If you’re looking to serve time in a drinking establishment with a difference, then how about being banged up in the boozer? These bars and pubs bring new meaning to the phrase ‘lock-in’, as they’re all housed in former prisons or police cells. Enjoy a drink in the dock, cosy up inside a former cell, or simply enjoy the atmospheric surroundings as you dream of being locked away with an endless supply of beer. Thankfully you’ll be on the right side of the bars when drinking in these historic hostelries. Here are 9 of Britain’s best pubs and bars that used to be prisons.
The Old Gaolhouse, Winchester
The site of a prison since the early 13th century, The Old Gaolhouse has been pouring pints for punters since 1997. The pub, part of the Wetherspoon chain, is housed in what was once the prison Governor’s House, which sat at the centre of a new prison for debtors built in 1805. The jail was sold off in the mid-19th century after a new prison was opened nearby.
11a Jersey Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 8RZ
Furnival’s Well, The Bridewell, Liverpool
This spot has come full circle in its illustrious history, the site was used for a pub in a bygone era, before becoming home to a police station and Victorian jail in the 1850s. It is now welcoming haunt for freemen again, with the old police sails turned into plush and cosy bar booths. Home to a specialist cocktail bar, you can enjoy real ales, stouts and porters from local breweries, as well as recommendations from the bar staff for matched spirits.
1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, Liverpool L1 5FB
The Morpeth Arms, London
You may enjoy some supernatural company at this historic London pub, as the spirits of the former prisoners are known to make a nuisance of themselves among the modern-day punters. The underground cells are still in place at this eerie establishment, which was once used as a holding prison before convicts were shipped off to Australia from the old Millbank Prison.
58 Millbank, Westminster, London, SW1P 4RW
The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Keswick, Cumbria
Nestled in the Lake District, this Wetherspoon’s pub opened in 2014, with the building previously having been used as Keswick’s magistrates’ court and police station throughout the 20th century.
It is named after the title held by Sir John Bankes, who a workhouse on the site in 1642 and was appointed as one of the highest judicial officials in England – in the role of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
The pub now bears plenty of nods to its criminal past, including turning two cells into dining areas, while retaining the original cell doors.
2 Bank St, Keswick CA12 5JY
Malmaison – Oxford
Enjoy a drink in the clink at this former prison in central Oxford. It is now home to an upmarket Malmaison hotel, with a suitably stylish cocktail and wine bar. There’s even a prison porridge-themed drink to sup on, a creamy, liquor and oat-infused vodka cocktail.
Oxford Castle, 3 New Road, Oxford OX1 1AY
Jailhouse Bar, Courthouse Hotel – Shoreditch, London
The old holding cells are still on show in the unique surrounds of this former police station, which once held prisoners for the adjoining magistrates court. In fact, infamous gangsters The Krays were among the previous guests, ahead of their first criminal court hearing back in the 1960s. These days, the cramped cells have been turned into chic booths, where you can enjoy table service for bespoke cocktails or bottles of London craft beers.
The grand decor of the Jailhouse Bar includes plenty of nods to its notorious past, while for a taste of freedom, head to the Sky Terrace bar upstairs in the hotel, which offers panoramic views of London.
The Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch. 335–337 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LL
The Pound Bar & Kitchen – Canterbury, Kent
Choose from a selection of local beers, ciders and handmade cocktails, as you settle back in one of the three restored former cells. This bar is nestled in Canterbury’s former city gaol, dating back to 1830, while the space also includes the gaoler’s house and Victorian-era former police station. It oozes atmosphere and has earned plenty of accolades, including being named Kent’s best bar.
This is not just a trip to a bar though, it’s a step back in time and a true historic experience. The buildings and adjoining towers are all part of England’s largest surviving medieval gateway.
1 Pound Lane, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2BZ
The Beehive Inn – Edinburgh
Edging its way onto this list, The Beehive is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs but not quite a former prison. It’s not even on the site of one. However, this former coach house does have a unique piece of prison history on display, as it houses the huge door from the condemned cell at the city’s notorious Carlton Jail, which was razed to the ground in 1935.
18-20 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JU
TT Liquor – Shoreditch, London
This deceptively decadent East London bottle shop has a dark secret hiding in its basement. Once you sneak your way through the liquor store and past the wood-panelled tasting room, you can find your way to the speakeasy bar in the cellar. It’s set in the former cells of what was once a police station above.
Atmospheric alcoves now house intimate cocktail classes and tasting sessions, all with a rustic charm befitting of a former slammer.
17B Kingsland Road, London E2 8AA