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.