Clink Prison Museum review
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The Clink was a proper prison. The kind of prison that actually punished you. These days the prisoners get a bedroom with a TV and a Playstation inside. Back then all they got was typhoid. Not that I've ever been to a prison, of course -- although I have spent a couple of nights in the Covent Garden Travelodge, which isn't far off.
There's hardly anything left of the original prison anymore. All that remains of the medieval gaol is a solitary wall which survived the fire of 1780. So it's not a tour of the legendary prison. You're not walking around anything historic. The Clink Prison Museum more like a mini-version of the London Dungeon.
It starts off with a few gloomy monks chanting at the dungeon door, then you walk around a few gloomy rooms and corridors, lit with fake flames and orange lightbulbs, etc. Every time you turn a corner you'll meet a waxwork prisoner propped up in the corner, lamenting and repenting and posing for photos. The decoration is quite well done -- you can tell they've made an effort to mess it up. It's all sawdust in the corner, oak beams and wagon wheels, and a constant song of crying kids and blokes moaning, bells tolling, chains clanking and pigs squeaking and squealing coming out of the speakers.
As you walk around you can learn a bit about the prison's history and the Tudor kings and queens. It's all very basic, but it's a decent little taster for the tourists. They describe some of the famous criminals and what happened to them as well -- and what will happen to you if you misbehave!
The best bit is obviously the torture equipment. I'm a big fan of torture. Don't tell anyone that I said this (because it's a supposed to be a secret), but I've even dug a dungeon in my basement so I can torture anybody who gets on my nerves (which basically means everybody). I've certainly learnt a lot of fantastic new techniques at this museum. I think my new favourite form of torture is definitely the Oubliette, because it appeals to my laziness. You simply dig a hole and kick them in it, and then wait for them to die -- nice and simple. The Morning Star is more for psychos. It's a solid metal mace which you swing ten times around your head and then smash it into their skull (it makes a lot of mess, that one). Or how about the Scold's Bridle? -- a cage for their face. You wrap a birdcage around their head and then tighten it up until their bones splinter through their cheeks. Some of the other forms of torture are too gruesome to mention. But how about the poor guy who was boiled to death at Smithfield? That will teach him to serve up poisoned porridge!
The gibbet is another of my favourites. That's when you wedge somebody into a metal cage and hang them from a lamppost until the birds have pecked them to death. It says on the plaque that we didn't finally abolish this practice until 1832, which sounds a bit late -- that's only five years before the Victorian period. I wonder what the chances are of us bringing that back again? Wait a minute... I've just had a fantastic idea! The Clink Prison Museum could offer a babysitting service for your kids. You could drop them off in the morning, stick them in a gibbet, and then pick them up a week later.
The big difference between this place and the London Dungeon is the cost -- the Clink is a lot cheaper. But it's also a fraction of the size. The London Dungeon is more like a guided tour with acted-out scenes, whereas the Clink is just a museum with some Madame Tussauds waxworks. It's also a lot less frightening for your kids.
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