Prisons in London have a long and varied history, reflecting the growth and development of the city over the centuries.
London’s first known prison was Newgate, which was established in the 12th century and was used for both debtors and criminals.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, London was home to several other prisons.
These prisons were built to meet the growing demand for space to hold those accused or convicted of crimes, and they reflected the changing attitudes of the time toward punishment and reform.
In recent years, London’s prisons have come under increasing scrutiny, with concerns raised about overcrowding, poor conditions, and high levels of violence and self-harm.
Efforts are being made to improve conditions and reduce the prison population through the use of alternatives to custody, such as community sentences and rehabilitation programs.
Moreover, throughout the centuries, London has been home to some of the largest and most notorious prisons in the world.
In this article, we’ll explore the biggest and most important prisons in London’s history.
List of the biggest prisons in London:
- HMP Belmarsh
- HMP Wandsworth
- HMP Pentonville
- HMP Wormwood Scrubs
- HMP Brixton
1. HMP Belmarsh
HMP Belmarsh, also known as Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, is one of the largest prisons in London.
It is located in the Thamesmead area of southeast London and has been in operation since 1991.
The prison was designed to hold Category A and B male prisoners, who are considered the most dangerous and high-risk criminals in the UK.
The prison has a capacity of over 900 prisoners and is known for its high-security facilities, including CCTV cameras and perimeter fencing.
In recent years, HMP Belmarsh has been used to hold a number of high-profile criminals, including terrorists and organized crime bosses.
The prison has also been the subject of numerous human rights complaints, with some prisoners alleging poor conditions and mistreatment.
Tel: +44 20 8331 4400
Address: Western Way, London SE28 0EB, United Kingdom.
2. HMP Wandsworth
HMP Wandsworth is also one of the biggest and oldest prisons in London. It is located in the Battersea area of south London and has been in operation since 1851.
The prison was originally designed to hold up to 2,000 prisoners, but today its capacity has been reduced to around 1,300.
It is known for its imposing Victorian architecture, including its distinctive red-brick walls and high towers.
Over the years, the prison has housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals, including notorious gangsters and serial killers.
Despite its long history and reputation, HMP Wandsworth has also been the subject of numerous complaints, with prisoners alleging poor conditions and mistreatment.
Tel: +44 20 8588 4000
Address: Heathfield Rd, London SW18 3HU, United Kingdom.
3. HMP Pentonville
HMP Pentonville is a Category B men’s prison located in Islington, London.
It was originally built in 1842 and was the first prison in the world to feature the now-famous “Pentonville Model”, which was a blueprint for many other prisons around the world.
The prison was designed to hold up to 1,200 prisoners and was intended to serve as a model of reform and rehabilitation.
Pentonville Prison has a long and often controversial history. Over the years, it has been the site of many notable events, including riots, escapes, and suicides.
In the past, the prison was known for its harsh conditions, including the use of a “silent system” where prisoners were not allowed to speak to each other and were only allowed to communicate through writing.
In recent years, there have been several high-profile escapes from the prison, leading to increased scrutiny and calls for further reforms.
This prison remains an important part of the British prison system and continues to play a significant role in the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society.
With its long history and reputation, it is an iconic institution that serves as a reminder of the challenges and complexities of the criminal justice system.
Tel: +44 20 7023 7000
Address: Caledonian Rd, London N7 8TT, United Kingdom.
4. HMP Wormwood Scrubs
HMP Wormwood Scrubs is a prison located in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
The prison was built in the late 19th century and has since been a symbol of the British penal system. With a capacity of over 1,200 prisoners, it is one of the largest prisons in London.
It has a long and controversial history, with several instances of violence, overcrowding, and poor living conditions reported over the years.
It has also faced criticism for its outdated facilities and inadequate staffing levels, which have been linked to poor prison management and a lack of investment.
Moreover, it is home to a diverse population of prisoners, including those serving short-term sentences, as well as those serving life sentences.
Tel: +44 20 8588 3200
Address: 160 Du Cane Rd, London W12 0AN, United Kingdom.
5. HMP Brixton
HMP Brixton is located in Brixton, London, and is one of the oldest prisons in the United Kingdom, having been in operation since 1820.
The prison has a capacity of around 500 inmates and is used to detain a mix of remanded and sentenced prisoners.
It is a local prison, which means that it primarily holds prisoners who are serving short sentences or are awaiting trial at courts in the London area.
It has a reputation for being one of the most overcrowded prisons in the UK and has been criticized in the past for poor conditions, including cramped cells and inadequate facilities.
There have also been reports of violence and drug use within the prison, as well as concerns about staff shortages and high levels of staff turnover.
Even if this prison remains an important part of the UK’s prison system, it is clear that significant challenges remain in terms of improving conditions for prisoners and reducing reoffending rates.
The prison will likely continue to be the subject of public debate and discussion as efforts are made to address these ongoing challenges.
Tel: +44 20 8588 6000
Address: Jebb Ave, Brixton Hill, London SW2 5XF, United Kingdom.