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More from Emma Bryning

Graffiti of Wellclose Prison Debtors’ Cell at the Museum of London

Wellclose Prison, also known as Neptune Street Prison, was located off Wellclose Square near to the Tower of London. The 18th-century small prison was run on a commercial basis and the majority of inmates were insolvent debtors who were either imprisoned until they could repay their debts or were awaiting transfer to Newgate Prison. The prison was below a public tavern which was connected to a courthouse, where the tavern’s landlord acted as gaoler. By the 1790s, the prison was empty and in a state of disrepair. The prison was finally closed in the 19th century and the building it was housed within was turned into a lodging house. When the building was demolished in 1911, two cells from the prison were dismantled and transferred to the London Museum at Kensington Palace and elements of both cells can now be found on display in the Museum of London. Prisoners in the cells were known to scratch and carve their names and initials or write messages or draw pictures onto the walls of the cells and many of these marks can still be seen today. 

Prison Graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London

The Tower of London is home to some of the most well-known historic graffiti in the city, and many of the marks are located in the Beauchamp Tower. The Beauchamp Tower was built between 1275-1281 during the reign of King Edward I and was later used as a state prison, housing high-ranking prisoners including Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley. This former prison contains over three-hundred graffiti inscriptions which were created over four centuries by the imprisoned inhabitants to help alleviate their boredom during their confinement and so that they could make sure that they would be remembered. 

‘A Couple Hold Hands in the Street’ by Stik and ‘The Crane’ by ROA, Brick Lane Street Art, London

Brick Lane, in the heart of the East End of London, is often considered one of the most famous locations in the UK for graffiti and street art. Whilst international street artists aspire to paint on Brick Lane, it is kept fresh by local artists who change the graffiti on a weekly basis. Works can be found by famous street artists from around the world, including Phlegm, Ben Eine, Banksy, Noriaki, C215, ROA, Vhils and Shepard Fairey, to name just a few. One of the most popular works of street art in the area is that of ‘A Couple Hold Hands in the Street’ on Princelet Street by local artist Stik. The piece, created in 2010, shows a woman in a niqab holding hands with a second stick figure and was voted the nation’s 17th favourite artwork in a poll in 2017. One of the other long-standing pieces in the area is The Crane on Hanbury street which was created by Belgian street artist, ROA. The work was originally intended to be a heron but was changed to a crane after ROA learnt that they were sacred to the Bengali community, who make up a significant portion of the local population. 

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HMP Brixton

This viewpoint will trace the history of one of London’s oldest prisons, Brixton. HMP Brixton has a 200-year history and is still operational today. The prison has functioned as a local prison, a female convict prison and a military prison and in use today as a men’s prison.