Our history – prison engraving

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Delve deeper into the history of our borough with our series of posts in collaboration with Islington Museum and the Local History Centre. All objects mentioned are on display or held at these venues. Read the full series here.

Engraving of burglar Jack Sheppard escaping Clerkenwell Prison in 1724

This dramatic engraving of notorious 18th century burglar Jack Sheppard and his accomplice escaping from Clerkenwell Prison in 1724 is one of many historical illustrations held in the collection of Islington Local History Centre.

The exploits of Spitalfields-born Jack Sheppard became the talk of all ranks of society, especially his daring escapes from various London prisons. In May 1724, he was committed to Clerkenwell Prison for robbery along with his female partner-in-crime Edgworth Bess. Soon after imprisonment, however, Jack broke a hole in his cell wall and, by tying blankets together, descended into adjacent Clerkenwell Bridewell Prison’s yard and over its 22-foot high wall to freedom.

The engraving was produced in 1839 by artist and Islington resident George Cruikshank who lived at 69-71 Amwell Street. He was well known as illustrator of Charles Dicken’s ‘Oliver Twist’.

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