CCT: NG - FAQs

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{Ruins of the 4-story cell block} Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine

 

FAQs

 

What was the most common crime?

Burglary. For instance, there were 58 prisoners sentenced to New-Gate for burglary in 1825: 12 for passing counterfeit money, 10 for attempted rape, and 9 for stealing in the daytime.

 

Did executions take place here?

No. Those convicted of capital crimes were punished at county seats. In Hartford, for instance, hangings took place on Gallows Hill, now the site of Trinity College.

 

Is the prison haunted?

Staff have never seen or experienced any evidence.

 

What was the greatest number of prisoners held here at one time?

A revision of the criminal code in 1824 increased the offenses sentenced to New-Gate, including adultery and perjury. This change greatly increased the prison population so there were 125 prisoners in that year. As there was insufficient cell space above ground, prisoners had to resume sleeping in cabins in the mine tunnels.

 

What was the greatest number of prisoners who were kept underground?

It is not definitely known – perhaps as high as 40. As the number of prisoners increased, accommodations were built above ground.

 

My ancestor was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Was he held here?

We have very limited information on who was held here in the 18th century, either criminals or political prisoners. Most of the names we know come from escape advertisements in the local newspapers. Few Loyalists are documented to have been sent to New-Gate.

 

Were women ever sent to New-Gate and what crimes did they commit?

Four women came to New-Gate. There is no documentation where they slept.

  • Rachel Heddy served 6 months in 1824 for breaking in the daytime and stealing (legally defined as a crime of opportunity, so a light sentence).
  • Thirza Mansfield was sentenced to life in 1825 for murdering her husband. It is unknown why her death sentence was not carried out.
  • Juli Ann Burr served 2 years for adultery starting in 1826.
  • Comfort Sperry was sentenced to 3 years for adultery in 1827.

Where were the restrooms?

Presumably, the guards had access to a privy. The foundation walls of a privy still exist behind the guardhouse but its date of construction is unknown. Prisoners used buckets, and the “cullyman” collected and emptied these.

 

Who fixed the prisoners food?

In earliest days, Lois Viets, the wife of prisonkeeper John Viets, fixed meals for the prisoners and miners/guards. Later the prisoners were given the raw foodstuff to cook for themselves. There was a fireplace in the lower level of the guardhouse and prisoners used the fires in the nail shop. Later, there was a kitchen that prepared the meals for all prisoners (first in a building along the south wall and then in the 4-storey cell block which also housed a mess hall.)

 

How did they know copper was here?

In 1705, the records report of “either a sillvar [silver] or coper [copper] mine or Minerall [mineral] found.” No other information is given, so we must assume there was some evidence on the surface which hinted at minerals underneath. At the time of the report, it was unclear what had really been found. A year later, there is a reference to “the Copper affayres [affairs] now in hand.”

 

How far did they mine?

Visitors see approximately half of the existing tunnels. Access to these other areas is restricted for safety reasons. Some are flooded; others have very low ceilings and are dead-ends.

 

 

115 Newgate Road, East Granby, CT 06026  ~  newgate.museum@ct.gov  ~  860-653-3563