Additional Information

site map

The London Encylopaedia by Weinreb & Hibbert has entries on all these locations.
The Handbook guide to Murder Horror London covers this and other areas.
‘Prisons and Punishments of London’ by Richard Bryne.
'Criminal London: a pictorial history from medieval times to 1939' by Mark Herber.
The stories of 18th century condemned prisoners were written up by the prison chaplin and became the basis for the Newgate Calendar.
Old Bailey Sessions papers for 1684-1913 are held at the Guildhall Library which also has a collection of images, including many of these sites. These can be viewed at the library and on the COLLAGE
website. Search by: Society - Law & Crime.
A database of the proceedings of over 100,000 trials between 1674-1834 is available [
Information and images of some prisons are available
A detailed report on prisons was made by Mayhew published as Criminal Prisons of London by Henry Mayhew & J Binny (1862)
Read more on Victorian prisons

The LONDON METROPOLITAN ARCHIVES (between sites 15 & 16 on the walk route) are open to the public for research and contain amongst other things records of the Middlesex Sessions. [more info] [website]

In 1703 DANIEL DEFOE was imprisoned in Newgate. He used his experiences for his novel ‘Moll Flanders’ and also wrote about some of the famous criminals of the time.

Prisons feature in a number of the works of CHARLES DICKENS Sketches by Boz includes ‘A visit to Newgate’ and ‘Prisoners Van’ (featuring Coldbath Fields). In the ‘Pickwick Papers’ Mr Pickwick, Mrs Bardell and Mr Jingle are all imprisoned in the Fleet. In ‘Oliver Twist’ Mr Bumble appears at the Clerkenwell Sessions House. Fagin is last seen in the condemned cell of Newgate where he is visited by Oliver and Mr Brownlow. In ‘Great Expectations’ Pip is taken to Newgate by Wemmick and Abel Magwitch is due to hang from here, but dies of his injuries. Barnaby Rudge takes part in the Gordon Riots on Newgate where he is later imprisoned and meets up with his father. In ‘The Old Curiousity Shop’ Kit Nubbles is wrongfully imprisoned in Newgate. In ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ Charles Darnay is tried at the Old Bailey. The book ‘Dickens England’ by Tony Lynch records locations featured in the author’s works. There is a website which has a section about Dickens London.

The GORDON RIOTS took place in June 1780 and began as a protest against the repeal of anti-Catholic legislation organised by Lord George Gordon. However the crowd of some 50,000 got out of hand and started a campaign of general destruction. There were several days of looting and arson which included burning down the Fleet, Clerkenwell and Newgate prisons and releasing the inmates. Gordon was arrested and accused of high treason. He was aquitted but later convicted of libel and died of gaol fever in Newgate in 1793. A number of the ringleaders were hanged as hundreds of people had been killed in the riots.

In the series of paintings/etchings the ‘Rakes Progress’ by Hogarth scene VII is set in the Fleet Prison. It is available to view in Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. [website]

The MUSEUM Of LONDON has on display doors and other fitments from the Newgate Prison demolished in 1902 together with other information on London crime and punishment. [more info] [website]

When the Hugh Myddleton School was built at Clerkenwell the basement areas of the CLERKENWELL HOUSE OF DETENTION remained below the playground. There was a central hall and wings to the west, north and east of this were for male prisoners. The wing to the south was administration and the range running along the south was for female prisoners. Three parts are now Grade II listed: parts of the west male corridor (7 cells to north, 3 to south), female corridor including the former warder's hall and clerk's office (altered during WWII to serve as an air raid shelter). This section was at one time open to view with displays on prisons and prison life. The former chief warder's house, built into the wall at the SW corner, was later used as a schoolkeeper's house. The plasterwork on the outside wall indicates the former height of the perimeter wall (about 30' or twice its present height). The central hall was beneath the school hall and some parts of the prison basement were used by the school/college. The buildings were by William Moseley and built 1845-7. The National Monuments Record hold a collection of 12 photos taken in 1971 (BB91/17274-85) [website]. Some current photos [webpage]

COLDBATH FIELDS gets its name from springs, reputed to have medicinal properties, which operated in the 18th century. The fields were subsequently used as a rubbish tip known as 'Mount Pleasant'. In 1790 the site was cleared for the Middlesex House of Correction, opened in 1794. This was later known as Cold Bath Prison then Clerkenwell Gaol. Its harsh regime included working a treadmill that did nothing more than turning some sails. Originally a criminal jail it became a debtors prison before closing in 1885. In 1887 the Post Office adapted the treadmill houses as a parcels office, convenient to the railways. The old prison site was transferred to the Post Office in 1889 and its buildings were gradually replaced. The prison gate was however incorporated into a new sorting office building and remained until 1901. The last sections were demolished in 1929 for an extension of the Letter Office. The Royal Mail Archive on the site has more information [website].

Prison only became used as a punishment for society in general in the 18th century. Prior to this it was only for those awaiting trial or execution and debtors, although the church had imprisoned wayward clerics since the 9th century.
The keeper of a prison bought his office – a system open to abuse as prisoners were regarded as a source of income. They could pay for privacy, better accommodation or release from fetters. However they were also charged, at whatever price the keeper thought fit, for food and water even when this had been provided by charitable donations! This system was still in operation when Dickens was writing and features in ‘Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Little Dorrit’. Some prisons had a grilled window facing onto the street where prisoners would take it in turns to beg food or money from passers-by which would be shared around.

The first OLD BAILEY was built in 1539 as a separate court house to the south of Newgate prison. Prior to this trials had taken place in the gaol itself. The risks of gaol fever (typhus) prompted the change although the epidemics continued. Newgate was re-built in 1770-4 in a building designed by George Dance the Younger. The court room was to the south of the prison, separated by a yard. Despite later enlargements space was always at a premium and by 1881 only those awaiting trial or execution were held in the prison. The new court house was designed by Edward Mountford and built between 1902 and 1907. This still needed further additions including an extension building completed in 1972. A history of the Old Bailey courthouse 1673-1834 is available [website].
There is (an illustrated) Official Guide to the Old Bailey produced by the Corporation of London.
You can go in to view the proceedings of the courts which are open Monday to Friday 10-1 and 2-4 or 5. There are restriction on things you cannot take in and children under 14 are not allowed. The entrance to the old courts is in Newgate Street and the new courts in Warwick Slip (off Old Bailey). 2011

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