Middlesex House of Correction: male prisoners treading on the boards of a treadmill: in the foreground others sit resting. Wood engraving by W.B. Gardner, 1874, after M. Fitzgerald.

  • Fitzgerald, Michael, active 1871-1891.
  • Pictures
  • Online

Selected images from this work

View 1 image

About this work


"The Coldbath-Fields Treadwheel. In our notice, last week, of two other features or apartments of the Middlesex House of Correction, in Coldbath-fields, Clerkenwell, the treadmill or treadwheel got its share of description. Looking at the Illustration drawn and engraved for the present number, it is needful to remember our explanation of the manner in which half the men and boys supposed to be undergoing this penal labour are allowed to sit idle, during every second quarter of an hour, while the other half of them mount the steps for an equal space of time. It is, therefore, only fifteen minutes' continuous exertion that is ever imposed upon any one of these deserving public servants, who is sure of being indulged directly afterwards with fifteen minutes' entire and profound repose. The whole time devoted in the "working" day to this judicious alternation of toil and rest in the prison wheel-yard is but six hours and a half at Clerkenwell, making three hours and a quarter the total amount of daily endurance; and their operations are wholly suspended for a full hour at noon to attend to the more urgent business of dinner. In the City of London House of Correction, at Holloway, the wheel is kept going two hours longer; but the alternate relief system is employed there, as well as in the Clerkenwell prison. We are informed by an unconvicted, and possibly not criminal, person of our acquaintance who has been on the treadwheel, that he did not feel it more fatiguing than to go up a common ladder, but rather less fatiguing, because the arms and chest are not put to the toil of an actual ascent. The lower limbs and the back endure a strain which becomes irksome after many steps, and there are forty-eight steps in a minute. It seems an ill-contrived means of inuring the prisoners to any real labour, such as they would have to perform if ever they chose to earn an honest living. The turning of a wheel by hand, or the working of a handcrank, is certainly more healthful and better calculated to form an energetic bodily habit, which is, after all, one of the main points in the moral reformation of petty thieve and sneaking larceners, the majority of our criminals in town. We glance again, in parting, at the six disgraced individuals who figure in our artist's sketch. Three of them standing up, whose names we know not, but who are here designated F 108, F 110, and F 112, have their backs just now turned towards us, and while in that posture we shall refrain from saying a word against them. As for Nos. 107, 109, and 111, who are seated below, two of them are reading a good book, while the last is meditating, let us hope and trust, upon the means of grace whereby he may become a better man. All that is very well; but we seriously doubt whether any of these six, or of the 684 at one time mustered in the wheelyard, is in a fair way to learn the true dignity, the beauty, and the blessed safety of honest labour. What pedant of a former administrative school was the inventor of this absurd machine? He should have had it called by his own name, as that of Dr. Guillotin was bestowed on the French decapitating machine of death."--Illustrated London News, loc. cit. (p. 14)



Physical description

1 print : wood engraving ; sheet 35.5 x 24.6 cm


Sketches in the Clerkenwell House of Correction: The treadwheel machine. M.F. W.B.G. sc.


Wellcome Collection 37711i



Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

Permanent link