Brutal history of Holloway prison discussed in two part TV exposé

PUBLISHED: 16:27 30 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:01 04 November 2014

Inside HMP Holloway in 1970 Pic: English heritage

Inside HMP Holloway in 1970 Pic: English heritage


The brutal and politically significant history of HMP Holloway is now the subject of a fascinating two-part TV documentary.

The brutal and politically significant history of HMP Holloway is now the subject of a fascinating two-part TV documentary.

From force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes to hanging baby killers and imprisoning witches, Europe’s largest ­female jail has an intriguing history.

Built as Holloway House of Correction in 1852, it was at first home to mixed inmates – men, women and children – ­until 1902 when it became ­female only.

In the same year the notorious baby farmers Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters, the latter from Danbury Street, Islington, became the first women executed there.

In the early 1900s suffragettes were locked up in the Camden Road prison – when they went on hunger strike they were force fed through tubes up their nose in a “violent, cruel and brutal fashion”.

It was during her time as an inmate that suffragette Emily Wilding Davison decided to sacrifice her life in a bid to bring about equal rights for women.

She made two failed suicide attempts while at Holloway, eventually succeeding by throwing herself under the hooves of the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby. During the Second World War Lady Diana Mitford, cousin of Winston Churchill and wife of British Union of Fascists founder Oswald Mosley, was locked up for fear that she would betray the nation.

In 1944 Scottish mystic Helen Duncan became the last person to be tried in Britain as a witch.

She was tried under the archaic law as the government thought she had secret knowledge of the D-Day landings.

In 1955, Ruth Ellis became the last woman in Britain to be hanged. Public sympathy for her abuse at the hands of lover David Blakely was instrumental in the abolition of the death penalty a decade later.

Moors murderer Myra Hindley caused a scandal when she hatched an escape plan with a prison warden. It led to the governor standing down and part of the old prison being bulldozed.

Other notorious inmates ­include Gloucester murderer Rose West, Maxine Carr, who gave Soham killer Ian Huntley a false alibi and Amanda Hutton, who allowed her four-year-old son to starve to death.

Three-quarters of Holloway inmates have mental disorders, and 50 per cent drink or drug addictions when admitted.

Inside Holloway is available to watch on Channel 5’s online Demand 5 until next October (2015).


Women at Holloway prison ‘exposed to abuse’

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