The prison was built at Newgate in 1188 on the orders of Henry I. The prison was used for a number of purposes including imprisoning people awaiting execution. The prison was significantly enlarged in 1236.
The original prison was demolished and a new one constructed on the site between 1770 and 1778. It was soon attacked by rioting mobs during the Gordon riots, the prison set on fire, many prisoners died during the blaze and c. 300 escaped to temporary freedom.
In 1783 the city of London's gallows were moved from Tyburn to just outside of Newgate. The public spectacle of prisoners' executions drew large crowds. From 1868 executions were carried out in private within Newgate. In 1902 the prison was demolished and the Old Bailey now stands upon its site.