A history of Newgate Prison

Before its demolition in 1904, London's famous Newgate prison was one of the oldest prisons in the world. It was originally built in 1188 based on a request from Henry II, but was enlarged and rebuilt several times over a time period spanning more than 700 years. The prison was typically used to house prisoners awaiting execution, and many historical and infamous people were incarcerated within its walls.

Prisoners were sent to Newgate prison for any number of reasons, from suspicions of being anti-Catholic conspirators to murder. A prison with a deep, colorful history, it was an institution in London and in the whole of England.

One of the most famous stories told about Newgate prison is about the tale that Thomas Neill Cream spun while awaiting in the gallows. He was a well-known doctor who went astray and poisoned many patients, and claimed to be the infamous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. Authorities were able to disprove his claim because he was incarcerated during the murders. Other famous Newgate inmates include Scottish William "Billy" Kidd, the infamous pirate. The pirate was held at Newgate while awaiting his execution in 1701. Author Daniel Defoe, author of the well-known novel Robinson Crusoe, was also jailed at Newgate for political reasons.

Authorities decided to stop using the ancient building as a prison in 1902, and the Central Criminal Court, a very old institution that had historically been located next door to Newgate prison, but expanded into the land once the prison was demolished. Relics from the prison are housed all over the world in locations including New York and Ireland.