Vicky Pryce’s time in Holloway: famous past inmates

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Image: Public Domain
Vicky Pryce will continue her sentence in East Sutton Park. Image: Chatham House
Vicky Pryce will continue her sentence in East Sutton Park. Image: Chatham House

Vicky Pryce was moved to an open prison at the weekend to serve out her eight month prison sentence, after spending just four days in Holloway prison.

As Ms Pryce settles in to East Sutton Park, we look at other famous inmates of Holloway’s cells.

Built in 1852, Holloway was originally a mixed prison, becoming women only 51 years later in 1903.

During that time, Holloway’s best known male prisoner was writer Oscar Wilde. He was incarcerated there on remand in 1895 before standing trial for “gross indecency” with other men, which he was later convicted of.

Suffragettes

In the early 20th century, a host of suffragettes were among Holloway’s inmates, including Emmeline, Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst.

Christabel was arrested with fellow suffragette Annie Kenney in 1905 after interrupting a Liberal Party meeting to demand voting rights for women. They were imprisoned in Holloway for refusing to pay the fine.

Her sister Sylvia was next to be arrested, in 1906, when she and a group of suffragettes started a protest meeting in the lobby of the House of Commons.

The magistrate ordered the women to be “of good behaviour” for six months or go to prison for six weeks, and so Sylvia found herself in Holloway.

Sylvia and Christabel’s mother Emmeline was also arrested and imprisoned in Holloway for six weeks in 1908. Here she was kept in solitary confinement and staged her first hunger strike. She would do this ten times over 18 months across several stints in jail.

Other suffragettes who spent time in Holloway in the early 20th century included Charlotte Despard, Mary Richardson and Countess Constance Markievicz, who was a Sinn Fein MP.

Fascists

Norah Elam was imprisoned in Holloway three times between May and July 1914 for “acts of terrorism” as part of her involvement with the suffragette movement.

She later joined the British Union of Fascists and was returned to Holloway in 1940 with other prominent female fascists including Lady Diana Mosley.

Lady Mosley (née Diana Freeman-Mitford) was one of the Mitford sisters, and wife of British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley. Their wedding was hosted by Joseph Goebbels and attended by Adolf Hitler.

The mother of PR guru and press reform campaigner Max Mosley, Diana was arrested as a “public danger” just months after Max’s birth, and reportedly hid a photograph of Hitler under his cot mattress as police arrived.

She was imprisoned in Holloway for three years between 1940 and 1943 before being placed under house arrest until the end of the war.

Image: Public Domain
Built in 1852, Holloway still houses notorious female criminals. Image: Public Domain

Murderers

Five women were executed at Holloway between 1903 and 1955, the first of whom were murderers Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, better known as the Finchley baby farmers, who murdered as many as several dozen babies during the early 1900s. Theirs was the first and only double hanging at Holloway.

In 1923 Edith Thompson was hanged for the murder of her husband, Percy. Her case attracted protest against the death penalty, particularly for women, and a petition was signed by almost a million people.

Styllou Pantopioud Christofi was hanged at Holloway in 1954 for the murder of her daughter-in-law and, eight months later, in 1955, Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be executed in the UK, for the murder of her lover.

Moors murderer Myra Hindley was imprisoned in Holloway in 1966. While serving her life sentence there Hindley fell in love with prison officer Patricia Cairns, who assisted in her failed escape attempt.

More recently…

In its more recent history, Holloway prison – which was rebuilt during the 1970s and currently has a population of 500 – has hosted murderesses including Amie Bartholomew, Rochelle Etherington, Emma Last, Ginny Crutcher, Alison Walder, and Bella Coll.

Notable ex-inmates also include Jayne Richards, who was dubbed ‘the tinsel fight murderer’, and Tracey Connelly, the mother of Baby P.

Sheila Bowler was imprisoned in Holloway in 1993 after being wrongly convicted of the murder of her elderly aunt. She was acquitted four years later.

Three years earlier, Maxine Carr, the girlfriend of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, was remanded in Holloway for providing Huntley with a false alibi, and remained there for several months after her conviction.

 

During her four days in Holloway prison, Vicky Pryce followed in the footsteps of suffragettes, fascists and notorious murderers. Her internment in the Elizabethan manor house of East Sutton Park prison in Kent, where she is the only notable inmate, will doubtless be a bit cosier.

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