Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. London: Chapman & Hall 1901. Presentation to pastedown reads:
“The wood of which this cover is made is cut from one of the oak beams over the main gateway of Old Newgate Prison. The beams were externally charred by the fire lighted by the Gordon Rioters in 1780. When the gate was burnt down I purchased the beams at the demolition sale at Newgate on the 4th of February 1903.
Roslynn Court, Hampstead. 1st May 1903″
Charles Dickens and Newgate: The Victorian writer and social critic Charles Dickens visited Newgate and used the infamous prison in a number of his works. He also witnessed at least one public execution there. In Barnaby Rudge, Hugh, Dennis, and Barnaby are imprisoned at Newgate in cells refitted after the prison was burned in the riots.
There could not be a more suitable binding for Dickens’ tale of social unrest, set during the Gordon Riots of the 1780s, in which Newgate Prison plays a major part. Skilfully rendered in considerable detail from the textured bricks, the coarse nails and splits of the prison door to the title, in a calligraphic style carved in a banner over the gateway itself, the origins of the binding’s oak are stated in a label attached to the inside of the upper board: ‘The wood of which this cover is made is cut from one of the oak beams over the main gateway of old Newgate Prison. The beams were externally charred by the fire lighted by the Gordon Rioters in 1780, when the gate was burnt down. I purchased the beams at the demolition sale at Newgate on the 4th February, 1903’, signed ‘Chas E. Angus, Roslynn Court, Hampstead, 1st May 1903.
Newgate Prison was a prison at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey Street just inside the City of London, England, originally at the site of Newgate, a gate in the Roman London Wall. Built in the 12th century and demolished in 1904, the prison was extended and rebuilt many times, and remained in use for over 700 years, from 1188 to 1902.
For much of its history, a succession of criminal courtrooms were attached to the prison, commonly referred to as the “Old Bailey”. The present Old Bailey (officially, Central Criminal Court) now occupies much of the site of the prison.
In the late 1700s, executions by hanging were moved here from the Tyburn gallows. These took place on the public street in front of the prison, drawing crowds until 1868, when they were moved into the prison.