As you walk through the two grille gates and along what remains of the southern wall of Marshalsea prison, you are reminded that the prison was referred to by Charles Dickens in his novel Little Dorrit. Dickens’ father, John Dickens, had spent time at Marshalsea and so Charles was writing from personal experience. His father served as a model for the fictional character Wilkins Micawber. In David Copperfield. Micawber – who was a revolving-door visitor to another debtor’s prison (The Kings Bench Prison) – was eventually transported to Australia. He thrived there, becoming a magistrate – on the other side of the law!
All manner of criminals were imprisoned at Newgate, ranging from petty thieves to mass murderers. For the most part they were kept under appalling conditions and treated badly by warders. Many were executed publicly or later behind closed doors. In total, 1169 prisoners were executed at the prison.
First Fleet entering Port Jackson 1788 (drawn 1888) – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons