Newgate Prison

Newgate Prison is one of the most infamous prisons of English history.

The prison was built at Newgate in 1188 on the orders of Henry I, and was significantly enlarged in 1236. It was used for a number of purposes including imprisoning people awaiting execution (although it was not always secure: burglar Jack Sheppard escaped from the prison three times before he went to the gallows in 1724).

The original prison was demolished and a new one (designed by George Dance) was constructed on the site between 1770 and 1778. It was attacked by rioting mobs during the Gordon riots in 1780, the prison set on fire, many prisoners died during the blaze and c. 300 escaped to temporary freedom. It was rebuilt two years later.

In 1783 the city of London's gallows were moved from Tyburn to just outside of Newgate. The public spectacle of prisoners' executions drew large crowds.

The prison drew the attention of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry and conditions improved after she presented evidence to the House of Commons and as a result of her own private efforts in the early 19th century.

From 1868 executions were carried out in private within Newgate. In 1902 the prison was demolished and the Old Bailey now stands upon its site.

The prison appears in a number of novels by Charles Dickens including Barnaby Rudge, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, as well as in Michael Crichton's novel "The Great Train Robbery".

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