Prisoners picking oakum

back

Picking oakum was one of the most common forms of hard labour in Victorian prisons. Prisoners were given quantities of old rope, which they had to untwist into many corkscrew strands. They then had to take these individual strands and unroll them, usually by rolling them on their knee using their hands until the mesh became loose.

You can scroll the image around to explore different parts of it.

Black and white drawing of a large room packed with prisoners on benches picking oakum.
back