Pentonville Prison is a near neighbour, looming up on the Caledonian Road North of the Ferodo Bridge in genteel Barnsbury. It employs a lot of local people. When Pentonville was built in 1842 it was a radically new building one of the world’s first prisons built to Jeremy Bentham’s scientific panopticon design with radial wings and a ‘silent system’ (fascinating article here). The silent system was a horrific form of sensory deprivation – all noise and contact between prisoners was banned. At the huge cost of £85,000 In 1842 Pentonville was considered a luxury prison – indeed inmates must have had beter physical conditions than the slums from which they came. There are some great contemporary descriptions here. As the picutre above shows at that time the Caledonian Road was undeveloped and the area was market gardens and heavily polluted by the tile-kilns that littered the area.
The prison had a huge problem with corruption amongst staff (see here)
and is now in the news for some grim conditions. Prison reformers are calling for Pentonville to be shut. But if it is then there is nowhere local for prisoners from North London to go so that their families can visit them. Mind you is it was shut it would be some remarkable real estate – a large Barnsbury site with a listed building. The developers will be salivating – Penthouse at Pentonville anyone? A snip at £1million.