HMP Pentonville - 160 Years of History
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Chapter 6   -

The first stone of the Model Prison was laid on April 10, 1840. It was built to house 520 convicts. Pentonville was completed and ready for use by December 1842. Before that date there was a lot to be done, including the appointment of the first governor. We know from a letter written by a Mr Baker of Taunton on 3 September 1842, that there was much competition for the post, he writes, `There were 70 candidates most of them officers of rank in the Army and well known in the scientific world. Hosking was however chosen by the Commissioners without a division. I apprehend his previous attention to prison discipline and of his particular labour in that department weighed greatly in his favour." Gaining the position was seen as prestigious and is referred to as good fortune. We know also from the letter that the prison was generally referred to as the new model Penitentiary at Pentonville, and that the Governor was provided with `a capital unfurnished house and £600 a year.' (It is clear the original Commissioners valued their governors!) The letter tells us little more about Robert Hosking, but it does go on to discuss briefly the general situation `I understand that the disturbances are over in your district. Our barracks which have been unoccupied for 20 years are now garrisoned by a troop of the Scots Greys.' This only gives a clue that perhaps there was a military connection or alternatively that all parties may have been local Justices of the Peace.

The concept of the prison was to put into practice the theory of separate and silent system among convicts between the age of 18 to 35 who were sentenced to transportation, and were to be held in the new prison, in `ideal conditions', for the first 18 months of their sentence. Robert Hosking, the first Governor maintained a `Governor's Journal' which has survived and gives us an insight into both the principles and practice upon which Pentonville was founded, and also into the man himself. The first entry into the Journal is made on November 9th 1842 and records:

`The subordinate officers who are directly concerned in the discipline, attended at the prison, for the first Siam, this day, at 10 a.m. (in obedience to an order from the Commissioners) to enter on their respective duties. The staff practiced unlocking and locking cell doors. At first attempt very successful as they are able bodied, active, intelligent and respectable class of persons. Respectful in their deportment and most of them had recently been accustomed to discipline. Entered with great spirit the tasks assigned to them.'

The entry for November 10th 1842 reads that the warders were paraded and informed of an Order, passed by the Commissioners, stating that no fee or gratuity should be received by an officer of the prison for conducting any visitors or strangers over the prison. Nothing seems to change over the centuries; the next entries have been faced today in a variety of ways by Governors opening new establishments.

`A great deal of the locks require to be put in order, there are many that do not work freely.'

`The letters engraved on the cell keys denoting the several divisions (wings) of the prison are engraved on the wrong set of keys.' Unless speedily rectified this mistake may produce inconvenience and injury to locks."

`The front door of my dwelling house is insecure. A person might easily remove a pane of glass, reach the key, or pick the lock, and afford admittance. Better security is desirable!'

How do you set about establishing the `model prison' when there is no other example to follow. How do you recruit, train and develop the staff and order all those articles that are going to be needed. Reading the whole of Hosking's Journal for those first 2 years, gives an insight to the problems he wrestled with. Looking back now from the Year 2000, it is humbling to observe how much Robert Hosking did to establish so much that remains today that is integral to the modern service. There was no training school for officers, there were no set procedures, yet he built a working prison that in many of its aspects we would all recognise. The social and philosophic climate in which he operated needs to be borne in mind. The first principle was that hard work was a virtue, the second was that religion was a dominant feature of life, the third that education was important, the fourth that discipline was essential, and finally that keeping prisoners separate and silent contributed to good order, prevented `criminal contagion' and allowed the individual to dwell upon his faults and reform.

Within this context, Robert Hosking brought his ample ability, foresightedness, and deep humanity to bear. This all shines throughout as one reads what he recorded. It is worth pointing out at this stage that all staff worked initially a 7 day week, so there was no problem with duty rosters, leave charts nor continuity of staff. The problem of staff falling sick (still an issue today) soon became an issue from this early date.

We do not know how officers were selected, but the one competency they all had to have was the ability to read and write, for it is recorded `It may be desirable for the Subordinate Officers to commence their reports; but for that purpose they must be previously supplied with slates and pencils.'

The next entry is a fascinating one. The Governor anguishes over how he might best convey instructions regularly to the whole staff. He anguishes over whether it is both the right course or the right time to promote 2 of the staff to Principals:

`Instead of conveying instruction to the whole body through two channels - two intelligent officers - (who being in that case, responsible for those acting under them, would themselves more readily receive information from me, whilst they would anxiously impart it to their subordinates) I am now - obliged to either confer with the men individually whilst distributed about the prison; or to bring them together. I think the first course objectionable, because it occupies so much of my time, that it prevents my observing much of the behaviour and character of the men; and considering some of our exercises are in the nature of experiments so far as relates to practical details, I think the latter, for obvious reasons, equally so. If I were now to select any two, in preference to the rest, and work them as Principals it might create bad feeling. I am therefore a great deal straightened in my proceedings.'

We know from the next entry that there were at least 24 officers in the original prison. Their speed and method of operation is only to be envied today.

`Ascertained by trial yesterday that 24 men could unlock and relock all the cell doors in the 4 Divisions in 2 minutes or less. I informed the men when first assembled today, that it being thereby clearly seen how much good construction could do towards good discipline, they must now slacken their speed - still performing every part of their duty with alacrity and smartness, but with no more rapidity of movement than entirely consisted with a quiet and steady manner - always short of running at least - and that they were to shut the cell doors, and to do all other acts as noiselessly as possible. I hope the improvement that they have made will be entirely satisfactory.'

The Journal continues on the 3rd day of the opening of the prison to tell of yet more staff training (1842 style) i.e.. `Today the more intelligent of the warders have been chiefly practising at the Hoisting Apparatus. I am greatly pleased with the result. I hope we have ascertained the speediest method of dispensing the meals; and one which is entirely safe as regards recognition amongst the prisoners. The other warders have worked all the locks in the great and little doors in Divisions A and D which had previously been set in order and oiled. They have reported to me that now, with the exception of one or two, they all go freely. I have tried most of them myself.'

`It appeared to me that blocks are required on the extremities of the rails in the Galleries (Wings) to stop or check the carriages; and that the food trays might be more easily hoisted into the Hoisting Apparatus if bevelled at the corners; and that if the angles of the walls near where the trays are removed into the carriages were also bevelled, there would be less risk of injury to the walls from the carelessness or clumsiness of the warders in lifting heavy weights in a very confined space.'

From then on, the Journal is filled daily with reports and incidents of training of the staff in their duties whilst awaiting the arrival of the first batch of convicts.

The warders themselves acted as the prisoners whilst their colleagues daily went through the drill of moving them to the airing yards and to the Chapel (where the convicts would be secured in separate stalls) operating the hoists, imaginarily loading the food trays then pushing the trays along the rails, stopping at each cell in turn, and opening, then closing the small food serving hatches.
The intensive training of the staff, prior to the reception of the first inmates appeared to be highly satisfactory. The Governor has entered in his Journal for the 5th December 1842, `for three days past, the warders have been engaged chiefly, but not wholly, in practising a plan for conducting prisoners to and from the Chapel. To do this properly will require much practice, especially with about 10 men to represent about 500 prisoners. Nevertheless, after much consideration, one plan at least, is proposed, by which it is meant to conduct to the Chapel, at each service, one side, or one half of each of the 12 wards selecting these half wards with reference to their relative localities, so that there might be as little recognition as possible supposing the prisoners are unmasked. So far as it has been tried, under difficult circumstances, it appears to work with comparative ease and simplicity. It is reported that it may be carried into effect, in 10 or 12, or at most, after a little practice, in 15 minutes. I have submitted it in writing to the warders that they might consider and copy it for their own use.'

The frustration of staff when matters affecting them do not seem to be working is nothing new. That may not be of any comfort, but it does establish it has a long tradition.
`It has been reported to me by the man in charge of the cottages recently erected for the warders, that the stock of coals sent for the purpose of drying and ventilating these cottages is exhausted or nearly so. The steward on being applied on the subject affirms that though he has coals, he has received no clear orders from the Commissioners to issue them for such purpose.'

On the other hand it is clear that the Commissioners were keeping a close eye on their new prison. November 18, 1842, `Secretary Sir James Graham visited and inspected the prison accompanied by Major Jebb'.
The performance of contractors, or lack of, again is not a new issue. The method of remedy and speed thereof is a lesson for today. `It is reported that a man in charge of a cart or wagon bringing goods to the prison has carelessly permitted his horse and cart to run against and injure one of the inner gates. I requested that the man might be desired to attend upon me. Mr Thompson of 300 Oxford Street, attended me, and admitted that the accident had happened inadvertently by a carrier in his employment. He preferred his readiness to make good, at his own cost any damage - if the Commissioners should think proper.
Another example of contractors not meeting their obligations is recorded in respect of the meat contract. `A complaint in writing was preferred to me by warder J J Prosser, on behalf of himself and other warders, that the meat had been improperly cooked. From investigation I found the complaint was well founded. The cook himself admitted the fact, excusing himself on the grounds that he had been unable to procure from the steward the victuals in sufficient time to cook the same properly by the hour, by which it was required by the Prison Regulations to be done. The steward confirmed that the Contractor had been extremely irregular in delivering the victuals to the prison. The steward engaged to see and remonstrate with him. I am now advised that by the steward that he has so arranged with the Contractor that a similar complaint is not likely to happen again from same cause.'

The details of the criteria upon which the prisoner were selected for Pentonville is not clearly set out. It is known they were all destined for transportation, it is also known that they had to be physically and mentally fit. The first prisoners were received on December 21st; however the Governor's entry in respect of this is very low key. 'Arrival of first prisoners, seen by governor and set to work.' Neither the number nor from where they came is recorded. By contrast the reference to the next group is more expansive, and is striking in respect of the distance many were coming from. `December 22nd, at about the hour of 8 this evening, I received an Order from the Home Office to admit 6 prisoners from Edinburgh, 1 from Ironmonger Lane, 1 from Salford, 1 from Hertford, 2 from Springfield, 1 from Cambridge. Three other prisoners are to be received from Newgate on Monday next.

Having said the prisoners had to be fit, the first record of any illness occurred on Christmas Day, the Governor records `John Thomas, Division D Cell 34, was placed under medical treatment in his cell for itch, and subsequently, by the direction of the Doctor, was moved to the itch cell in the Hospital Ward.

Within a month there were 48 prisoners, and the Governor personally allocated them to their trades in shoemaking, tailoring and mat making. In selecting the various trades I have been governed by a consideration of the prisoners age, his own choice, his former habits, and the length of time required for attaining a fair knowledge of each trade. All the prisoners have commenced work, an excellent mat has been finished today. The prisoner who made it is evidently much pleased with it and seems proud of his performance. He regrets he never knew the art before. I am inclined to believe that all the prisoners who have been employed have taken a deep interest in what they have been doing.

This was an impressive start with the Governor setting clear standards on how the prison was to be run. Not all was to remain so positive as will become clear. As with all new prisons even today, there were teething problems, particularly as this was a pioneering prison. These included, what hours the clerk to the Governor, clerk to the Steward and clerk to the Manufacturer should work. He decided on 9 a.m... to 5 p.m.., which does appear generous when officers commenced at 6 a.m. He did allow for contingencies, `I beg leave to recommend that all extraordinary occasions requiring a more lengthy attendance the same should be given, and be regulated according to the exigency of each particular case.' It could be then that the different hours of attendance pertinent today owe their origin to decisions made at one establishment and its Governor in 1843.

Other pressing needs were a supply of materials for the workshops, a clock for the kitchen `in order for the cook to perform his duties conveniently and punctually', knee caps for the prisoners to enable them to wash the prison floors, and Brass Plates bearing the number of the cells, which are to be worn by the prisoners.

`Some arrangement is required for the disposing of the Liquor and Bones which accumulate in the kitchen, after the victuals have been cooked. The cook has requested the privilege of taking these for his own benefit, offering to carry them beyond the prison at his own trouble and expense. There being no depositary, I shall allow him, until the Commissioners have decided how otherwise they shall be disposed of.

The rules for Subordinate Officers have been received, the Rules for the Prisoners have not. The latter are much needed. A table of fines for better enforcing the performance of their duties by the Subordinate Officers is required at once. In two or three instances, warders have arrived at 1/2 past 6 in the morning, being half an hour after their time. A table of fines has not been deduced. Until a complete table can be arranged, it will be convenient at once to settle some fines. I will endeavour to submit some instances for the decision of the Commissioners when most convenient to them. The first member of staff to be so dealt with was one of the Principal Warders on 13 January 1943, for failing to lock a gate. He was fined but the amount is not recorded. On the 19 January, 3 staff were fined, Corbett the Carpenter for coming 1/2 hour late 1/6d, Warder Trotter for not locking Cell 32 when the prisoner was there, 10/- and Engineer Box for a similar offence 10/-. It is to be seen, then, that discipline was strict and punishment swift and dealt with presumptively by the Governor. Only more serious or repeated offences were reported to the Commissioners. To reinforce the discipline, the names of staff dealt with were read out at the daily parade.

Other issues of the day remain issues still today. `It is desirable, at once, with the knowledge and approbation of the Commissioners, to adopt some uniform and settled plan for the distribution and safe custody of the numerous prison keys. To this end a paper is endorsed `Custody of the Prison Keys'. The second issue was identification of prison property. `I beg to suggest the convenience of having a proper set of Brands for branding the various implements, tools, utensils and articles of furniture. This means of distinguishing Prison Property will prevent much confusion and will facilitate a system of account keeping by the warders.'

Another anxiety that is no longer an issue was `Fifty Muskets and a quantity of Gun Powder were yesterday brought to the prison. A safe depositary for these, especially the Gun Powder is immediately required.' In what circumstances these weapons would be used is not revealed. What is clear is that the staff were expected to be in control.

There were two last niggling issues we would still all recognise in some guise today. The first was for a supply of Printed Forms that were used daily. As he so succinctly put it `It is respectfully submitted that the time of the Governor's Clerk may be much more usefully employed than in writing out these forms as they are required daily and the time and labour consumed therein is considerable.' The other was a budgetary issue and the need to be empowered to have a petty cash float in order to get and purchase small items. `It would be a great convenience if the Steward was empowered to order from time to time, when necessary with authority from the Governor, various trifles for the use of the prison, without waiting for an Order from the Board.'

As indicated earlier, religion was a powerful influence in mid 19th century. Chapel was held twice daily. All prisoners and staff attended, and the Governor recorded all absences. The Chapel measured 72 ft by 41 ft and was built like a large Lecture Room at a hospital with 260 box-like cubicles, about 10 in a row and 26 tiers rising steadily upwards, and rearwards, towards the back of the Chapel, each cubicle locked in one prisoner. Every prisoner could be observed by strategically placed staff, yet no one prisoner could see another. The Chapel could be filled in 7 minutes without haste. The problem was to empty the Chapel in minimum time in orderly fashion. The Governor gave this vexed issue much thought. Efficiency was very much a Victorian virtue. `I submit whether a stick or wand about 10 ft long would not be very useful to the officer whose duty it is to signalize the prisoners to quit the Chapel. Although an officer is always stationed in front of the Communion Table to motion the prisoners with his hand, it is found difficult, at all times, to fix their attention. Hence frequent irregularities and delays.'
The aforementioned was written on December 29th 1842. On January 12th, after obvious careful study, the Governor has entered, `With reference to the prisoners attending Chapel Service, it is very easy to place them in their stalls. But to withdraw them expeditiously, and in good order, without some better plan than has been hitherto practiced it is extremely difficult - or will be so when the prison is full. The prisoner in his stall - not knowing when the prisoner next to him quits - cannot be made to understand when his own turn arrives, without some more effectual means than by being pointed at by a warder - especially if at any distance from him. A long stick or wand has been used during the last few days. This mode however, will not answer when the Chapel is full. Calling the numbers of the prisoners is another mode which has been suggested; but it would be both noisy and confusing. Another mode is now submitted is, that of numbering every row of stalls and every stall in each row immediately before the eye of the prisoner on the ledge of his stall and painting corresponding numbers in large white figures on a black ground (covering the letter with a sliding board) to be used by an officer in front of the stalls. The figures would be few, and the officer would uncover them in succession by withdrawing the `sliding board'. If the submitted plan is approved I submit that the prisoners might easily be trained to understand and act upon it.'

The Governor recorded daily the absentees of inmates and staff at services vis, `Absent yesterday from Chapel Service in the morning, 6 prisoners sick in their cells, 1 in the Infirmary, 1 under punishment, 16 at the pump and 3 officers on duty. In the afternoon, the prisoners absent were 5 sick in their cells, 1 in the Infirmary, 2 under punishment and 16 at the pump. All the officers and resident servants of the prison attended Morning Service except those who were on `duty or on leave' and also at the Afternoon Service with the like exceptions and except as follows from causes unknown; the Resident Surgeon, the Steward, the Gardner, Steward's Porter and Lamplighter - these I will investigate.'

Up Until April 1943, prisoners had been attending Chapel twice each day, but on April 27th the population of the new prison went over the half-way mark - 285 in fact - as a result, the entry for Chapel that day says `Absentees from the Chapel today were 4 prisoners sick in their cells, 16 at the Pump and 8 for want of accommodation in the Chapel.'

The other major problem that the Governor found was the supply of water. All water was pumped up from an artesian well below the prison. At its opening the prison was equipped with only one pump, at which 16 prisoners could work at a time and it was felt this would be adequate. It proved not to be, and a second pump was installed some time later.
The water was pumped to two large tanks, in the roof above the Centre. A large copper trough ran through the 20 inch thick outer wall of each building, the trough was separated into sections for each cell by partitions. Each section holding exactly 6 gallons of water. These sections were filled daily by opening a stop-cock; each section overflowed in turn until all were filled. Each prisoner then had his amount of water which was to last him that day.
The pumping of water was so crucial that the prisoners employed on this task were excused Church attendance. The Governor approached the problem with the precision and detail he gave to every aspect he considered, including the fact that despite the importance given to the pumping of water, none could be done on the Sabbath, so extra cranking was required on the Saturday.

He writes `An estimate is submitted by which it is meant to show that about 4,739 gallons of water is the quantity that is required for consumption. The prisoners have been working at the Pumps at the rate of 218 revolutions in every 10 minutes or at about 21 per minute, throwing up in every 10 minutes about 100 gallons; so that about 600 gallons can be raised hourly. Therefore to raise the necessary daily supply about 9 hours of uninterrupted labour will be required. The Sunday's supply however, about 4,000 gallons must be produced during the six working days. The average daily hours of pumping will therefore be about 9 hours. But during the winter the prisoners cannot well give more than 5 or 6 hours of effective labour at this occupation. Moreover, in the case of the Pump or the cisterns being out of repair, or the latter requiring to be cleaned, or the spring after a dry summer yielding a less liberal supply than ordinarily, considerable inconvenience might be sustained.'

Having done all his calculations he was then instructed to provide a hot bath for every prisoner once a fortnight. Even the temperature of the water was legislated for - 80 degrees in summer and 98 degrees in winter. To add to the time it took to complete this task, the water had to be changed after every fourth bath. You can almost feel his frustration as he wrestles with this new request.

Allowing time for taking the prisoners to and from them, and for bathing, dressing, and undressing, 15 minutes will be consumed, or 4 prisoners might be bathed in each hour - total 32 prisoners every hour. One Division (say 120 prisoners) would require 4 hours exclusive of the time occupied with emptying and refilling the baths which should be done at least once in every hour, or for every 4 men. The warders cannot well be spared from their other duties more than four hours a day. Hot water will be required for keeping up the temperature to 98 degrees for 4 days. The prisoners would all have to pass through Division D to the baths. A covered way might be desirable to prevent cold. The same covered way would be useful for manning the pumps (which are close by) in bad weather, and moreover enable the prisoners to be worked more safely during the dark mornings and evenings in the winter. Every prisoner now washes his feet once a week, and their general cleanliness is strictly attended to'. He makes the further observation that the expenditure of water and fuel at the baths will be considerable. He makes it clear to the Commissioners in his polite way, that this needs to be recognised. A clear message that today Governors are all too familiar with.

When the population began to reach somewhere near the maximum to be expected, the Governor was compelled to write `The prisoners have had no warm baths during the last month in consequence of a scarcity of water, nor have the prisoners been able to wash their feet. The 2 pumps being now in operation it is hoped the supply will be sufficient in future.' Around April 1844, the Prison Boards had started classifying prisoners for their eligibility for one of the three classes of deportation. Prisoners were issued `stripes' which were sewn onto their uniform. When a prisoner was `reported' (or placed on report in the current parlance) this was reviewed. A batch of 288 prisoners were initially identified as ready for the next transportation. On 4 June a selection of a further 44 is mentioned and `Mr Crawford and Mr Russell examined the prisoners who had been recommended by the Chaplain and myself to be placed in the Emigrant Class, 47 in number. These were the 1st Class Passes and would entitle them to live an ordinary life in `Van Dieman's hand' provided that they remained there at least until the expiration of their full sentence.'

On June 21st 1844, exactly 18 months after the opening of the new prison, Mr Hoskings has entered `Division A of the 1st Transport Class, with its Superintendent and its Assistant Superintendent, and the General Superintendent of the Transport Classes, altogether 40 prisoners were worked in the Garden this day for the first time in preparation to their being associated on board ship on their passage to the Colonies. They behaved with strict propriety. It looked as if the time was drawing near for the very first convicts to be moved out, and put to test everything that Pentonville had been built for.

Apart from one or two prisoners being transferred to Millbank and one to a `hulk' in the Thames, there was no movement whatsoever in the population from December `43 onwards - apart from making up for those transferred - because of want of room. The number remained a constant 504 although the numbers of men awaiting admission continued to rise. Only by receiving orders to ship out transportees could room be found for further receptions.

One can only assume that the feelings amongst prisoners was running high once they had been informed of the Class to which they had been allocated, it was seemingly so, as the Journal has more than the usual number of reports against discipline. There are some recognisable characters, i.e... prisoners creating disturbances and tearing off their `conduct stripes' and complaining of the classification allotted to them. One such report reads `At about half past 3 p.m. the door of Cell D 2-37 occupied by Reg. No. 128 was discovered to be securely barricaded from within. On letting down the Trap, the prisoner was seen to be excited and violent in the highest degree. I requested him to remove the obstruction. He refused - threatening to commit suicide if any person should approach him, and pointing at the weapon which he intended to use. I requested C - the Carpenter to provide the best means for forcing an entrance. A strong piece of wood being then introduced through the Trap - affording a lever for acting on the barricade, the latter gave way - the prisoner during the attempt being most actively engaged in nailing, and endeavouring further to secure it - in resisting by every means the efforts used for its removal - ferociously assaulting the officers with a large chisel and hammer through the Trap - and disturbing the prison by shouting. It is impossible to conceive anything more violent, wanton, and unprovoked than his conduct, or any case deserving greater severity of punishment. His person being secured, I had him handcuffed and placed in the Dark Cell on the Punishment Diet. Within a few minutes after this Major Jebb arrived at the prison - to whom I reported his case; and who approved the use of the handcuffs. Major Jebb saw the prisoner and he was also visited by Sir Benjamin Brodie.'

Two small points to note, the behaviour of prisoners when upset is no different to today, they barricade, they threaten suicide, they threaten violence. Staff have to find a means of both containing and resolving the problem. Secondly, the reference to the `Dark Cell'. Other references to this imply refractory and noisy prisoners cannot be heard from this cell. `I then had him removed for better security to a dark cell, in which were no windows, and from whence, if noisy, he could not be heard by the prisoners in the grounds.' It would imply that it had no secondary means of light. It probably equates to what is now termed `special cell'. Again another example of Hosking's Prison being so akin to what we are all accustomed to finding. Then on the next page `Punished Reg. No. 72, C 2-33 with one day's confinement in his own cell on Punishment Diet and loss of stripes for having torn off his stripes and thrown them down the Water Closet, and when asked what had become of them, telling an untruth, saying `his jacket had been sent to be repaired.' It seems that the prisoner acted from a feeling of vexation at not receiving a third stripe to which he considered himself entitled. The prisoner is a man of sullen temper and has been recommended for the Second Class of Transport.'

By July 1844 some of the inmates had been in the prison 1 month over the expected time, the Governor explains the reason in an entry on July 24th by writing `Completed my communication to all prisoners who were to have been embarked on board the `William Jardine' of the probability of a further delay of about 6 weeks before they are removed. They received the communication in a very proper manner, and it can scarcely be said that there was any excitement or dissatisfaction amongst them. There were a few instances of disappointment, but they were rare exceptions to the general feeling.'
The first removal of prisoners for Deportation was on 29th July 1844. It is entered as follows, `The 21 prisoners confided by the Government to the care of Mr Yaldwin were sent off this morning at 6 a.m. under the charge of the Deputy Governor to be embarked on board the `Royal George' at Spithead for Port Phillip. They were not placed under personal restraint. Their conduct throughout the journey showed that they were worthy of the confidence reposed in them - one and all expressed their gratitude for the kindness which had been shown to them, and the great advantages they had derived from the instructions given to them in this prison. The `Royal George' sailed shortly after receiving the prisoners on board.'
So it was that the first of a continuous stream of prisoners from Pentonville, to build up the Colonies began. The prison had started on its intended role - the 21 prisoners put on board the `Royal George' were of the `First Class' (Emigrant), of whom the Governor General, His Excellency, Mr Latrobe said later, `They have obviously been carefully selected and they are not unworthy of the favours shown to them.'

On the 30th August 1844 there were 128 men under orders for admission to the prison. Some of the inmates had now served as long as 20 months. Mr Hosking's entry for that day says that all the prisoners confined were `generally in excellent health and that general whitewashing was completed within the Divisions.'

On the 24 September, 1844, Mr Hampton, Surgeon Superintendent of Convicts visited to examine all the prisoners about to be embarked on board the `Sir George Seymour'. On 24 October the order was received from Sir J Graham, for the removal of 345 prisoners to the ship for transportation. The Governor was clearly very busy now that the order had arrived and records that he had been absent from Chapel due to all the preparation necessary. On the 27th October `The arrangements required for embarking the prisoners tomorrow morning prevented my attending Chapel this day or visiting the prisoners but all the prisoners attended Divine Service once and 250 attended a second time.'

'Reg. No. 304, C 2-28 at 4 p.m. was found by his warder to be in his cell insensible and in a state of great bodily exhaustion from having attempted suicide. The rope by which he suspended himself broke, and he fell to the ground. He was to have been embarked tomorrow, 28th October, with others on board the `Sir George Seymour!' He states that the dread of being sent out of the country caused him to commit the rash act.'
28th October 1844 `Removed 169 prisoners to the `Sir George Seymour' at Woolwich being part of the 345 under orders from transportation. In consequence of such removal at an early hour this morning - 6 o'clock - and the preparations required for the removal of the remainder tomorrow morning, there has been no Chapel Service this day.' Then on the 29th `At 1/4 before 6 a.m. The remainder of the prisoners (176) were removed to the `Sir George Seymour'.'

`I have transferred all the remaining convicts in the prison into Division D and Ward No. 1 of A Division, as a temporary measure to enable all the officers who have not yet had it, to take their leave of absence.' `In consequence of the arduous duty which the warders and servants of the prison have had to perform on the occasion of removing the prisoners on board the `Sir George Seymour' requiring their attendance at a very early hour in the mornings of two successive days - and the very satisfactory manner in which that duty has been performed, I have allowed them each 1 day's holiday, and in some especial cases 2 days, to be taken on such days as may be convenient with reference to the duties of the prison. I have sent by the hands of Mr W, official notice to the Surgeon Superintendent that Reg. No. 304, now on board ship, attempted suicide Sunday night last.'

The cycle then begins all over again with receptions flooding in to fill the vacancies. On 31 October, he notes, `The 15 prisoners received here this day have been provided with a bread and cheese dinner. The notice of their coming having been received a few minutes before they arrived, there was not time to prepare the ordinary meal. On 1st November 39 prisoners were received and further receptions the next day to take the roll up to 169 and to begin again on the uphill climb to maximum numbers with no relaxation in the system. The Governor remarks `The whole of our prisoners from the day on which the last batch was removed for embarkation (vis. on the 29th October) up to this day, have been located exclusively in A and D Divisions. This day I have distributed the entire body throughout the several Divisions and Wards according to their Trade and School Classes and shall proceed to fill the vacant cells in this order as new prisoners are admitted.'
The first Journal comes to an end on 14 November 1844. It ends very much as life at the prison had commenced, with a prisoner problem and a staff problem. `Punished 620 for insubordination in whistling, singing and dancing in his cell in wilful violation of the Prison Rules. The prisoner's avowed objective is to get away from the prison and be transported at once. He was extremely violent and noisy when taken to the Refractory Ward. He was admitted from Millbank Saturday last. He appears to have been in many of the Metropolitan Prisons and to have undergone every kind of punishment for the commission of prison offences.'

Fined Warder Hilleard 1/- and admonished him for neglecting to comply with the written order in not sending notice yesterday accounting for his absence or a Medical Certificate of inability. He alleges he was unwell and had no means of communicating with the prison, but his explanation is not so satisfactory as to entitle him to exception from the fine.

So ends through the writings of Robert Hosking, a gallop through the early history of Pentonville. Apart from the eerie silence that must have prevailed, many of the procedures, the issues, the problems would not be strange to staff even today. Then human nature is slow to change, but what is remarkable is the vision, insight and clarity of mind and decision making of Robert Hosking, what he introduced prevailed through the passage of history. Pentonville was more than a `Model Prison' it was indeed a role model for the modern prison service.

The next two chapters go into more detail on some of the staff issues and prisoner matters in this early period. The next Governor's Journal preserved in its entirely is for the period 1898-1905. Some of the developments in the intervening years can be traced from other sources. This will be the basis of Chapter 9.

Chap 7
Chap 7Chap 7Chap 7
Chap 7