Prison Chapel at Lincoln Castle – Lincoln, England - Atlas Obscura

Prison Chapel at Lincoln Castle

Inside this chapel, Victorian jailers took the separate system to new levels.  

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This old prison is part of the castle museum in Lincoln which in itself is very interesting. It was originally designed around the separate system of penal justice. This meant that from the time prisoners entered the prison, until their release, they would never have contact with another inmate. The cells were all designed for solitary confinement with food served through a hatch in the door. When released out of the cell into the exercise yard, inmates had to wear a full hood. 

The only time inmates were allowed to remove their hoods while outside their cells was for Sunday chapel. To ensure none of the prisoners couldn’t see one another, the chapel was designed so that the pews had high doors between each pew that closed behind you. Once seated, the steep theatre-like seating ensured the only person each prisoner could see was the chaplain. They could then remove the hoods so the chaplain could see his congregation.

You can visit the chapel as part of the castle entry ticket and are allowed to sit in one of the isolated pews. Due to overcrowding and public appeal from prison reformers, the separate system did not last many years at Lincoln. However, the chapel remains as a reminder of the inhumanity of the Victorian penal system.

Not long after the opening of the prison, a cholera epidemic in London meant that Lincoln Prison became overcrowded, eventually leading to the abolishment of the Separate System. Single person cells were used to house up to three prisoners. 

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December 11, 2019

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