Jack Sheppard eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 444 pages of information about Jack Sheppard.

Though by no means so extensive or commodious as the modern prison, Old Newgate was a large and strongly-built pile.  The body of the edifice stood on the south side of Newgate Street, and projected at the western extremity far into the area opposite Saint Sepulchre’s Church.  One small wing lay at the north of the gate, where Giltspur Street Compter now stands; and the Press Yard, which was detached from the main building, was situated at the back of Phoenix Court.  The south or principal front, looking, down the Old Bailey, and not upon it, as is the case of the present structure, with its massive walls of roughened freestone,—­in some places darkened by the smoke, in others blanched, by exposure to the weather,—­its heavy projecting cornice, its unglazed doubly-grated windows, its gloomy porch decorated with fetters, and defended by an enormous iron door, had a stern and striking effect.  Over the Lodge, upon a dial was inscribed the appropriate motto, “Venio sicut fur.”  The Gate, which crossed Newgate Street, had a wide arch for carriages, and a postern, on the north side, for foot-passengers.  Its architecture was richly ornamental, and resembled the style of a triumphal entrance to a capital, rather than a dungeon having battlements and hexagonal towers, and being adorned on the western side with a triple range of pilasters of the Tuscan order, amid the intercolumniations of which were niches embellished with statues.  The chief of these was a figure of Liberty, with a cat at her feet, in allusion to the supposed origin of the fortunes of its former founder, Sir Richard Whittington.  On the right of the postern against the wall was affixed a small grating, sustaining the debtor’s box; and any pleasure which the passer-by might derive from contemplating the splendid structure above described was damped at beholding the pale faces and squalid figures of the captives across the bars of its strongly-grated windows.  Some years after the date of this history, an immense ventilator was placed at the top of the Gate, with the view of purifying the prison, which, owing to its insufficient space and constantly-crowded state, was never free from that dreadful and contagious disorder, now happily unknown, the jail-fever.  So frightful, indeed, were the ravages of this malady, to which debtors and felons were alike exposed, that its miserable victims were frequently carried out by cart-loads, and thrown into a pit in the burial-ground of Christ-church, without ceremony.

Old Newgate was divided into three separate prisons,—­the Master’s Side, the Common Side, and the Press Yard.  The first of these, situated a the south of the building, with the exception of one ward over the gateway, was allotted to the better class of debtors, whose funds enabled them to defray their chamber-rent, fees, and garnish.  The second, comprising the bulk of the jail, and by many degrees worse in point of accommodation, having several dismal and noisome

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Jack Sheppard from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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