Tuesday, 2 March 2010

HOBS: The Metropolitan Debtors' Prisons (1) Newgate

I have mentioned imprisonment for debt on this blog before (see here and here). I thought it might be appropriate to highlight some of the main institutions that have featured in our history on this subject. This is the first in a series of postings on debtors' prisons. We will examine the Metropolitan debtors' prisons before moving on to consider the provincial debtors' prisons.

We will start with Newgate. The former gate into the City of London, known latterly as Newgate prison was used as a prison for over 600 years. The prison was first erected during the reign of King Henry I[1] and was destroyed by rioters in 1780. It was subsequently rebuilt. In addition to debtor prisoners we also find evidence of individuals incarcerated for other reasons. Edmund Calamy, for example, was imprisoned for unlicensed preaching.[2]

[1] Neild, J. Account of Persons confined for Debt in England and Wales. London, 1800, page 392. (the picture to the right of this entry is reproduced from a pull out plan in Neild).

[2] Hill, CP. Who's Who in Stuart Britain, 1603-1714. 2nd ed. Shepheard-Walwyn, 1988, at page 202.

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