Newgate Prison (Dickens-era site), London

Newgate Prison (Dickens-era site), London

A notorious prison that once stood on the corner of Old Bailey and Newgate Street, at the original site of a gate in the Roman London Wall, Newgate was London's main prison infamous for public executions held outside, drawing massive crowds. Built in 1188 and eventually demolished in 1902, the prison underwent numerous extensions and rebuilds during its extensive 700-plus-year history.

Dickens held a lifelong fascination with prisons and vehemently advocated for executions to be conducted within prison walls. He witnessed the realization of this legislation when it was finally enacted in 1868. Passionate social critic as he was, Dickens visited Newgate on multiple occasions. On July 6, 1840, he, along with his friend and fellow writer William Makepeace Thackeray, attended a public hanging of François Benjamin Courvoisier.

Dickens also mentions Newgate in a number of his works, namely:
- in the 1836 sketch titled "A Visit to Newgate" (written for inclusion in the collection "Sketches by Boz");
- in the novel "Oliver Twist", he vividly describes Fagin's last night alive in Newgate and Oliver's witnessing his hanging;
- in "Barnaby Rudge", characters Hugh, Dennis, and Barnaby find themselves imprisoned at Newgate in cells that have been refitted after the prison was destroyed during the Gordon Riots in 1780;
- in "Great Expectations”, Wemmick and Pip visit the prison while Pip is awaiting Estella's arrival in London.

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Newgate Prison (Dickens-era site) on Map

Sight Name: Newgate Prison (Dickens-era site)
Sight Location: London, England (See walking tours in London)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in London, England

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