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CHANGES IN LONDON.

A correspondent of the New Zealand I Times draws the following picture of the changes that are constantly going on in the great metropolis, the last and most startling of which, the abolition of Newgate Prison, has already been mentioned in the papers: —The changes that have taken place in London during the last 25 years are of such a feature that scarce anyone revisiting it after such a lapse of time would be able to identify his whereabouts, except by local names or some of the more prominent landmarks still surviving above the flood of renovation. New streets have been pierced in every direction, railways have pushed their way overhead, underground and on the ground, and vast stations rear their heads in places where was once a congeries of dirty alleys and a mass of dirtier people; and, above all, the embankments have curbed the spreading river, and converted mud-banks and a filthy foreshore into a magnificent promenade and a cultivated boulevard. Where is now the Charing Cross station and an immense girder bridge, from which one looks down on the noble granite outline of the river wall and the smiling gardens adjoining the spacious roadway, was once to be found the haunts of those wretched and illfavored creatures known to all Londoners as “ mud-larks.” Here, and at other places along the foreshore, the Thames, polluted with the sewage of 2,500,000 human beings, used to throw up vast deposits of black, slimy, and offensive mud, and yet here it was that crowds of boys and men, stripped almost naked, would wade up to their middle in the Stygian mass, searching for flotsam or jetsam of the tide, or hunting and diving for coppers thrown for their amusement by loiterers on the suspension bridge above. Amongst other notable alterations, nearly all the jgreat prisons have disappeared from jthecentral portions ofthemetropolis,and jhave either merged with others, or been Ire-erected where land was less valuable, ■or the access more convenient. Of these were Whitecross street Gaol, dedicated to debtors ; the “ Fleet ” having a similar use, and celebrated for ever in the pages of “ Pickwick the Marshallsea, round which the tale of “Little Dorritt ” centres ; and Horsemonger lLane Gaol, from the gibbet of which Imany a criminal has swung for crime Shat the more merciful nineteenth century now punishes with imprisonment or flogging. One ancient monument bf a past age still survives. Within a l-tone’s throw of St Sepulchre’s Church knd St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Newgate Prison frowns gloomily over the busy city. Of all places I have ever seen there is not one to which the terrible inscription would seem so appropriate —“ All hope abandon ye who enter here.” Yet gloomy and mediaeval as the Lord George Gordon riots, famous in the tale of “ Barnaby Budge.” The idea of Dance, its architect, was, as he said, to erect a building so strong that no one inside should get out, and no one outside should get in. But Newgate has now been condemned, and soon its place will know it no more. Still, the Court of Justice immediately adjoining, and known all the world over as the “ Old Bailey,” will remain, and be enlarged over the site of the gaol. Still, short as is the time during which the prison has stood, its calender of atrocious criminals in every branch of crime will not readily be elsewhere matched, and the gloomy corridor, where the bodies of criminals are buried in quicklime after an execution contains the graves of such men as Greenacre, Brownrigg, Courvoiser, the Mannings, Muller, Fauntlerloy the forger, and scores of others. Here, too, are to be seen many dreadful curiosities, such as the gallows and fcieams from which criminal after criminal has swung, the black triangle in which are loops for receiving and

fastening the hands and knees of malefactors sentenced to be flogged for garotting and similar enormities. There is also a collection of plaster casts of murderers’ heads, which will probably be preserved in the City Museum. It is also memorable that in 1817 Mrs Fry first tried her hand here at the reformation of the female prisoners, and commenced the era of prison reform for ever connected with her name. With all its associations, however, there will, I think, be few found to regret its removal from the place, where it hangs like a nightmare over, the scenes of busy life around.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18820109.2.12

Bibliographic details

CHANGES IN LONDON., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 529, 9 January 1882

Word Count
737

CHANGES IN LONDON. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 529, 9 January 1882

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