HM Prison Holloway

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HMP Holloway
Holloway Prison.png
Holloway Prison c.1896
Location Holloway, London
Security class Adult Female/Young Offenders
Population 501 (as of January 2008)
Opened 1852
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor Julia Killick
Website Holloway at

HM Prison Holloway (sometimes known as Holloway Castle) is a closed category prison for adult women and Young Offenders, located in the Holloway area of the London Borough of Islington, in London, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.


It was opened in 1852 as a mixed prison, but due to growing demand for space for female prisoners became female-only in 1903. Prisoners included Kitty Byron and suffragettes such as Anne Miller Fraser, Constance Markeivicz, Charlotte Despard, Mary Richardson, Dora Montefiore, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, and Ethel Smyth. In 1912 the anthem of the suffragettes - "The March of the Women", written by Ethel Smyth and Cicely Hamilton (lyrics) - has been performed at Holloway; it was the most important song for the suffragette's solidarity and this political movement.[1] Norah Elam had the distinction of being detained during both World Wars, three times during 1914 as a suffragette prisoner under the name Dacre Fox, then as a detainee under Defence Regulation 18B in 1940, when she was part of the social circle that gathered around Diana Mosley during their early internment period. Later, after her release, Elam had the further distinction of being the only former member of the British Union of Fascists to be granted a visit with Oswald Mosley during his period of detention there with his wife Diana Mosley (née Mitford).[2]

A total of five judicial executions by hanging took place at Holloway Prison between 1903 and 1955:

The bodies of all executed prisoners were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the remains of all the executed women were exhumed. With the exception of Ruth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway (Amelia Sach, Annie Walters, Edith Thompson and Styllou Christofi) were subsequently reburied in a single grave at Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey

Holloway held Diana Mitford under Defence Regulation 18B during World War II, and after a personal intervention from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, her husband Sir Oswald Mosley was moved there. The couple lived together in a cottage in the prison grounds. They were released in 1943. More recently it housed, in 1966, Moors murderess Myra Hindley; in 1967, beautiful Welsh temptress Kim Newell who was involved in the Red Mini Murder and Nazi synagogue arsonist Françoise Dior, in 1993, Sheila Bowler, the music teacher wrongly imprisoned for the murder of her elderly aunt, was detained there before being transferred to Bullwood Hall[3] and in 2002, Maxine Carr who gave a false alibi for Soham murderer Ian Huntley. Other inmates include Amie Bartholomew, Emma Last, Rochelle Etherington, Ginny Crutcher, Alison Walder, Jayne Richards, the Tinsel Fight Murderer, Bella Coll and Chantal McCorkle.

Other noteworthy inmates that were held at the original 1852-era prison include William Thomas Stead, Isabella Glyn, F. Digby Hardy, and Christabel Pankhurst.[4]

Recent history[edit]

Holloway Prison was completely rebuilt between 1971 and 1985 on the same site. The redevelopment resulted in the loss of the "grand turreted" gateway to the prison, which had been built in 1851; architectural critic Gavin Stamp was later to regret the loss and to note that the climate of opinion at the time was such that The Victorian Society felt unable to object.[5]

In October 1999, it was announced that healthcare campaigner and agony aunt Claire Rayner had been called in to advise on an improved healthcare provision at Holloway Prison. Rayner's appointment was announced after the introduction of emergency measures at the prison's healthcare unit after various failures.[6]

In September 2001, an inspection report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons claimed that Holloway Prison was "failing" many of its inmates, mainly due to financial pressures. However, the report stated that the prison had improved in a number of areas, and praised staff working at the jail.[7]

In March 2002, Managers at Holloway were transferred to other prisons following an inquiry by the Prison Service. The inquiry followed a number of allegations from prison staff concerning sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation from managers. The inquiry supported some of these claims.[8]

An inspection report from in June 2003, stated that conditions had improved at Holloway Prison. However the report criticised levels of hygiene at the jail, as well as the lack of trained staff, and poor safety for inmates.[9] A further inspection report in September 2008 again criticised safety levels for inmates of Holloway, claiming that bullying and theft were "rife" at the prison. The report also noted high levels of self-harm and poor mental health among the inmates.[10]

A further inspection in 2010 again noted improvements, but found that most prisoners said they felt unsafe, and that there remained 35 incidents a week of self-harm.[11] The prison's "operational capacity" is 501.[12]

The prison today[edit]

Holloway visitor centre

Holloway Prison holds female adults and young offenders remanded or sentenced by the local courts. Accommodation at the prison mostly comprises single rooms, however there is some dormitory accommodation.

Holloway Prison offers both full-time and part-time education to inmates, with courses including skills training workshops, British Industrial Cleaning Science BICS, gardens and painting.

There is a family-friendly visitors' centre at Holloway, run by the Prison Advice & Care Trust (pact), an independent charity.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The British music group Bush wrote a song about the prison called "Personal Holloway", on their CD Razorblade Suitcase.
  • Marillion's song "Holloway Girl" can be found on their album Seasons End.
  • The Kinks' "Holloway Jail" appears on Muswell Hillbillies.
  • Million Dead also have a song called "Holloway Prison Blues" on their album Harmony No Harmony.
  • One of the characters in the 1997 Canadian sci-fi/horror movie Cube is named after Holloway Prison.
  • In Are You Being Served "It Pays to Advertise" (Season 5, episode 7) Mrs. Slocum says, when talking about her false eyelashes, "It is like looking through bars, I might as well be in Holloway."
  • In the Thames Television series "Rumpole Of The Bailey" episode "Rumpole And The Alternative Society", the girl who Barrister Horace Rumpole was defending in Court until she admitted her guilt to him, was sentenced to 3 years at HM Holloway Prison.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' book Strong Poison, Harriet Vane is held in HM Holloway Prison during the trial.
  • In the classic series Upstairs, Downstairs, the second season episode A Special Mischief has Elizabeth Bellamy joining a band of suffragettes whence they go out one night vandalising wealthy homes. Rose, the parlormaid, follows Elizabeth and her suffragette friends when they are apprehended by the police. Rose is mistakenly thought to be a suffragette and is put in a ladies' prison (Holloway is very much implied). Elizabeth is spared going to jail as her bail is paid for by Julius Karekin, one the rich men being vandalised by the suffragettes. Elizabeth and her new rich boyfriend Julius Karekin bale Rose out of prison.[13]
  • In the BBC One series Call the Midwife, the third season episode three set in 1959, Sister Julienne and Midwife Trixie go to the prison to provide medical care to three pregnant inmates who have gone without treatment for a while. As part of their medical care Sister Julienne and Midwife Trixie advocate for less manual labour and more rest for the pregnant women. In addition to healthcare, Sister provides support and the means for one woman to keep custody of her child after her release.
  • In the German TV 1966 crime drama Das ganz grosse Ding, from a script by Victor Canning, the main character, Dickie Gray, is shown being released from Holloway Prison. Clearly the German director did not know that it was a women's prison at that time.
  • In Anthony Horowitz's 2011 Sherlock Holmes novel The House Of Silk, Holmes is arrested for murder and briefly imprisoned in Holloway before escaping with the help of the prison doctor.
  • Molly Cutpurse's novel, A Year In Holloway was written with the help of authentic documents of the period. A Year In Holloway, details exactly what it would have been like to suffer imprisonment in a woman's prison just before the beginning of the Second World War.


  1. ^ Collis, Louise (1984). Impetuous Heart. The story of Ethel Smyth. ISBN 0-7183-0543-4. 
  2. ^ McPherson, Angela; McPherson, Susan (2011). Mosley's Old Suffragette - A Biography of Norah Elam. ISBN 978-1-4466-9967-6. 
  3. ^ Grania Langdon-Down (1998-02-06). "`If I had been sent back to prison, I would have died' - Life & Style". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Binney, Marcus (8 January 2011). "Victorian genius brought low by bombs and bulldozers". The Times. p. 93. 
  6. ^ "Prison calls in Claire Rayner". BBC Online. October 5, 1999. 
  7. ^ "Inmates 'neglected' in women's prison". BBC Online. 28 September 2001. 
  8. ^ "Managers moved from women's prison". BBC Online. 15 March 2002. 
  9. ^ "Women's jail 'still has problems'". BBC Online. 30 March 2005. 
  10. ^ "Bullying 'rife' in women's prison". BBC Online. 15 September 2008. 
  11. ^ "Prison life: what Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce face now". The Week. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Holloway Prison information". HM Prison Service/HM Government Ministry of Justice. "operational capacity as of 23 January 2008". Retrieved 12 March 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ - Upstairs, Downstairs: A Special Mischief Retrieved September 30, 2014

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°33′14.43″N 0°07′31.11″W / 51.5540083°N 0.1253083°W / 51.5540083; -0.1253083