In these times of isolation, our #clerkenwellcuriosties this week looks back to a time, and a place, where isolation of another kind was fraught with far harsher restrictions than many of us are experiencing today. The Middlesex House of Correction (now Mount Pleasant Sorting Office) was built during the reign of King James I in 1794 and housed 1,800 inmates typically serving ‘short’ sentences of around two years. Whilst imprisoned they may not have been in total isolation, however, they were existing under a strict regime of hard labour and all intercommunication, by word, gesture or sign was totally prohibited. This is what is called the ‘Silent Associated System.’ A far cry from the communication options afforded to us nowadays, even when our physical space is similarly reduced. Thank goodness for the internet! When our allowed hour of outdoor exercise doesn’t quite cut it many of us are embracing home workouts and for those who have exercise equipment, we expect that’s taking a pounding too! The inmates didn’t have the luxury of choice, their workouts were required to power the prison. This was the very first prison to introduce the treadmill, back in the 1830’s. Prisoners were allowed five minutes off for every ten minutes on, over an eight-hour shift. This is the equivalent of climbing 8,000 feet! It’s like climbing Snowdon twice a day but with a far less interesting view. So, we remain thankful for the freedom we do have, however different it may seem right now.