Once Upon A Time – House of Detention

Once Upon A Time draws on the rich and sometimes dark historical tales of Clerkenwell, from wife sales to prison bombings. Working in collaboration with UAL Chelsea College of Arts, BA Graphic Design Communication students were tasked with presenting a series of graphical vinyl designs to bring the stories to life during CDW’s 10th edition.

More than 50 design ideas were presented and seven winning entries were selected by a judging panel including; Max Fraser, CDW Content Editor, Priya Khanchandani, ICON Editor and David Barnett, Chelsea College of Art Course Leader, BA Graphic Design Communication.

Below we highlight the entries received for one of our locations, House of Detention and highlight the history of the area.

You can see all winning entries here.

Location Five – Jerusalem Passage 

Did you know that there was a prison on this site since 1616?

The House of Detention was rebuilt in 1842 as a “model prison”, a less harsh regime from the past. The inmates were allowed books and to exercise in an yard – which was just on the other side of the prison wall. In 1867 Colonel Burke, a leader of the “Fenians” (a radical group who believed that an independent republic of Ireland should be achieved through armed struggle) was being held here on remand.

On 13th December 1867 one of the prisoner’s fellow Fenians, Michael Barrett, attempted to help him escape. He put a bomb against the wall of the exercise yard to make a hole big enough for his comrade to escape but the bomb ruptured a nearby gas main causing the houses opposite to collapse, killing 12 people including a little girl and injuring many more. As things turned out, Burke had been in his cell, not the exercise yard at the time.

The was public outrage. The press equated the “extraordinary outrage”, with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Barrett was later arrested, tried and condemned to death, hung outside the Old Bailey on the 26th of May, 1868; the last public hanging in England. Over 2,000 people turned up to witness the spectacle, and many would have travelled to Farringdon on the underground railway.

The current building on the site was built for Hugh Myddleton School, now luxury apartments, of which the remains of the prison and the cells, exist under the site.

Seda S. Sezen


Kjartan Heimisson


Askshay Depala


Judzia Wynn


Claude Lily Chandler


Krishan Kumar


Leila George


Winning Entry: Natasha Lopez