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Inside Newgate Prison

Students examine a prison image to ascertain the conditions inside prisons in England. 

Student activities

Task no. 1

Inside Newgate prison

On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. This historic convoy, which later became known as the First Fleet, carried over 1000 men, women and children to the other side of the globe. 

Some passengers on board the First Fleet had chosen to embark on this long journey into the unknown, like the crew, who worked to keep the ship sailing, and the officers and soldiers, who were in charge of everyone aboard.  Some of the officers’ wives and children also came with them. 

Over 750 of the passengers on the First Fleet had no choice however, because they were convicted criminals (convicts) who were being sent to New South Wales to serve their prison sentence. Why were they sent to the other side of the world?  

The sources below demonstrate the horrific conditions of the English prisons they left behind.  

Look closely at the painting, below, of Newgate Prison in Bristol, thought to be by Francis Greenway.  Zoom in to see each character in detail.   

Item 2: [Scene inside Newgate Prison], 1812 / painted by Francis Greenway, July 1812
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Make a mind map showing everything you notice in this painting.

  • What activities are people doing? 
  • What kind of clothes are people wearing? 
  • How old are the people in this image? 
  • What else do you notice? 

Listen to the Kids Audio Guide and read the additional information about this painting to see if there are any details you missed.