up like a broken tooth along the Cumberland Road it
is all too easy to pass by the ruins of one of Bristol's last remaining
in 1816 by the city council for a budget of £60,000 - in today's
money that would cost the city over £2m - the New Gaol opened
its doors to inmates in 1820.
is an extensive and commodious building," wrote the editor
of the Mathew's Bristol, Clifton and Hotwell Guide in 1825.
"For health, convenience and excellent arrangement is not to
be equaled in England, commanding extensive views of the surrounding
countryside," he continued.
"The boundary wall (20 feet high) is built in hewn variegated
marble which has a beautiful appearance."
Among its first guests were prisoners transferred from Bristol's
infamous Newgate prison that it replaced.
Built to hold 197 prisoners of mixed sex the prison was a great
improvement over its predecessors: Bridewell jail's prisoners had
a cat put into their cells at night to stop rats from gnawing at
Gaol's accommodation consisted of single cells that measured 6 ft
by 9 ft.
Water supplies were drawn from a well using a large treadmill that
could hold twenty inmates - not an unusual practice in those days.
the remaining gatehouse inner windows stares back at you.
Despite the forward-thinking design it didn't take too long for
conditions to deteriorate. The
water from the well proved to be undrinkable, small windows stopped
air circulating and created a stale and fetid interior.
Prisoners were poorly clothed and suffered in the winter months
from the cold.
At night the whole prison was enveloped in a shroud of darkness
that even hampered the warders carrying out their patrols.
All that remains
to mark the site now is the grim granite front entrance, resembling
a small castle complete with its rusting mock portcullis and a small
section of outer wall.
of the gatehouse entrance open air gallows were erected for
only as a entrance but as a platform for staging crowd-pulling public
executions, the gatehouse's flat roof was built with a trap door.
It was through this door the condemned dropped with a noose around
their necks on the way to the next world.
ruin is the keeper of some gruesome tales of the judicial system
look at some of the more notable executions that took place over
this gatehouse as we follow how the New Gaol cast its shadow across
Gruesome Bristol: New Gaol prison.
Horwood and his macabre book legacy.
Bristol Riots, the breaching of the Gaol and its revenge on the
Bristol's traumatic last hanging and the