The Chapel

brixton8 The end of the policy of transportation in the 1850s presented a conundrum – what to do with long-term prisoners.  This included a thousand or so women.

In 1852 the government made a compulsory purchase of Brixton.  It was to become the first convict prison solely for women.

New wings were built – enough to help accommodate 800.  And so was a large new chapel.  Christianity was seen as an integral part of the rehabilitation process; the women were sinners to be saved.

Henry Mayhew described the chapel following a visit not long after it had opened:

The roof, which is of oak, bears a rude resemblance to that of Westminster Hall, ornamented as it is with its brown “hammer-beams” and “collar-beams;” and when the sittings are filled with the convict-congregation, habited in their dark claret gowns and clean white caps, we hardly know a prettier or a more touching sight m the world.

Today the chapel has changed little in appearance from the drawing above.  It remains the largest single space in the prison and serves as a multi-faith area as well as a venue for everything from staff meetings to drama performances.

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One Response to The Chapel

  1. Pingback: Brixton Outing | London Historians' Blog

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