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  • John Murray

The Gaol

Kelly Grovier

8 Reviews

Rated 0

London, Greater London, Prose: non-fiction, British & Irish history

The extraordinary human story of London's most infamous prison.

For over 800 years Newgate was the grimy axle around which British society slowly twisted. This is where such legendary outlaws as Robin Hood and Captain Kidd met their fates, where the rapier-wielding playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe sharpened their quills, and where flamboyant highwaymen like Claude Duval and James Maclaine made legions of women swoon. While London's theatres came and went, the gaol endured as London's unofficial stage. From the Peasants' Revolt to the Great Fire, it was at Newgate that England's greatest dramas unfolded.

By piecing together the lives of forgotten figures as well as re-examining the prison's links with more famous individuals, from Dick Whittington to Charles Dickens, this thrilling history goes in search of a ghostly place, erased by time, which has inspired more poems and plays, paintings and novels, than any other structure in British history.

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Praise for The Gaol

  • Gripping . . . Grovier's treatment of the material organisation of the place is excellent . . . Newgate's role in the evolution of London, in the creation of crime in the public imagination, in the development of the concept of the prison, is unmatched, and Grovier relates it compellingly - Daily Telegraph

  • The author has a keen eye for the grisly detail . . . In many ways The Gaol is an upmarket extension of The Newgate Calender, the blood-and-guts, five-volume blockbuster full of all the gory details, that was on every 18th Century bookshelf - Mail on Sunday

  • A story of eyewatering misery . . . In a clear readable style that takes the reader at a pleasantly trotting pace through the centuries of oppression and inhumanity - Evening Standard

  • Beguiling lyricism . . . He is interested in Newgate's place in the collective psyche, 'a more intimate story' than historians have managed . . . vividly evoked - Sunday Telegraph

  • Grovier revels in gory tales and colourful characters linked to the place - Sunday Telegraph

  • Grovier's study is a sparkling tribute to a grim cultural phenomenon - Daily Express

  • Kelly Grovier's brisk and well-organised a hauntingly clear picture of the place, its inmates, the staff and, of particular delight to the reviewer, the slang they used - The Daily Telegraph: 'Pick of the Paperbacks', Toby Clements

  • A terrific read - Scotsman

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