Newgate prison exercise yard by Gustave Doré

Newgate Prison was located at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London. It was originally at the site of Newgate, a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777. The prison was extended and rebuilt many times, and remained in use for over 700 years, from 1188 to 1902.

The first prison at Newgate was built in 1188 on the orders of Henry II. It was significantly enlarged in 1236, and the executors of Lord Mayor Dick Whittington were granted a license to renovate the prison in 1422. The prison was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt in 1672, extending into new buildings on the south side of the street.

According to medieval statute, the prison was to be managed by two annually elected Sheriffs, who in turn would sublet the administration of the prison to private “gaolers”, or “Keepers”, for a price. These Keepers in turn were permitted to exact payment directly from the inmates, making the position one of the most profitable in London. Inevitably, the system offered incentives for the Keepers to exhibit cruelty to the prisoners, charging them for everything from entering the gaol to having their chains both put on and taken off. Among the most notorious Keepers in the Middle Ages were the 14th-century gaolers Edmund Lorimer, who was infamous for charging inmates four times the legal limit for the removal of irons, and Hugh De Croydon, who was eventually convicted of blackmailing prisoners in his care.

Over the centuries, Newgate 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 two times before he went to the gallows at Tyburn in 1724. Prison chaplain Paul Lorrain achieved some fame in the early 18th century for his sometimes dubious publication of Confessions of the condemned.

The great fire near London Bridge, Saturday June 22nd 1861

The colossal warehouses were filled with every variety of goods, among which were many of a highly combustable nature, which, igniting, exploded with awful crashes, lighting up the vast metropolis and country round for thirty miles.

It was during one of these fearful explosions that Mr. Scott and the gallant Mr. Braidwood were crushed to death by the blowing out of a stupendous wall. Many other lives have also been lost. The fat and oil ran like molten fire into the stream, and for a long time threatened with destruction the numerous vessels in the pool.

The scene altogether was of the most fearful and terrific description. The burning ruins have continued to smoke and blaze for several days and nights, while hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the metropolis gaze on with wonder and awe. The destruction of property is valued at upwards of Three Millions sterling.

Shakespeare’s King John at the theatre in Drury Lane

The last scene of a critically acclaimed 1865 performance of Shakespeare’s King John at the theatre in Drury Lane, as depicted in the Illustrated London News.

King John, a history play by William Shakespeare, dramatises the reign of John, King of England (ruled 1199–1216), son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s but was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623.

Soho Square, London in 1700

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

Built in the late 1670s, Soho Square was in its early years one of the most fashionable places to live in London. It was originally called King’s Square, for King Charles II. A statue of Charles II was carved by Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1681 and placed at the center of the Square. By the early 19th century, the statue was described as being ‘in a most wretched mutilated state; and the inscriptions on the base of the pedestal quite illegible’. In 1875, it was removed during alterations in the square by T. Blackwell, of Crosse and Blackwell, the condiment firm, who gave it for safekeeping to his friend, artist Frederick Goodall, with the intention that it might be restored. Goodall placed the statue on an island in his lake at Grim’s Dyke, where it remained when dramatist W. S. Gilbert purchased the property in 1890, and there it stayed after Gilbert’s death in 1911. In her will, Lady Gilbert directed that the statue be returned, and it was restored to Soho Square in 1938.

Exeter Change in 1826

The Exeter Exchange, popularly known as the Exeter ‘Change, was on the north side of the Strand in London. It was built on the site of Exeter House, a residence of the Earls of Exeter, from which it acquired its name. The building was designed to be a superior shopping venue, with an arcade in front, and originally housed small shops with lodgings above, but over time, the ground floor was taken over by businesses.

From about 1773, the upper floors took on a new role, housing a menagerie formed by Mr Pidcock. On Pidcock’s death in about 1810, the menagerie passed to Stephani Polito and on his death in 1814, one of his employees, Edward Cross, took over the menagerie.

London Watchman – 18th Century

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

Night watchmen patrolled the streets between 9 or 10 pm until sunrise, and were expected to examine all suspicious characters. In the City of London, daytime patrols were conducted by the City Marshall and the beadles. Like the night watch, their primary responsibilities were to apprehend minor offenders and to act as a deterrent against more serious offences. Over the course of the eighteenth century, however, the arrangements by which men served as constables and watchmen changed significantly, in ways which altered how felons were detected and apprehended.

The theatre in Portugal Street, London

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

A theatre has stood on the site since the 17th century. Known as Gibbon’s Tennis Court, or the Vere Street Theatre. Mrs Hughes became the first woman to tread the boards of a London theatre, on 8 December 1660, in a performance of Othello. The company left the theatre in 1663 and there is no record of further plays at the theatre. The building was finally destroyed by fire in 1809.

The Holman Opera Troupe were lessees of the London Opera House. Mr. George Holman, his wife, his daughter Sallie Holman and another daughter, and two sons, with some others, including William H. Crane and Sallie`s husband Mr. J. T. Dalton, which toured throughout Canada for many years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the creation of Aldwych and Kingsway, linking High Holborn and Aldwych, destroyed a number of established London playhouses and the site between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street became available. New York-based theatre impresario Oscar Hammerstein I (the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II) commissioned Bertie Crewe, to build a new theatre in the Beaux-Arts style. The theatre opened on 13 November 1911 as the London Opera House. It had an approximately 45 feet (13.7 m) by 78 feet (23.8 m) stage, and a capacity of 2,660. As an opera house, it found it difficult to attract audiences from the Royal Opera House, and from 1914–15 the house became the National Theatre of England.

The old Adelphi Theatre, London

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

The Adelphi Theatre is a popular London West End theatre, located on the Strand in the City of Westminster. The present building is the fourth on the site. The theatre has specialised in comedy and musical theatre, and today it is a receiving house for a variety of productions, including many musicals. The theatre was Grade II listed for historical preservation on 1 December 1987.

It was founded in 1806 as the Sans Pareil (“Without Compare”), by merchant John Scott, and his daughter Jane. Jane was a British theatre manager, performer, and playwright. Together, they gathered a theatrical company and by 1809 the theatre was licensed for musical entertainments, pantomime, and burletta. She wrote more than fifty stage pieces in an array of genres: melodramas, pantomimes, farces, comic operettas, historical dramas, and adaptations, as well as translations. Jane Scott retired to Surrey in 1819, marrying John Davies Middleton.

The new Law Courts, London

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is a building in London which houses both the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Designed by George Edmund Street, who died before it was completed, it is a large grey stone edifice in the Victorian Gothic style built in the 1870s and opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. It is located on the Strand within the City of Westminster, near the border with the City of London (Temple Bar). It is surrounded by the four Inns of Court, King’s College London and the London School of Economics. The nearest London Underground stations are Chancery Lane and Temple.

The courts within the building are open to the public, although there may be some restrictions depending upon the nature of the cases being heard. Those in court who do not have legal representation may receive some assistance within the building. There is a citizens’ advice bureau based within the Main Hall which provides free, confidential and impartial advice by appointment to anyone who is a litigant in person in the courts. There is also a Personal Support Unit where litigants in person can receive emotional support and practical information about what court proceedings.

The Central Criminal Court, widely known as the Old Bailey after the road on which it is located, is situated about half a mile to the east of the Royal Courts of Justice, though it has no connection with the Royal Courts of Justice.

The King’s Mews, London, 1750

Scanned from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

The first set of stables to be referred to as a mews was at Charing Cross at the western end of The Strand. The royal hawks were kept at this site from 1377 and the name derives from the fact that they were confined there at moulting (or “mew”) time.

The building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as a stables, keeping its former name when it acquired this new function. On old maps of Westminster, such as those by Ralph Agas (also known as Aggas), the Mews can be seen extending back onto the site of today’s Leicester Square.

This building was usually known as the King’s Mews, but was also sometimes referred to as the Royal Mews, the Royal Stables, or as the Queen’s Mews when there was a woman on the throne. It was rebuilt again in 1732 to the designs of William Kent, and in the early 19th century it was open to the public. It was an impressive classical building, and there was an open space in front of it which ranked among the larger ones in central London at a time when the Royal Parks were on the fringes of the city and the gardens of London’s squares were open only to the residents of the surrounding houses.

Titus Oates in the Pillory

Scanned directly from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

Illustration of Titus Oates in the Pillory. The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy concocted by Titus Oates (1649–1705) that gripped England, Wales and Scotland in Anti-Catholic hysteria between 1678 and 1681. Oates alleged that there existed an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the execution of at least 15 men and precipitated the Exclusion Bill Crisis. Eventually Oates’ intricate web of accusations fell apart, leading to his arrest and conviction for perjury, to be stripped of clerical dress, imprisoned for life and to be “whipped through the streets of London five days a year for the remainder of his life.” Oates was taken out of his cell wearing a hat with the text “Titus Oates, convicted upon full evidence of two horrid perjuries” and put into the pillory at the gate of Westminster Hall where passers-by pelted him with eggs. The next day he was pilloried in London and the third day was stripped, tied to a cart, and whipped from Aldgate to Newgate. The next day, the whipping resumed.

Mrs Salmon’s Waxwork

Scanned directly from ‘Old and New London – Its History, its people and its places’, published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1878.

Illustration of Mrs Salmon’s Waxwork, Fleet Street, London – “Palace of Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey”. This is where Mrs. Salmon (the Madame Tussaud of early times) exhibited her waxwork Kings and Queens. There was a figure on crutches at the door, and Old Mother Shipton, the witch, kicked the astonished visitor as he left. Mrs. Salmon died in 1812.