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 Londons 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.
Kelly Grovier was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles and at Oxford University, where he wrote his doctorate on the eighteenth-century philosopher and adventurer `Walking` Stewart. He is the author of A lens in the palm `Carcanet, January 2008` and a regular contributor to The Times Literary Supplement and The Observer. He is the co-founder of the scholarly journal European Romantic Review and a lecturer at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
'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 book...gives 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
'Kelly Grovier's colourful history traces how this incubator of horror and cruelty became such an iconic presence within popular history, combining a wealth of gruesome detail with portraits of the many characters associated with it' — Metro
'Lively history...[Grovier] has a sharp eye for the vivid anecdote and skilfully situates his colourful, tragic and often grim and ghastly characters in the economic, political and social landscape from the Middles Ages to the end of Victoria's reign' — BBC History Magazine
'Grovier's book brings together the lives of forgotten figures and re-examines the prison's links with more famous individuals' — Publishing News
'Reading Grovier reminds us of the desperation, corruption and crime that swirled around Newgate' — Sue Baker, Publishing News
'A roiling, boiling, seething stew of passion and conflict.' — Courier Mail, Australia
'Grovier introduces a gallery of rogues and tells their fates with relish' — Daily Mail
An enjoyable book — Morning Star
'The text is rich in illustrative stories and annecdotes' — Contemporary Review
'There are dozen of fascinating folk legends packed into this book' — New Books
'A thrilling history of a very English goal ... this book is so good, you'll want to keep your copy under lock and key,' — Birmingham Sunday Mercury
'Although the subject of the book is quite grim, the author tells us the history in an entertaining and easy manner which makes us want to read on... a valuable piece of research' — Ryedale Gazette & Herald