Echoes of Holloway Prison – Memories of a prison’s past

Source: Holloway Prison Victorian London - The Queen's London. A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 Andreas Praefcke / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Source: Holloway Prison Victorian London - The Queen's London. A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 Andreas Praefcke / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Former staff and inmates of Holloway Prison are sharing their memories of the jail in a series of oral histories, films, and workshops.

Holloway prison project

The Echoes of Holloway Prison project is aiming to preserve the history of what was once the largest women’s-only prison in Western Europe. The research and interviews were conducted by volunteer members of the public.

The prison opened in 1852 and at different points held members of the suffragettes, fascist Diana Mitford, and Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

Lottery funds

A National Lottery grand of £73,700  made the project possible. It will also become an exhibition at Clerkenwell’s Islington Museum.

Roz Currie, curator at the Museum and co-ordinator of the project, said: “There are still people who know the prison and parts of its history that haven’t been recorded. We want to capture their stories before that community disperses. We have 25 people we’ll be talking to from all over the prison—guards, staff, former inmates, charity workers.”

Prison system overhaul

The government announced the closure of the prison in late 2015 as part of an overhaul of the woman’s prison system.

“I was lucky enough to visit the prison both before and after it closed. When you go in there there’s a real sense of history. Not just of the suffragettes and the other famous inmates, but of all the people whose stories are not known. At any point in the last century there were hundreds of people working and incarcerated there.

“The response so far has been fantastic. We’re still appealing for members of the public who would like to conduct the interviews donations. Any objects people might have from the prison’s past are very welcome.”

Effects of Holloway closure

The project will help raise awareness of those affected by the closure of the prison. A number of campaign groups are calling for the redeveloped site to be partly occupied by social and affordable housing, communal space, and a women’s centre. The groups have the support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Ministry of Justice has closed the bidding process and the sale is could raise up to £70m.