HM Prison Wandsworth
|Security class||Adult Male/Category B Local|
|Population||1,562 (as of December 2020)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Wandsworth at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Wandsworth is a Category B men's prison at Wandsworth in the London Borough of Wandsworth, South West London, England. It is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service and is one of the largest prisons in the UK.
The prison was built in 1851, when it was known as Surrey House of Correction. It was designed according to the humane separate system principle: a number of corridors radiate from a central control point with each prisoner having toilet facilities. The toilets were subsequently removed to increase prison capacity and the prisoners had to engage in the humiliating process of "slopping out", until 1996.
On 29 July 1879, Catherine Webb was executed for the murder and dismemberment of her mistress, Mrs. Thomas, at Richmond. The murder, which occurred in March, was for the purpose of stealing Mrs. Thomas‘ property and going to America with a man named Webb. The only witnesses to the execution were the sheriff, the surgeon and the chaplain. No reporters were permitted. The sheriff reported that Mrs. Webb met her death with dignity. The body was buried in a shallow grave on prison grounds and covered in lime.
In 1930, inmate James Edward Spiers, serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery, committed suicide in front of a group of Justices of the Peace who were there to witness his receiving 15 lashes, then a form of judicial corporal punishment.
In 1951, Wandsworth was the holding prison for a national stock of the birch and the cat o' nine tails, implements for corporal punishment inflicted as a disciplinary penalty under the prison rules. An example of a flogging with the "cat" carried out in Wandsworth Prison itself was reported in July 1954.
On 8 July 1965, Ronnie Biggs escaped from the prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence for his part in the Great Train Robbery. Two years later he fled to Brazil and remained on the run until 2001, when he returned to the UK.
Wandsworth was the site of 135 executions, between 1878 and 1961. Built in 1878, the gallows was located near the A wing. In 1911 a new gallows was built between the E and F wings, and in 1938 a new facility was built at the E wing. Among those executed by hanging were:
(in execution-year order)
- George Henry Lamson (1852–1882)
- George Chapman (1865–1903)
- Alfred Edward Stratton (1882–1905)
- Albert Ernest Stratton (1884–1905)
- Joseph O'Sullivan (1897–1922)
- Reginald Dunne (unknown–1922)
- Jean-Pierre Vaquier (1879–1924)
- Patrick Mahon (1890–1924)
- Norman Thorne (1902–1925)
- Del Fontaine (1904–1935)
- George Johnson Armstrong (1902–1941)
- Karel Richard Richter (1912–1941)
- Gordon Cummins (1914–1942)
- Duncan Scott-Ford (1921–1942)
- August Sangret (1913–1943)
- John Amery (1912–1945)
- William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) (1906–1946)
- John George Haigh (1909–1949)
- Derek Bentley (1933–1953)
- Alfred Charles Whiteway (executed 22 December 1953)
- Guenther Podola (1929–1959)
- Francis Forsyth (1942-1960)
On 25 April 1951, a double execution took place at Wandsworth, when Edward Smith and Joseph Brown stood on the gallows together and were executed simultaneously. The final executions at Wandsworth were those of Francis Forsyth on 10 November 1960, Victor John Terry on 25 May 1961 and Henryk Niemasz on 8 September 1961 (Forsyth was one of just four 18-year-olds executed in a British prison in the twentieth century).
With the exceptions of Scott-Ford, Joyce and Amery, who were convicted of treachery, all executions were for the crime of murder. The gallows were kept in full working order until 1993 and tested every six months. In 1994, they were dismantled and the condemned suite is now used as a tea room for the prison officers.
The gallows' trapdoor and lever were sent to the Prison Service Museum in Rugby, Warwickshire. After this museum permanently closed in 2004, they were sent to the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham, where those and an execution box may be seen.
In October 2009, gross misconduct charges were brought against managers of Wandsworth Prison, after an investigation found that prisoners had been temporarily transferred to HMP Pentonville before inspections. The transfers, which included vulnerable prisoners, were made in order to manipulate prison population figures.
In March 2011, an unannounced follow-up inspection was conducted by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, which found that "...Wandsworth compared badly with similar prisons facing similar challenges and we were concerned by what appeared to be unwillingness among some prison managers and staff to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problems the prison faced."
In May 2015 a prisoner was found dead in his cell, prompting a murder investigation.
The prison today
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2017)
The prison has made good progress since the inspection in 2009 and has received praise from the MQPL Survey which was undertaken in March 2011, which demonstrated progress over the same survey results in 2009. Wandsworth Prison contains eight wings on two units. The smaller unit, containing three wings, was originally designed for women. This unit will focus and house prisoners who attended full time activities.
Education and training courses are offered at Wandsworth. Facilities at the prison include two gyms and a sports hall. The large prison chaplaincy offers chaplains from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon and Jehovah's Witness faiths.
A BBC investigation showed large scale drug abuse and cannabis openly being smoked and harder drugs found. There are allegations of staff corruption, even of staff bringing drugs into the prison. Wandsworth has lost its status as a reform prison. Glyn Travis of the Prison Officers Association said, "Wandsworth staff had bought into the reform process and worked well with the governor to implement the reforms. Now, the prison has lost its reform status and once again, staff and prisoners have been left high and dry as this government’s agenda seems to change at the drop of a hat." Wandsworth is the most overcrowded prison in England and body scanners were not used on visitors to prevent contraband being brought into the prison, allegedly due to shortage of staff. Peter Clarke said, "In essence, there were too many prisoners, many with drug-related or mental health issues, and with not enough to do." Also, not all staff carried anti-ligature knives despite six suicides since 2015.
Chris Atkins' book "A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner"  describes ongoing poor conditions during his stay in 2016-2017 with many of the touted improvements merely being described on paper rather than in existence in the prison. He describes some of the changes that were attempted as part of the "Prison and Safety Reform (2016)" that were not successful.
- Bat Khurts, head of Mongolia's counter-terrorism agency, 2010.
- Bruce Reynolds, the man who organised the Great Train Robbery. He spent time in Wandsworth for breaking and entering, assault and also robbery.
- Charles Bronson, notorious long-term inmate and artist.
- Chris Atkins, journalist and documentary maker jailed for fraud. Upon his release, Atkins published a book about his time in Wandsworth.
- Chris Huhne, former Energy Secretary jailed for perverting the course of justice in relation to swapping fixed penalty points with his then wife, Vicky Pryce.
- Christopher Tappin, businessman convicted in the US for selling weapons parts to Iran in violation of international sanctions and jailed 33 months in January 2013; transferred from FCI Allenwood, Pennsylvania to serve his remaining 14-month sentence at Wandsworth on September 2013.
- David Chaytor, first MP to be convicted for his part in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal.
- Derek Bentley, convicted of the murder of a policeman and hanged at Wandsworth in 1953, later posthumously pardoned in 1993 and had his murder conviction overturned in 1998.
- Eric Chappelow, World War I conscientious objector, for four months in 1916.
- Gary Glitter, singer, songwriter, and convicted sex offender.
- James Earl Ray, assassin of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remanded from 8 June to 19 July 1968.
- Julian Assange, was remanded in custody at HMP Wandsworth on 7 December 2010 after being refused bail prior to an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. On 16 December 2010, he was released on bail after another appeal.
- Max Clifford, former publicist, convicted of 8 counts of indecent assault, later moved to HM Prison Littlehey in June 2014.
- Mazhar Majeed, cricket agent convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.
- Mohammad Asif, cricketer convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.
- Nirav Modi, fugitive diamond merchant, a principal in the Punjab National Bank Scam, who fled to the UK from India.
- Oscar Wilde, writer.
- Pete Doherty, musician.
- Rolf Harris, Australian-born artist and entertainer, convicted for twelve counts of indecent assault, and it was reported that he never turned up at Wandsworth but instead moved to HM Prison Bullingdon.
- Ronnie Biggs, participant in the Great Train Robbery, who escaped from the prison in 1965 before fleeing the country.
- Ronnie Kray, organised crime leader.
- Salman Butt, cricketer convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.
- Tom O'Carroll, pro-paedophile activist and convicted sex offender, imprisoned in the early 1980s for conspiracy to corrupt public morals.
In popular culture
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2017)
Wandsworth is mentioned in multiple forms of media.
- Starred Up (2014) was written by a former therapist at this prison.
- Let Him Have It (1991) features Derek Bentley, who was held in this prison up until he was hanged in 1953
- A Clockwork Orange (1971) shows the exterior of the prison (the interiors were filmed elsewhere)
- In Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), the character Alex is imprisoned at Wandsworth.
- Graham Greene visited Wandsworth and used it as the model for the prison in which the hero awaits execution in the novel It's a Battlefield (1934).
- In the novel Atonement (2001), by Ian McEwan, the character Robbie Turner is imprisoned in Wandsworth for over four years
- The prison is mentioned toward the end of the novel Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), by George Orwell.
- Will Self's short story "The Nonce Prize", in his short fiction collection Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys (1998), is set in and around the prison.
Wandsworth is mentioned in:
- "The Battle of Epping Forest", a song from the Genesis album Selling England by the Pound (1973)
- "Let Him Dangle", a song from the Elvis Costello album Spike (1989)
- "Switch", a song by Senser
- "Cool for Cats" (1979), a song by Squeeze
- "Wandsworth Prison information". Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- Hughes, Amani (25 June 2015). "History of hangings at former Surrey House of Correction".
- "David Rowland | Wandsworth Prison, London. | Prisons | Local Historians". The Old Police Cells Museum. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- "A Woman Hanged". The Boston Globe. 30 July 1879 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Wandsworth Walloper". Time. New York. 17 February 1930. Retrieved 23 June 2007.
- "Memorandum to prisons re Birches and Cats-o-nine tails". Prison Commission. 20 July 1951. PRO: HO 323/13.
- "Prison mutiny men get 'cat'". Daily Mirror. London. 7 July 1954.
- "1965: Ronald Biggs escapes from jail". BBC News. 8 July 1965.
- "Wandsworth prison, London". www.capitalpunishmentuk.org. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
- "The Execution of Lord Haw Haw at Wandsworth Prison in 1946". Another Nickel In The Machine. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- "Inmates 'moved before jail check'". BBC News. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Report on an unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Wandsworth (PDF) (Report). 4 March 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Rawlinson, Kevin (4 May 2015). "Man arrested on suspicion of murder in Wandsworth prison". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Inside Wandsworth prison: Drugs and tension BBC
- HMP Wandsworth loses reform prison status The Guardian
- X-ray body scanner not used at Wandsworth prison, report finds BBC
- "Curtis Brown".
- Milmo, Cahal (7 January 2011). "Mongolia declares diplomatic war on Britain over arrested spy". The Independent. London. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "What can David Chaytor expect now he has been sentenced?". The Guardian. London. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- Bertrand Russell, Nicholas Griffin, The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell: The Public Years, 1914-1970 (2002), p. 62.
- "Child molester Gary Glitter attacked by inmate just days after returning to jail". Daily Record. Glasgow. 15 February 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- Lewis, Anthony (19 July 1968). "Ray, on U.S. Plane, Leaves Britain". The New York Times. p. 16.
- Davies, Caroline; Jones, Sam; Hirsch, Afua (8 December 2010). "Julian Assange denied bail over sexual assault allegations". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Williams, Matt (16 December 2010). "Great to smell fresh air says freed Assange". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
- "Max Clifford sentenced to eight years in prison". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- Norrish, Mike (3 November 2011). "Pakistan spot-fixing scandal: live". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- Flood, Alison (13 May 2014). "Oscar Wilde's gift to governor who let him read in Reading gaol up for auction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Clarke, Betty (30 July 2004). "Us against the world". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- "Rolf Harris jailed for five years and nine months". BBC News. 4 July 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- Sharp, Aaron (19 July 2014). "Rolf Harris taken straight to cushy prison despite reports pervert would do hard time at tough jail". Daily Mirror. London. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
- "Fraudster escapes from one of Britain's most secure prisons by forging letter granting him bail". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Crime Library – He's My Brother Archived 7 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Petrie, Gordon (25 August 1983). "Headmaster was police spy in child-sex group". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wandsworth Prison.|
- Ministry of Justice pages on Wandsworth
- Victorian Prisoners’ Photograph Albums from Wandsworth prison on The National Archives' website.