Newgate Jail - London's Most notorious Prison
Updated: Feb 1
This British history podcast tells the story of Newgate Jail. London’s most notorious prison.
For over 600 years, one building in the City of London struck fear and loathing into the souls of its citizens: Newgate Jail.
This miserable dungeon was crammed full of the condemned. Its airs so foul they infected the entire neighbourhood, its dank cells so infested by lice and bedbugs that they crunched underfoot as feet as people walked.
Opposite the jail is the Holy Sepulchre Church. Still standing, it was once known as Saint Sepulchre-without-Newgate.
The church is home to the “execution bell”. This was rung twelve times outside the condemned cell the night before convicts were taken for hanging at Tyburn.
Hear about the legend of the black dog, a ghostly beast that haunted the jail when famine forced prisoners to desperate cannibalism.
Author Daniel Defoe was imprisoned in Newgate for his religious and political convictions. The jail inspired him to write Moll Flanders, the story of the eponymous Moll born in the prison. The novel details her exploits from birth until old age, and is a excoriating critique of the fate of Britain’s working poor.
Hear how a poor child sold as a boy chimney sweep turned to crime. Jack Hall was condemned to hanging at Tyburn and taken by cart to the hanging tree. Along the way he heard people singing a ditty composed and dedicated to him, telling the story of his life, and hanging.
Ikey Solomon was born at the heart of old Jewish London. He became the most famous fence in the city, buying and selling stolen goods.
Ikey was caught and sentenced to be transported, but escaped in a daring getaway. His wife, also a fence, was transported and Ikey went to Australia to find her. He was recognised, caught, sent back to London, and transported again. Ikey was the inspiration Charles Dickens’ character Fagin.
Jonathan Wilde was a Georgian gentleman gangster, the “thief taker general of London”. Hear how he became a gang boss whose crime empire ran rackets in every corner of the capital. Discover where you can see his skull to this day.
The last decades of Newgate saw the brutal “beheading” of executed prisoners, and the last public hanging in Britain.
The podcast tells the story of how a campaign by writers Thackeray and Dickens finally ended the terrible spectacle of public hanging.
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