The Newgate Calendar


The Newgate Calendar

Jack Shepherd captured by Mr Austin. British Library ‘Pocket Newgate Calendar’ [Source]

If your passion is reading about crime from the 18th and 19th Century, then getting access to perhaps the most interesting publication of the time, the Newgate Calendar, has to be on your priority list.

Below is just a snapshot of this fantastic resource to give you but a taste. If you want to read the accounts for yourself, you won’t go far wrong by following the links listed below.

The Origins Of The Newgate Calander

The Newgate Calendar was as popular in its day as both the Bible and John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, and it’s said that a copy could be found in many 18th & 19th Century households.

Its pages would be filled with recounted tales from the gallows, collected together for the first time for the public to pour and gossip over at their leisure.

Before this, there was no other single publication. Broadsides or chapbooks were published instead listing the individual criminals in England and giving detailed accounts of their crimes.

The Contents

These single publications, consisting of only four sides of print (2 pages), could be made into chapbooks by the reader – essentially by folding the broadside in such a way so that it could be made into a booklet.

Both options were relatively cheap to sell, usually only a penny. This probably added to their success, together with the fact that the contents had a captive audience.

The pages would be filled with accounts of trials of England’s criminals. Nothing was considered too taboo to include. Subjects ranging from coining to body snatching to cold-blooded murder were recounted for the intrigued public to consume.

The variety of the crimes listed within the ‘Calendar’. are a delight to read, especially if you’re not familiar with some of the crimes that have been recorded.

Of course, there are accounts of famous criminals such as ‘Dick Turpin’ – probably the only highwayman not to require an introduction and Moll Cutpurse – listed as ‘Mistress of all thieves in London’.

[Source]

Infamous Bodysnatchers

Fans of body snatching history (like myself) will not be disappointed. Within the calendar you’ll can find accounts from the immensely famous to those relating to the more prolific gang members. The notorious crimes of Burke and Hare are retold here, as you would expect, as well as the ‘copy cat’ Italian Boy murders Bishop, Williams and Head.

Notorious Borough gang member Tom Light, also makes an appearance after his arrest at stealing bodies from St Giles’ burying ground, London in 1812.

Execution of the notorious William Burke the murdered who supplied Dr Knox with subjects.
The British Library https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/satirical-images-of-burke-hare-and-knox

Researching the Newgate Calendar

Now it’s your turn. By far the best online resource for accessing the Newgate Calendar online is exclassics.com A site where many out of print publications have been made accessible on the internet.

From the main page, you can skip to the most notorious cases for a more hands-on account of individual cases or you can take a more leisurely approach and start at the beginning with the introduction.

Why not try both methods. I use the Calendar to search for specific cases, but I also browse through the pages as you never know what you’re going to find.

The only downside, however, is the large expanse of text without any breaks or images. Don’t let this put you off as you’ll be missing out on some valuable and interesting content here if you do.

Whichever route you take, if you’re an avid historical crime fan, you’ll find a wealth of content that you’ll be reluctant to click away from.


Suzie
diggingup1800@gmail.com
I've been researching the macabre world of body snatching since 2005 when I looked at the topic in depth for my Under Grad dissertation. Since then, I've been absolutely fascinated by this often forgotten side of Britain's history.