NEWGATE PRISON

LOCATION: Newgate street, old bailey, city London. Originally located at the site of Newgate, a gate in the roman London wall.

BUILT: 1188.

Newgate prison has been rebuilt many times. The gate was built in the twelfth century and demolished by 1904. The prison remained in use for seven hundred years. It was under Henry II, England instituted legal reforms that gave the crown more control over the administration of justice. As part of his assize of clarendon of 1166, he required the construction of prisons, where the accused would stay while royal judges debated their innocence or guilt and subsequent punishment. In 1188, Newgate was the first institution established to meet that purpose.
 
In the year 1236, the prison began its plan of enlargement, additional extensions included the dungeons. Henry  III of England converted one of the Newgate turrets, which still functioned as a main gate into the city and into an extension of the prison.
 
In the 15th century. The prison was temporary shutdown in 1419. Due to the facts that it was collapsing and decaying, and many prisoners were dying from the close quarters, overcrowding, rampant disease, and bad conditions. In one year, twenty- two prisoners died from "gaol fever.
 
In 1422, the prison was pulled down and rebuilt here was a new central hall for meals. A new chapel and the creation of additional chambers and basement cells with no light or ventilation. The prisons housed both male and female felons including debtors. They separated the prisoners into wards by gender. By the mid-15th century, Newgate could accommodate roughly three hundred prisoners. Even though the prisoners lived in separate quarters, they mixed freely with each other and visitors to the prison.
THREE MAIN WARDS:
 
  • MASTER’S SIDE: FOR THOSE COULD AFFORD TO PAY FOR THEIR OWN FOOD AND ACCOMMODATIONS
  • COMMON SIDE OR THOSE WHO WERE TOO POOR
  • PRESS YARD FOR SPECIAL PRISONERS
 
THE PRISON WAS OFTEN USED AS A HOLDING PLACE FOR HERETICS, TRAITORS, AND REBELLIOUS SUBJECTS BROUGHT TO LONDON FOR TRIAL
The prison was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Then was rebuilt in 1672 by Sir Christopher Wren, extending into new buildings on the south side of the street.
 
LIFE AS A PRISONER
All types of criminals stayed at Newgate. Some had committed acts of petty crime and theft. Some were imprisoned for breaking and entering homes or committing highway robberies. While others performed more serious crimes such as rapes and murders. The number of prisoners in Newgate for specific types of crime often grew and fell, reflecting the public anxieties of the time.
 
Upon a prisoner’s arrival at Newgate, they would be chained and then held in an appropriate dungeon for their crime. Those that were sentenced to death would stay in a cellar underneath the keepers house. or an open sewer lined with chains and shackles to encourage submission. Debtors were sent to the "stone hall" whereas common felons were taken to the "stone hold. Prisoners who could afford to buy alcohol from the prisoner-run drinking cellar, which was by the main entrance to Newgate, remained perpetually drunk. There were lice everywhere, & jailers left the prisoners chained to the wall to languish and starve
 
 
PRISON GUARDS/ WARDEN
The cruel treatment from guards did nothing to help the unfortunate prisoners. According to medieval statute, the prison was to be managed by two annually elected Sheriffs, who in turn would sublet the administration of the prison to private "gaolers", or "Keepers", for a price
the guards could be very cruel, issuing the prisoners pay literally for everything, as soon as they entered the prison gates. Toi earn additional money, guards would blackmail, and tortured prisoners such as Edmund Lorimer, who was infamous for charging inmates four times the legal limit for the removal of irons, and Hugh De Croydon, who was eventually convicted of blackmailing prisoners in his care.
In 1393, new regulation was added to prevent gaolers from charging for lamps or beds.
 
PRISON REFORM:
In 1431, prison reform was discussed. Regulations included:
  • Separating freemen and freewomen into the north and south chambers, respectively, and keeping the rest of the prisoners in underground holding cells
  • Good prisoners who had not been accused of serious crimes would be allowed to use the chapel and recreation rooms at no additional fees.
  • Debtors whose burden did not meet a minimum threshold would not be required to wear shackles.
  • To reduce the waiting time between jail deliveries to going to the Old Bailey, the aim was reducing suffering, but these efforts had little effect
 
The prison was supposed to have yearly inspections, but whether or not they actually occurred is unknown.
WELL KNOWN PRISONER OF NEWGATE
FILMS AND DRAMAS THAT FEATURE NEWGATE PRISON
 
  • THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS (1996 TV MOVIE)
  • WHERE'S JACK? (1969)
  • ROGUES' GALLERY TV SERIES (1968–1969)
  • THE DEVIL'S WHORE, CHANNEL 4 IN 2008

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