HM Prison Wandsworth

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Template:Infobox prison 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 the largest prison in London.


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.Template:Citation needed

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.<ref name="time">Template:Cite news</ref>

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 Britain.

Execution site

Wandsworth was the site of 135 executions, between 1878 and 1961. The gallows was located on "E" wing. Among those executed by hanging were:

(in execution-year order) Template:Multicol

  • George Chapman (1865–1903)
  • George Johnson Armstrong (1902–1941)
  • Karel Richard Richter (1912–1941)
  • 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)
  • Guenther Podola (1929–1959)


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 Victor John Terry, on 25 May 1961, and Henryk Niemasz, on 8 September 1961. 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.Template:Citation needed

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.

Recent history

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."

The prison today

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 but is currently closed for refurbishment. It is planned to reopen as a Category C unit focusing on resettlement services.

Education and training courses are offered at Wandsworth, and are contracted from A4e.Template:Citation needed 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.

The establishment has an award winning in-cell radio station called 'Radio Wanno' managed by Kevin Field for Media for Development. The prison also offers prisoners training in radio production as well as literacy qualifications, ICT, employability and life skills while broadcasting programme information, advice and guidance for prisoners are supported in the seven reducing reoffending pathways.Template:Citation needed

The Spurgeons Visitors Centre is used to support families and friends of prisoners visiting Wandsworth Prison. Facilities include a rest area, refreshments and a children's play area. The centre also provides information on a selection of support agencies, such as the Prisoners' Families & Friends Service.Template:Citation needed

Notable inmates

  • Bat Khurts, head of Mongolia's counter-terrorism agency, 2010.
  • Charles Bronson (prisoner), notorious long-term inmate and artist
  • 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
  • David Chaytor, first MP to be convicted for his part in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal
  • James Earl Ray, assassin of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remanded from 8 June to 19 July 1968. ( See: Anthony Lewis, "Ray, on U.S. Plane, Leaves Britain," The New York Times, 19 July 1968: 16)
  • James Ibori, Influential Nigerian politicianTemplate:Citation needed
  • 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.
  • Mazhar Majeed, cricket agent convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.<ref name="FIX"/>
  • Mohammad Asif, cricketer convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy<ref name="FIX"/>
  • Oscar Wilde, writer
  • Pete Doherty, musician
  • 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.<ref name="FIX">Template:Cite news</ref>
  • 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.

In popular culture

Wandsworth is mentioned in multiple forms of media.


  • Let Him Have It (1991) features Derek Bentley, who was held in this prison up until he was hanged in 1953


  • 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:

  • "Let Him Dangle", a song from the Elvis Costello album Spike (1989)
  • "Shot Music", a song by British rapper, Devlin
  • "Truth Rest Your Head", a song by Gene
  • "The Battle of Epping Forest" (1973), a song by Genesis, that mentions a hood: "Liquid Len by name, of wine, women and Wandsworth fame"
  • "Switch", a song by Senser
  • "Cool for Cats" (1979), a song by Squeeze


  • The 12 February 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live featured a satirical theatrical trailer for the British film Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro. In the clip, character Terry Donovan is shown being released from HM Prison Wandsworth.
  • In the television series Survivors, Tom Price escapes the prison after a deadly virus epidemic and kills the one remaining prison officer



External links



Template:Prisons in London