Saturday, February 21, 2009

A bleak mid-victorian prison??

I have no doubt that life was harsh at Woking Invalid Convict Prison. Yet, there are various descriptions of the surrounding countryside which make the place seem almost idyllic:

Florence Maybrick wrote:

... we drove through lovely woods; the scent of flowers was wafted by the breeze into what seemed to be a hearse that was bearing me on toward my living tomb [the prison]...

And a prison medical officer wrote the following description in late 1859 or early 1860:

The prison at Knapp Hill was built on the most approved plan, both as regards ventilation and sanitation, and also its general arrangements, but it was difficult to imagine that it was within thirty-six miles of London, for it was situated on a large moor covered with heath and a few stunted pines, about a mile and a half from Woking Cemetery, in an unused part of which I used to exercise a young setter. Snakes abounded, and frogs kept us awake at night by their croaking. A few blackcock still remained, and numbers of shaggy forest ponies were to be seen roaming about.

Sounds wonderful, don't you think?

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