Lost London: Gates Special – Newgate

March 16, 2012

Better known now as the name for the infamous former prison which whom its history is intertwined, Newgate was originally one of the seven principal gates of London and, like five others, originally dates back to Roman times.

The gate, which apparently took the name ‘new’ thanks to a rebuild in the early medieval era, possibly in the reign of King Henry I or King Stephen, was located close to where the street known as Newgate meets the Old Bailey (see picture – there’s a blue plaque marking the spot on Newgate).

It was used as a prison from the 12th century for housing debtors and felons  – in the 13th century King Henry III is recorded as having issued orders for the prison’s repair (You can see our earlier entry on the prison here.)

The gate’s prison function – this was really no more than a few ‘cells’ – was substantially added to in the 1420s when, apparently as required under the terms of former Mayor Richard Whittington’s will, the gate was rebuilt and a new prison building was constructed to the south on what is now the site of the Old Bailey (home of the Central Criminal Court).

The gate was eventually demolished in the mid 18th century apparently due to urban planning issues. The prison, meanwhile, continued to be used until 1902 and was finally pulled down two years later.

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