Isabel Wilde visits Edward Coleman in Newgate Prison in order to interview him about Sir Edmund Godfrey’s whereabouts. The experience brings back vivid memories of her time spent incarcerated in Marshalsea Prison for debt.
In 1678, Newgate was newly built, having been destroyed in London’s Great Fire (1666). Despite its relative newness, it remained the notorious hell hole it had previously been, and prisoners who could not pay easement to the jail keeper were relegated to subhuman conditions–those who could pay easement did not fare much better, but the more one paid, the more “luxury” one could expect.
Food was not provided to inmates except for that donated by local churches. If one wanted it cooked, one had to pay. If one wanted a bed, one had to pay. If one wanted a private cell… well, you get the idea. The jail keeper paid handsomely for the job himself because it was a lucrative position. You can see why.
Newgate Prison was extended and rebuilt many times, in use for 700 years, from 1188 to 1902. It was demolished in 1904 and the Central Criminal Court building (The Old Bailey) now occupies that site: