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 north and Inner London, England.
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, and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. 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).
Holloway Prison c.1896
A total of five judicial executions by hanging took place at Holloway prison between 1903 and 1955:
Amelia Sach and Annie Walters – 3 February 1903
Edith Thompson – 9 January 1923
Styllou Christofi – 13 December 1954
Ruth Ellis – 13 July 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
It 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 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 Isabella Glyn, Christabel Pankhurst, and Oscar Wilde.
Holloway Prison was completely rebuilt between 1971-1985 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.
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 (compare with the prison’s “operational capacity” of 501
The prison today
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.