Jack Sheppard eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 444 pages of information about Jack Sheppard.
the female debtor’s ward; below it a gloomy cell, called Tangier; and, lower still, the Stone Hold, a most terrible and noisome dungeon, situated underground, and unvisited by a single ray of daylight.  Built and paved with stone, without beds, or any other sort of protection from the cold, this dreadful hole, accounted the most dark and dismal in the prison, was made the receptacle of such miserable wretches as could not pay the customary fees.  Adjoining it was the Lower Ward,—­“Though, in what degree of latitude it was situated,” observes Ned Ward, “I cannot positively demonstrate, unless it lay ninety degrees beyond the North Pole; for, instead of being dark there but half a year, it is dark all the year round.”  It was only a shade better than the Stone Hold.  Here were imprisoned the fines; and, “perhaps,” adds the before-cited authority, “if he behaved himself, an outlawed person might creep in among them.”  Ascending the gate once more on the way back, we find over the Stone Hall another large room, called Debtors’ Hall, facing Newgate Street, with “very good air and light.”  A little too much of the former, perhaps; as the windows being unglazed, the prisoners were subjected to severe annoyance from the weather and easterly winds.

Of the women felons’ rooms nothing has yet been said.  There were two.  One called Waterman’s Hall, a horrible place adjoining the postern under the gate, whence, through a small barred aperture, they solicited alms from the passengers:  the other, a large chamber, denominated My Lady’s Hold, was situated in the highest part of the jail, at the northern extremity.  Neither of these wards had beds, and the unfortunate inmates were obliged to take their rest on the oaken floor.  The condition of the rooms was indescribably filthy and disgusting; nor were the habits of the occupants much more cleanly.  In other respects, they were equally indecorous and offensive.  “It is with no small concern,” writes an anonymous historian of Newgate, “that I am obliged to observe that the women in every ward of this prison are exceedingly worse than the worst of the men not only in respect to their mode of living, but more especially as to their conversation, which, to their great shame, is as profane and wicked as hell itself can possibly be.”

There were two Condemned Holds,—­one for each sex.  That for the men lay near the Lodge, with which it was connected by a dark passage.  It was a large room, about twenty feet long and fifteen broad, and had an arched stone roof.  In fact, it had been anciently the right hand postern under the gate leading towards the city.  The floor was planked with oak, and covered with iron staples, hooks, and ring-bolts, with heavy chains attached to them.  There was only one small grated window in this hold, which admitted but little light.

Over the gateway towards Snow Hill, were two strong wards, called the Castle and the Red Room.  They will claim particular attention hereafter.

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Jack Sheppard from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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