St Paul’s Cathedral has been here for over 1,400 years. It has been built and rebuilt five times, and always its main purpose has been as a
place of worship and prayer.
St Paul's, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Step inside and you can enjoy the Cathedral's awe-inspiring
interior, and uncover fascinating stories about its history.
Learning & Faith
Lifelong learning is a core part of the our work, delivered through a variety of events by St Paul's Institute, and the
Cathedral's Adult Learning and Schools & Family Learning departments.
History & Collections
For more than 1,400 years, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point in the City. The present Cathedral is the
masterpiece of Britain's most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren.
Behind the scenes, the cost of caring for St Paul's and continuing to deliver our central ministry and work is enormous and the generosity of
our supporters is critical.
Widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and a powerful symbol of the splendour of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is a
breathtaking events venue.
The Women of Woking Prison and the Nelson Chamber Mosaics
Underfoot in St Paul’s Cathedral, thousands of pieces of mosaic create elaborate geometric and floral patterns, not undertaken by
highly-trained craftsmen - rather, laboriously and carefully laid by the female inmates of Woking Prison.
Woking Prison opened in 1859, and was built to contain convicts with mental and physical disabilities, who were deemed unfit for the hard labour of
public work, as expected of other prisons. In Woking Prison, the women would be required to perform tasks such as knitting, needlework, and
laundry, with a few being enlisted to the Mosaic Department. Here, they would earn 1s2d a day (roughly £3.65 in today’s money), by cutting pieces
of broken marble to size, laying them in a pattern, and then grouting and polishing them. Their works were nicknamed ‘Opus Criminales,’ and other
examples of their craftswomenship can be seen in parts of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green.
Although the use of convict labour was approved by the Home Secretary at the time, issues around its ethics, and its effect on the health of
already disabled individuals was, and still is, much disputed. The implementation of convict labour was enacted in 1878, part of a system of
“reforms” under the Prison Reform Act of 1877, as envisaged by Sir Edmund Frederick DuCane. The employment of convicts during their sentence was
seen as equipping them with employable skills to serve them once released; however, many of the women involved in the Mosaics Department did not
find such similar work once released, due to its specific nature.
The prison system of the time sought to reform its inmates by initially exposing them to an intense period of solitary confinement:
nine months for men and four months for women, where most of the day would be spent in the cell, with minimal interaction from other
prisoners and wardens, allowed out only for chapel and exercise. This was thought to prompt introspection for the crime and repentance within
the convict. Florence Maybrick, who spent 15 years in prison for the murder of her husband, recalled in her memoir that in separate confinement,
‘all individuality, all friendship, all things that make human beings attractive to one another are absent.’ Following their period in separate
confinement, male prisoners would be sent out to public works, which, although demanding, was seen to beneficial for providing a change in
environment. This was not the case for women, as much of their labour was sedentary and performed indoors, which was criticised at the time for
being monotonous, at best. The lack of change in scenery was condemned by notable prison reformist figure, John Henry Moran, for negatively
impacting the physical and mental health of female inmates. In this way, the exploitative use of underpaid prison labour in the creation of some of
London’s most important mosaics-work can be shown to have both positive and negative implications for both the institutions enlisting their work,
and the women involved.