Wandsworth Prison was built in 1849 as a Surrey House of Correction and was intended for those serving short sentences. It was designed by D R Hill of Birmingham to hold 1000 prisoners, and the first male prisoners were admitted in 1851 and the first female prisoners in 1852. In 1877, when prisons were nationalised, it became a short-term prison and in 1878, it took over from Horsemonger Lane as the hanging prison for South London. It came to be used for recidivists and, after the first world war, part was taken over as the Boys' Prison for London, under a separate governor and regime from the main block. Boys were assessed here and, if appropriate, allocated to Borstals. In 1929, this function was transferred to Wormwood Scrubs. More recently, the prison has been used to hold convicted persons awaiting sentence and as the centre for allocating long-term prisoners to other prisons outside the London area.
The records, ranging in date from 1847 to 1984, relate to prison administration, the prisoners, and, to a much a lesser extent, the prison staff. The earliest records are a minute and letter book, 1847-1850, and a letter book, 1848-1852, of the Committee for building a new prison in Surrey (ACC/3444/AD/01/001-002).
With regard to records relating to prisoners, the main series is the nominal registers (ACC/3444/PR/01), giving details of the name, age, trade, education, and religion of the prisoner, the date of committal, details of the offence and sentence and the date of discharge. These are in chronological order and run from 1879 to 1956, with several volumes produced each year. Unfortunately, there are only a few indexes to these registers. Those that survive run from 1940 to 1956 only (ACC/3444/PR/02).
The other important series giving details about individual prisoners are the registers of executions, 1892-1961 (ACC/3444/PR/03), and files on condemned prisoners, 1933-1954 (ACC/3444/PR/04).
Also of interest is a series of glass plates of prison officers and prisoners from 1920 to the 1930s.