Resource : Newgate prison door

Newgate Prison was located on Newgate Street in the City of London, on the site where the famous court, The Old Bailey, now stands. The prison was notorious for its appalling, overcrowded, cruel and unsanitary conditions. It housed a range of prisoners, including men, women and children, from those convicted of minor offenders to those awaiting execution. It would be outside Newgate’s gates that the last British prisoners to suffer beheading took place, when five revolutionary ringleaders accused of a conspiracy to assassinate the Cabinet were executed on 1 May 1820.

Resource : Anti-Poor Law poster

The New Poor Law of 1834 aimed to provide relief for the poorest members of society. It was introduced to reform a system that had been largely unchanged since the 1600s. It was intended to reduce the cost of supporting the poor and ensure the whole country was using the same system. But this new, draconian law, actually saw desperate men, women and children admitted to workhouses to live in appalling conditions. At this time, poverty was often blamed on the ‘bad character’ of the victim, assuming it their own fault if they were poor. As a result of this, many approved of the new law. Others, however, strongly opposed it, campaigning and even rioting in protest.

Resource : Figures by Chelsea Waterworks, London, observing the fires of the Gordon Riots, 7 June 1780

The Gordon Riots were a series of anti-Catholic protests which took place in London between 2 and 9 June, 1780. The protests began peacefully but descended into chaos. Crowds paralysed the city with an unparalleled level of violence, with rioters attacking and setting fire to official buildings and people’s homes. The riots are considered by some historians as being the closest Britain has ever come to a full-scale revolution, and shocked fellow European powers.