The 20th century saw many changes to the prison service, reflecting changes in laws and punishment. Capital punishment was abolished in 1964; corporal punishment in prisons was abolished in 1967.

Most of London's prisons date from the 19th century. The only wholly 20th century prisons were at Feltham and Belmarsh, both of which opened in the early 1990s.

The following prisons operated in 20th-century London.


Belmarsh high-security prison in Thamesmead, east London, opened on 2 April 1991. Built on part of the site of Woolwich Arsenal, it is a local prison for London, serving the Central Criminal Court and its feeder magistrate courts in southeast London. Notorious inmates include Jeffery Archer, who later published a book about his experience in Belmarsh.


The original prison buildings date from 1819. In 1862, the prison was sold to the government and converted into a women's prison. It was converted again 20 years later, this time into a military prison. In 1898, the buildings were enlarged and improved and Brixton was made the trial and remand prison for the whole of the London area. The prison now serves a number of courts in south London and houses a mixture of remand and sentenced prisoners.

Bookmark with:

  • What are these?