring from shouting effusions and craze, some had to cover their ears due to the noise being excessively much for them to get by with. Others frequently found themselves woolgathering or woolgathering in their slumber about prison. A prison officer argued that by puting a individual in Pentonville ‘for three or four old ages will be given to do a adult male a confirmed imbecile instead than a good and utile member of society ‘ [ 11 ] . This prison officer argued the systems thoughts of doing captives into good people so they can offer more to the working society one time they were released. This officer ‘s statement perchance reflects many other people ‘s ideas on Pentonville Prison and the system in which they operate.

The 1844 returns of the figure of captives transferred to Pentonville Prison from other jails studies that between the day of the months of the 21st December 1842 to the 31st December 1843 were 525. Merely 38 were non in good wellness, whilst 15 captives were refused to be admitted into Pentonville prison due to their utmost bad wellness. Merely two captives were removed from Pentonville to lunatic refuges during this clip.

Every twelvemonth between five and 15 work forces were taken off to the refuge. If they remained insane so they would remain at that place for the remainder of their lives if they recovered so they would be sent back to the prison to retrieve their sentence. Some captives were driven to suicide from the separation and purdah. Harmonizing to the 1890 ‘abstract of returns associating to captives study ‘ it was found that 18 captives were removed on the evidences of illness and that merely 9 of these were known to hold recovered. Esther Currie was the first in March 1842, she had one twelvemonth and 24 yearss staying but was removed due to insanity impacting her epilepsy. J. Humprey was besides removed in March 1842 due to insanity with one twelvemonth and 22 yearss staying. Edward Skelton was removed in May due once more to insanity which was occurred in the spring of 1841. Not all captives were removed due to insanity though ; the study does place captives being released to amputations of limbs and besides unwellnesss such as chronic dysentery.

It was besides found in this study that the mean day-to-day figure of inmates during 1842 within the Pentonville was 616 and the mean day-to-day figure of military wrongdoers was 130 totalling at 746 captives. The entire figure of soldiers that were in parturiency on the 22nd Feb 1843 was 428.

Due to the 1844 study on the captives ‘ wellness at Pentonville identifies that there were 537 captives in the prison during this twelvemonth. It besides provides information on how many captives were received, removed, insane and pardoned. There were two deceases during the old ages 1843-1844 and besides a forgiveness of a captive which was made by Queen Victoria. There were a sum of 34 captives out of the 537 that were removed during these old ages, 26 due to medical grounds.

Prison Staff


The governors of the prisons had the highest position of all the prison officers and they were non required to have on the prison uniform. They tended to be antique members of the armed forces so they would be usage to strict governments and were able to implement them within the prison. Many of them had working backgrounds in the armed forces so book maintaining was non a natural accomplishment for a bulk of them ; nevertheless abnormalities within the books were non really common. They were required to bring forth quarterly studies which recorded the day-to-day norm of the figure of captives and the motion of the captives to convict captives, moonstruck refuges and besides reform schools. They were besides required to populate in the prison and flats or separate houses were provided to suit both the governor and their household. If they required any clip off so they would hold to use in composing to the Visiting Justice.

They were required to see every captive at least one time every 24 hours and they were required to look into the prison at dark at least one time a hebdomad.

Prison Warders

Prison warders were staffed harmonizing the ‘pyramidal para-military construction ‘ [ 12 ] . A calling in the prison service tended to run in households. Not all prisons offered the warders adjustment but the bulk did. They were besides required to have on uniforms but what uniform they were provided depended entirely on their ranks. They were besides issued with a nightstick for protection and safety grounds. This place could be a really unsafe occupation due to captives being able to utilize the tools that they worked with as arms.

Their responsibilities were without a uncertainty, really hard. M.Higgs states that ‘a existent sense that officers were themselves captives both inside and outside the walls, for much of the off responsibility life was besides supervised, including their lodging ‘ [ 13 ] identifies that their occupation place was ongoing and they were ne’er off responsibility. They were invariably under surveillance merely like the captives were. There occupation was besides really demanding and in 1865 there was about about one 1000 wardens to get by with an mean prison population of 8,000 which works out at approximately 8 captives per warden. Convict captives would be on responsibility from 6am boulder clay 9pm and they were merely allowed yearss off every other Sunday so the warden had to be a steadfast character as they had to digest long hours. Like the governors, they were besides unable to take any leave without it being authorised foremost. They had to go forth their keys, instructions book and study book in the governor ‘s office before they left the prison site. Working conditions for prison warders bit by bit improved from the 1860s onwards. An addition in staff meant that by 1864 the warders were allowed a half twenty-four hours off during the hebdomad which was usually a Sunday.


The Chaplains held a really powerful place within the prison. They were required to execute the appointed forenoon and eventide services every Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday. The chaplains were required to see the captives one time a twenty-four hours and their visits were meant to be a portion of the religious waking up that was expected of the captives to undergo when they entered the prison under the separate system nevertheless due to the transcending sum of captives it was really difficult for the chaplain to hold a meaningful conversation with the captive.

Joseph Kingsmill was the allocated chaplain at Pentonville during the old ages 1844-1859. During his clip at Pentonville he held a day-to-day norm of 500 work forces which were all sentenced to transit, he besides carried out over 100,000 cell visits and spent between 10 to 12 hours a twenty-four hours at Pentonville. The lone ailment that the captives of all time had about the chaplain was that he lacked cell visits

The chaplain seldom managed to acquire circular Pentonville due to the high Numberss of felons. The Pentonville captives relied on speech production and seeing the Chaplain as he was the lone individual that they were allowed to see during their clip in prison. Joseph Kingsmill who was the chaplain in Pentonville prison in 1852 provinces that ‘a committal to prison was in fact tantamount, in many instances, to a sentence of decease by some atrocious disease ; and in all, to the extreme extremes of hungriness and cold ‘ [ 14 ] this statement identifies the province of Pentonville prison and the province of the captives lifestyle at the beginning of the 2nd half of the 19th century.

Medical officers

Medical officer ‘s responsibilities were surrounded around the wellness and good being of the captive. They had to analyze the captive and record their personal information every bit good as sing the prison and captives twice a hebdomad. Their day-to-day diaries would incorporate information on any ill captives, their disease, and medical specialty and diets. If he had any concerns about any captives so he was required to describe to the governor with their names. The medical officer was besides able to order captives alcohol and tobacco if he believed that it would profit them.

Prison Acts

The new adjunct Director of prisons, Sir Edmund Du Cane enforced the Prison Act of 1865 which abolished the differentiation between prisons and house of rectification. All prisons were deprived of their independent authorization and rigorous regulations were laid down, any of the prison governments who refused to follow with the new regulations had their authorities allowance taken off from them. Many little jails had to be given up due to their disbursal. Local prisons were now required to keep prison sentences for up to two old ages instead than those that were merely expecting test, debitors and condemned captives.

The 2nd half of the 19th century saw the rise of disincentive. Edmund Ducane was the head manager of inmate prisons and besides the caput of the prison committee. In 1877, the Prison Act was passed and allowed the prison systems to go progressively centralized and uniformed. Historian Sean McConville identified the old ages 1850-1900 as being the most deterrent in the history of prisons. Edmund Du Cane provinces that ‘no luxuries or amenitiess or society are allowed to him ; but there is no physical hurting or anguish. ‘ The constitution of Pentonville prison contributed to the addition of disincentive. Pentonville was both architecturally and the stat mi rock for all prisons and was known as the theoretical account prison. The first national prison review in 1877. The 1877 Prison Act led to many closings of local prisons due to them going under the authorities ‘s control. ‘This is a close, confined, ill- constructed prison, and really severely situated: as there is ample room for all the captives in the County prison at Southwell House of Correction, which is a really superior prison and within easy entree, it appears a most un-necessary disbursal retaining it. ‘

1853 a prison act was introduced which allowed penal servitude for captives who were sentenced to transit. They were held at Millbank, Leicester and Wakefield before being transferred to Pentonville for a period of separate parturiency.

The Gladstone Committee Report of 1895 recommended alterations to the bing prison system.

A prison act was passed in 1898 which brought the inmate and local services together. Pay graduated tables still remained different but local captives were now allowed to gain remittal as a consequence of the act.


Revisionist historiographers believed that Pentonville was the theoretical account for new penalties and prisons should work like a machine. The separate system was in their position both stiff and an stray government. The system was believed to soften work forces and create lawful, hardworking work forces. The Separate System was meant to halt the captives from pass oning with any of the captives, but communicating was still possible between the captives. The captives communicated through vocalizing anthem, they would whisper something to the other captive whilst the other captives were singing. Another manner they communicated was by gestural linguistic communication. Historian Clive Emsley identifies that the inmates were kept in lone cell. This was due to reformers in the 18th century such as John Howard, Jonas Hanway and George Onesiphonis Paul, believing that if captives were separated as portion of the ‘Separate System ‘ . William Crawford, who was a prima figure in the prison subject society, and Whitworth Russell advocated the separate system.

During the old ages 1865 to 1895, rough prison conditions returned but in 1850 being sent to prison was the norm for penalties. The rough prison conditions were characterised by historiographers such as Beatrice and Sydney Webb.

The diehards and revisionists positions and arguments were mirror images of one another.

When being sent to prison was the norm for penalty, the important statements centred round the extent of prison ‘s penalty and for reformation.


To reason, this thesis has shown that Pentonville prison was a theoretical account prison of its clip. It has besides identified that the prison system was harsh on captives nevertheless reformists created the belief that the prison was the right manner to cover with felons. The inquiry of subject nevertheless was re-examined in 1863 with the Carnarvon Committee. The figure of prisons declined from 187 in 1850 to 125 in 1867. In 1865, prisons including Pentonville still lacked equal staff ; there were merely one 1000 warders to get by with a prison population of 8,000 so prisons were fighting to keep control of their captive and inmates so the lone manner to do certain that this control was maintained was to do certain that the captives were afraid of the system. Many captives did non be given to function long sentences and it was found that in the early 1860s of the some 74,000 people that were sentenced to imprisonment merely 52,000 were for footings of one month or less and of the 12,000 that were sentenced by the high tribunal ‘s merely 7,000 were for a period of up to six months.

It has been shown that the system was improbably difficult for the captives to digest, the nutrient was seldom equal, and bedclothes was hard for the early portion of their sentence. Prisoners were sometimes so hungry that would eat anything which included weeds, tapers and even paper. If they misbehaved so they were subjected to a diet of merely staff of life and H2O which encouraged the hungering captives to be on their best behavior and to keep the prison control.

The prison sawbones had considerable authorization to allow prison release from labor or necessitate them with a better diet so captives found ways to wound themselves so that they could avoid difficult labor and acquire some nutrient.

Pentonville prison became one of the most controversial symbols of the late 1800s. Silence became a regulation within Pentonville prison and the labor was improbably long and palling. Pentonville was run like a machine, with set times and certain modus operandis for everything. The captives were required to make as they were told and work with the system.


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1844- Pentonville prison-Penitentiary ( Millbank ) . Returns of the figure of captives transferred to Pentonville prison from other jails, the figure sent thence to other topographic points of parturiency and to moonstruck refuges, besides, of the figure removed to Millbank Penitentiary in 1842 and 1843, and the figure sent thence to moonstruck refuges.

1846 [ 751 ] Fourth study of the Commissioners for the Government of the Pentonville Prison, made in pursuit of the act 5 & A ; 6 Vict. , pot. 2, c. 29, sec. 13.

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act 5 & A ; 6 Vict. , pot. 2, c. 29, sec. 13.

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Charlotte Varley Dissertation 20334915

[ 1 ] Higgs.M. Prison life in Victorian England Page 33

[ 2 ] Higgs.M Prison Life in Victorian England Tempus Publishing ( 2007 ) Page 18

[ 3 ] T.May Victorian and Edwardian Prisons Page 31

[ 4 ] hypertext transfer protocol: //

[ 5 ] Forsythe.J.W. The Reform of Prisoners 1830-1900 ( 1987 ) Routledge

[ 6 ] Higgs.M. Prisons in Victorian England Temous Publishing ( 2007 ) Page 12

[ 7 ]

[ 8 ] Higgs.M.Prison Life in Victorian England- Tempus Publishing ( 2007 ) Page 39

[ 9 ] Higgs.M. Prison life in Victorian England Page 144

[ 10 ] 1846 [ 751 ] Fourth study of the Commissioners for the Government of the Pentonville Prison, made in pursuit of the act 5 & A ; 6 Vict. , pot. 2, c. 29, sec. 13.

[ 11 ] Forsythe.J.W. The Reform of Prisoners 1830-1900 ( 1987 ) Routledge

[ 12 ] Higgs.M. Prison Life in Victorian England

[ 13 ] Higg.M. Prison Life in Victorian England Page 123

[ 14 ] May.T. Victorian and Edwardian Prisons ( 2006 ) Shire publications page 11