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HMP Holloway was erected between 1970 and 1983 to replace an earlier prison. The foundation stone for the original prison was laid by the Lord Mayor, Sir James Duke was on 26th September 1849. Plans by James Bunstone Bunning had been approved by the Secretary of State on 29th January 1848 and a tender of £92,290 from William Trego was accepted in 1849. Trego went bankrupt in October 1850 and between November 1850 and January 1851 worked stopped. John Jay took up the contract in January 1851 and the house of correction opened on 6th October 1852.

The prison was entered through two gatehouses and the majority of the buildings were constructed of brick. The plan was radial with four cell blocks for adult males, an administration block, a juvenile block and a female block. Between 1881 and 1890, a number of alterations to cell blocks were made, while in 1883-4 a new male hospital was erected. New reception blocks and a laundry were built in 1886 and a new female infirmary was added in 1891-2. The prison became all-female in 1902 and three years later a new wing was opened. From 1906 until 1914 the prison housed women arrested for acts of militancy undertaken in the campaign for women's suffrage. By the 1930s the prison was found to be inadequate and by 1968 it was concluded that the prison should be demolished and a new one built on the site.

While new work began, the demolition work was still being carried out. The new prison was built as a secure hospital for 500 women. It is of red brick with projecting windows and flat roofs. Communal facilities include an education centre, workshops, gymnasium, swimming pool and chapel. A 'trolley walk' on level two runs around the site, linking all the main buildings and administration is located in the gatehouse complex. Inmate accommodation is in four and five storey cell blocks.

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