Wandsworth Prison and its Worst Inmates

Josie Klakström
13 min readAug 28, 2020

Located on the south side of the River Thames, HM Prison Wandsworth casts a shadow on the buildings around it.

Built in 1851 and originally named the Surrey House of Correction, the enormous structure currently holds around 1,500 male inmates.

Wandsworth prison via capitalpunishmentuk.org

In the UK penal system, prisons are categorised, depending on the type of inmates they can contain.

Category A: Prisoners are a danger to the public or national security.

Category B: Prisoners are a risk to the public but don’t require maximum security supervision.

Category C: Prisoners can’t be trusted in an ‘open’ prison but are not considered an escape risk.

Category D: An open prison, where inmates can be released on a temporary licence to see family or to work.

Wandsworth is categorised as a B prison and contains inmates who have committed serious crimes but are not necessarily a threat to the public.

Currently one of the largest prisons in the UK, Wandsworth was built in a panopticon architectural design, where guards oversee the cells from a central tower and can supervise inmates without inmates being able to see in. The prison was built comprising of four wings, to separate male inmates from female inmates.

Wandsworth prison via amazon.com

Originally, each cell had its own toilet but to increase capacity, the toilets were removed, and additional beds replaced them. Instead, inmates had to use communal toilets which was a common method of humiliation, known as “slopping out”. In 1996, the cell toilets were reinstalled.

In 1878, Wandsworth took over prison executions in the region when Horsemonger Lane Gaol was closed, and its inmates were transferred.

Between 1878 and 1961, 135 prisoners were executed, including one woman; Kate Webster.

Kate Webster and the Barnes Mystery

Kate Webster was born Catherine Lawler in 1849 in Ireland. Claiming to marry a sea captain named Webster, she had four children with him. However, after leaving her apparent family…

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Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing. www.truecrimeedition.com