Holloway Prison c. 1896
|Security class||Adult Female/Young Offenders|
|Population||0 (as of March 2020)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Holloway at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Holloway was a closed category prison for adult women and young offenders in Holloway, London, England, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. It was the largest women's prison in western Europe, until its closure in 2016.
Before the first world war, Holloway was used to imprison suffragettes including Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison, Constance Markievicz (imprisoned for her part in the Irish Rebellion), Charlotte Despard, Mary Richardson, Dora Montefiore, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, and Ethel Smyth.
In 1959, Joanna Kelley became Governor of Holloway. Kelley ensured that long-term prisoners received the best accommodation and they were allowed to have their own crockery, pictures and curtains. The prison created "family" groups of prisoners, group therapy and psychiatrists to support some prisoners where required.
In 1965, there was a change in responsibilities and the Probation Service was tasked with looking after prisoners once they had served their sentence. Kelley was not keen on the idea. With Kelley's encouragement they formed the Griffins Society. The name of the society came from the statues of two griffins that had been either side of the gates as women entered Holloway.
Until 1991, the Prison was staffed by Home Office appointed, female Prison Officers. Male hospital officers from H.M.P. Pentonville were on weekly secondments until 1976. Their mission was to provide support for the agency nurses who worked in Holloway. However, The first 'Male, basic grade' Prison Officer to be posted to HMP Holloway in its history, was Prison Officer (Trg) Thomas Ainsworth, who joined the establishment direct from HMP College Wakefield in May 1991.
After the death from suicide in January 2016 of inmate Sarah Reed, a paranoid schizophrenic being held on remand, the subsequent inquest in July 2017 identified failings in the care system. Shortly after Reed died, a report concluded she was unfit to plead at a trial.
Holloway's Governor Joanna Kelley was promoted to Assistant Director of Prisons (Women) in 1966. In 1967, they began to rebuild Holloway Prison. The previous design had been a "star" design where a single warder could oversee many potentially troublesome prisoners and then act promptly to summon assistance. Kelley felt this was wrong as at the time most women prisoners were not violent. It was her ideas that inspired the redesigned prison based on her experience as governor. It was completed in 1977. During that time she had become an OBE in 1973. The new design allowed for "family" groups of sixteen prisoners. Her ideas were in the design of the buildings but her ideas were never enacted.
The redevelopment resulted in the loss of the "grand turreted" gateway to the prison, which had been built in 1851; architectural critic Gavin Stamp later regretted the loss and said that the climate of opinion at the time was such that the Victorian Society felt unable to object.
Holloway Prison held female adults and young offenders remanded or sentenced by the local courts. Accommodation at the prison was mostly single cells; however, there was also some dormitory accommodation.
Holloway Prison offered both full-time and part-time education to inmates, with courses including skills training workshops, British Industrial Cleaning Science (BICS), gardening, and painting.
There was a family-friendly visitors' centre, run by the Prison Advice and Care Trust (pact), an independent charity.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in his Autumn Statement on 25 November 2015 that the prison would close and would be sold for housing. It closed in July 2016, with prisoners being moved to HMP Downview and HMP Bronzefield, .
As of September 2017, the prison buildings still stand, with draft proposals for the site including housing, a public open green space, playground, women's centre and a small amount of commercial space.
For decades, British campaigners had argued for votes for women. It was only when a number of suffragists, despairing of change through peaceful means, decided to turn to militant protest that the "suffragette" was born. These women broke the law in pursuit of their aims, and many were imprisoned at Holloway, where they were treated as common criminals, not political prisoners. In protest, some went on hunger strike and were force fed so Holloway has a large symbolic role in the history of women's rights in the UK. Suffragettes imprisoned there include Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison, Constance Markievicz, Violet Mary Doudney, Katie Edith Gliddon, Isabella Potbury, Evaline Hilda Burkitt, Georgina Fanny Cheffins, Constance Bryer, Florence Tunks, Janie Terrero, Doreen Allen, Bertha Ryland, Katharine Gatty, Charlotte Despard, Janet Boyd, Genie Sheppard, Mary Ann Aldham, Mary Richardson, Alice Maud Shipley, Katherine Douglas Smith, Dora Montefiore, Christabel Pankhurst,Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Leonora Tyson and Ethel Smyth. In 1912 the anthem of the suffragettes - "The March of the Women", composed by Ethel Smyth with lyrics by Cicely Hamilton - was performed there.
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.
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 Regulation 18B in 1940, when she was part of the social circle that gathered around the Mosleys 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.
The bodies of all executed prisoners were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the 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 (who was reburied in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Old Amersham), the remains of the four other women were subsequently reburied in a single grave at Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey. In 2018, the remains of Edith Thompson were reburied in her parents' grave in the City of London Cemetery.
Noteworthy inmates that were held at the original 1852-era prison include Oscar Wilde,William Thomas Stead, Isabella Glyn, F. Digby Hardy, Kitty Byron and Lady Ida Sitwell, wife of Sir George Sitwell.
More recently it housed, in 1966, Moors murderess Myra Hindley; in 1967, Kim Newell, a Welsh woman who was involved in the Red Mini Murder; also in the late 1960s, National Socialist supporter Françoise Dior, charged with arson against synagogues; in 1977, American Joyce McKinney of the "Manacled Mormon case"; Sheila Bowler, the music teacher wrongly imprisoned for the murder of her elderly aunt, was detained there before being transferred to Bullwood Hall; and in 2002, Maxine Carr, who gave a false alibi for Soham murderer Ian Huntley.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. The prison's operational capacity is 501.
At 8 am on 11 January 2016, Sara Reed, an inmate at Holloway, was found dead in her cell. Prison staff claimed she had strangled herself in her sleep, while the Reed family call for justice. Yvonne Roberts wrote "Sarah's final days were harrowing. She was hallucinating, chanting, without the medication she had relied on for years, sleepless, complaining a demon punched her awake at night. She was on a basic regime, punishment for what was classed as bad behaviour. In spite of her mental and physical fragility, she was isolated, the cell hatch closed, without hot water, heating or a properly cleaned cell. 'For safety and security' a four-strong 'lockdown' team of prison officers delivered basic care." Observations of Reed had been cut to only one an hour though she was obviously severely psychotic, had threatened suicide and had self harmed. A prison officer told Reed's mother, "We deal with restraint and maintaining the law. We're not designed to deal with health issues." The jury at her inquest decided that Reed took her own life when the balance of her mind was disturbed, but were unclear whether she had intended to kill herself. They said failure to manage her medication and the failure to complete the fitness to plead assessment in a reasonable time were factors in her death. The jury were also concerned about how Reed was monitored and claimed Reed received inadequate treatment in prison for her distress. Deborah Coles of Inquest said, "Sarah Reed was a woman in torment, imprisoned for the sake of two medical assessments to confirm what was resoundingly clear, that she needed specialist care not prison. Her death was a result of multi-agency failures to protect a woman in crisis. Instead of providing her with adequate support, the prison treated her ill mental health as a discipline, control and containment issue."
Caitlin Davies has written Bad Girls (published by John Murray), a history of Holloway Prison. The prison closed in July 2016; the site is being redeveloped for housing. Davies was the only journalist granted access to the prison and its archives.