History of Newgate prison in London

This video from Britain says about itself:

Eighteenth century Newgate was a hellhole for both men and women. The turnkeys profited on the misery of the convicted, who faced disease, abuse and most likely death in the grotty dungeons of London’s most infamous prison. William Hogarth painted scenes he witnessed in ‘A Harlot’s Progress‘.

From British daily The Morning Star:

History of a brutal place

(Sunday 13 July 2008)

The Gaol, by Kelly Grovier
(John Murray, £25)

THIS is a fascinating account of how Newgate prison, which was situated roughly where the Old Bailey now stands and was rebuilt twice before its final demolition in 1903, inspired some of the greatest names in British literature.

Playwright Ben Jonson, who was famed for writing Volpone and The Alchemist, was held in the jail and wrote his comedy The Devil is an Ass in his old cell.

Christopher Marlowe was also a prisoner, but there is no hard evidence of the experience in his work, while Daniel Defoe, who was confined after lampooning church attitudes, wrote biographies of Jack Sheppard and Jonathan Wild, perhaps the prison’s two most famous inmates.

Then there is John Gay‘s The Beggar’s Opera, which was a runaway success in 1728 and is still popular today.

But the real strength of The Gaol is, in author Kelly Grovier’s words, its role as “the pre-eminent theatre in which the capital’s dramas unfolded,” with all the corruption, fever and brutality that made Newgate a “living morgue of social history.”

Rebuilt after its destruction in the Great Fire of 1666 and attacked in the Gordon Riots of 1780, it was finally demolished for good in 1903.

An enjoyable book about a dreadful place, one described by Henry Fielding as “a prototype of hell itself.”


3 thoughts on “History of Newgate prison in London

  1. Pingback: Parliament & Peterloo, London exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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