Newgate Calendars of Prisoners 1782-1931

Plan of Newgate Prison (1800). From Wikimedia Commons.

The "Newgate Calendar" is a collective term for a confusingly wide range of documents, including both printed compilations of famous cases tried at the Old Bailey, and lists of prisoners at Newgate which were compiled to facilitate the judicial process. This website includes the latter.

Origins and Content

The documents included here are lists of the prisoners in Newgate Prison who went to trial at the Old Bailey. They were compiled by the clerks of the court in order to assist in the management of criminal justice. Before each meeting of the court ("sessions"), clerks prepared a list of the prisoners to be tried, and from the 1790s these lists were printed. Some names, perhaps those indicted at the last minute, were added in handwriting.

After the conclusion of the sessions, the clerks often manually added notes indicating the punishment sentences for those prisoners who were convicted. This gave prison officials the information they needed to determine what they should do with their prisoners. Some of the originals contain pencilled tick marks which indicate that the records have been collated against another record series, and/or perhaps counted. Some convicted prisoners were continued from sessions to sessions while the authorities decided on their punishments, so appear more than once in these records for the same conviction.

The first series of these records, labelled “Newgate Calendars”, dates from 1782 and include (in addition to the date of the trial) the prisoner’s name, offence and sentence - though offences and sentences were not consistently documented. Over time, more information was included. From the middle of the 1790s, victim’s names and the ages of convicted prisoners were also often provided. From 1806, ages were provided for all prisoners, and also, from 1822, the prisoners’ occupation (or marital status in the case of women). From around 1843, the recorded information was extended to the name of the judge who tried the prisoner and the verdict, but this is not available on the Digital Panopticon website.

The first series of records ends in 1853. A new series, labelled “Calendars of Prisoners”, began in 1855. Similarly, this new series recorded the names of prisoners in Newgate Prison who were tried at the Central Criminal Court (as the Old Bailey was renamed in 1834). Each entry includes the prisoner’s name, age, occupation, victim’s name and "area" (county) where the crime was committed. Also recorded, but not included on the Digital Panopticon website, was the offence, sentence, name of the committing magistrate, before whom they were tried, the verdict, any previous convictions and the prisoner’s degree of instruction (whether or not they could read - described as either not, imperfect or well). This series of records ends in 1931.

The most commonly-recorded trades of accused offenders in the "Newgate Calendars of Prisoners for Trial 1782-1853". © Digital Panopticon.

Relationship to Other Sources

These lists of prisoners document individuals at a midway point through the judicial system in London. The same prisoners were recorded earlier in the England and Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892 (which also contain prisoners who did not go to trial) when they were committed to prison, and their trials are in the Old Bailey Proceedings 1740-1913. For those who were found guilty, following their Life Archive will allow you to see whether their punishments were actually carried out, or whether they experienced some other punishment. Those sentenced to death can be found in the Capital Convictions at the Old Bailey 1760-1837 record set (up to 1837), which will indicate whether they were executed. Those not executed may be found in the Hulks Registers 1801-1879, the records of transportion (see Transportation Records) or the records of Imprisonment in the UK (see Imprisonment Records).

Strengths and Limitations

By themselves, these records do not provide much information. Nonetheless, as explained above, as part of the criminal justice process they provide useful supplements to other records. They provide additional information about individuals which may not be available elsewhere, particularly their ages and trades, and the outcomes of their trials (verdicts and sentences).

Not all information is provided consistently, however, and particularly some records are missing from early in the period. Offences are often listed in very general terms, such as “felony”, “stealing” and “larceny”. Women’s occupations are frequently given as their marital status. Where there are multiple records for the same prisoner's conviction, the earliest record usually contains the most specific information about the prisoner and the offence, while the latest record provides the sentence.

Perhaps most importantly, as explained above, not all the information in these records has been digitised. To obtain this additional information, it is necessary either to consult the originals in The National Archives, or the digitised page images available through Find My Past.

Original Source and Digitisation

The "Newgate Calendars of Prisoners for Trial 1782-1853" record set is taken from The National Archives (TNA) record series HO 77, where the original records can be consulted. These records have been digitised by Find My Past as page images, with the information which is searchable within this website also transcribed. Remaining information (the name of the judge who tried the case and the verdict) can be consulted on the Find My Past website by consulting the original page images.

As described above for "Newgate Calendars of Prisoners for Trial 1782-1853", the "Newgate Calendars of Prisoners 1855-1931" similarly stems from the TNA, but in CRIM 9, and digitisation by Find My Past. Remaining information (offence, sentence, the name of the committing magistrate, before whom they were tried, the verdict, any previous convictions and the prisoner’s degree of instruction) can be consulted on the Find My Past website by consulting the original page images.

Further Information

Author Credits

This page was written by Robert Shoemaker, with additional contributions by other members of the Digital Panopticon project team.