James Pratt and John Smith

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A hanging outside Newgate Prison, early 19th century | Unknown Artist | Wikipedia/Public domain | 14270

In 1835, Charles Dickens visited Newgate prison and met two prisoners, James Pratt and John Smith. He wrote about them in his 1836 article, “A Visit to Newgate”, writes Sir David Bell of Reading University.

The nature of their offences “rendered it necessary to separate them” and the prison guard remarked to Dickens “their doom was sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of their crime, and they well knew that for them there was no hope in this world. The two short ones”, the turnkey whispered, “were dead men”.

What Pratt and Smith had done, they had done in private, yet they were reported to the authorities by a neighbour.

James Pratt and John Smith were the last men to be hanged in Britain for buggery.

Newgate Prison was at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey in London and was in use from 1188 to 1902.


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