Tothill Fields prison

Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral, the site of Tothill Fields

Tothill Fields Prison was said to be a more desirable place to be incarcerated than most other prisons of the day, due to the more humane (in comparison) treatment handed out to its inmates. The main punishment seemed to be the rule of silence, with prisoners not allowed to converse with one another. The other main form of punishment was to withhold their food. The main reason for this to be imposed upon was being caught talking to another prisoner. According to a record of the time, a whipping had only been authorised twice between 1851 and 1855, for what crimes I do not know. Henry Mayhew visited the prison in 1861 and in his book, 'Criminal Prisons of London', praises the staff for ensuring discipline without the need for physical punishment. Most of the inmates were in their early teens but children from the age of five years and upwards were sentenced to be detained there.

tothill fields
The Remains of the Gateway to Tothill Fields House of Correction.

Surprisingly enough though a part of the old prison still remains across the road from Westminster Abbey, unnoticed by all the thousands of visitors passing opposite at the Abby every day. It is this stone relic of the old Gateway to Tothill Fields House of Correction that was recited here in 1959 and now stands in the quietness of Little George Street where its sordid past does not intrude on the casual passer-by.

London Time

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