Victorian Prison

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Victorian Prison 

New safety guidelines

  • When visiting the Victorian Prison and Magna Carta you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt. See government guidance
  • Visitors must prebook their ticket online here, you must book in advance and select and allocated slot of arrival for visiting Magna Carta
  • A one way system is in place.
  • There will be a limited number of tickets available each day.
  • New social distancing measures in place around the site
  • No maps or handouts will be distributed on site to stop the spread of covid-19. Why not pre download our site map here
  • No activites will be out on display such as our dress up cells, knitting and other activites we offer. This is due to them being a high risk touch point. Why not download some activities to do at home here
  • Annual pass holders will need to queue but you won't need to prebook
  • Wheelchair access will be limited to two wheelchair users at any one time.

We ask that you respect these new measures to protect the safety of yourselves and others and ensure the enjoyment of everyone.

Visiting the Victorian Prison at Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle’s Victorian Prison was designed for the 'separate system', an isolating regime that kept prisoners apart from the corrupting influence of their fellow prisoners. The Victorians believed that this would encourage them to reflect and repent, and more importantly to reform.   

Men, women and children as young as eight were held here from 1848 to 1878 for crimes ranging from stealing a waistcoat and Bible, to highway robbery and murder.   During this time seven murderers were hanged at the castle and their bodies buried in Lucy Tower where their graves can still be seen today.

Following extensive refurbishment and re-interpretation, the Victorian Prison is now fully open to visitors.  Cross the threshold into the soaring atrium and enter the prison regime.  Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the separate system.  Dress up as a prisoner or member of staff, perhaps the Governor or the Matron?  Explore the cells and imagine life behind bars: the solitude of the single cell, the chaos of the crowded cell, and the desperation of the dark cell.

William Messenger placed in dark cell on bread and water for 3 days for destroying prison books and insolence.

John Nicholson, Prison Governor, 15 April 1854

Discover more about life here in our specially commissioned films and interactive touch screen tables.  Step into the world of the Governor, Chaplain, Surgeon and Matron and find out what their jobs involved.  Come face to face with prisoners and discover their fates: what became of young John Cook, who set fire to a haystack aged eight; convicted burglar Joseph Ralph after his ingenious escape attempts; and wretched Lucy Buxton, who murdered her illegitimate baby?                 


Visit the austere and atmospheric separate system chapel – the only original one remaining in the world.  Stand in the Chaplain's shoes and survey your congregation from the pulpit: prisoners segregated in upright stalls, man separated from man.


With three floors of restored and recreated cells spread over separate male and female wings, interactive interpretation, and a Discovery Centre with hands-on activities for families, the Victorian Prison is a unique and fascinating experience.  More recently the prison has been used as a filming location for TV series such as Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife.