Thursday, June 7, 2018

Newgate Prison and the Old Old Bailey

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Loretta reports:

In June 2017, I sat in two different visitors’ galleries, in two different courtrooms of the Old Bailey,  the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, and watched the proceedings. This is not the same Old Bailey I wrote about in Dukes Prefer Blondes, though I noticed similarities in the way the courtroom was laid out, which will be useful the next time I bring criminals into my fiction.

Part of the present building stands where Newgate Prison once did, on the street named Old Bailey. Not many traces of the old building remain. There's a door in the Museum of London, and other bits in the U.S. Since the previous building wasn’t demolished until 1902, though, quite a few photographs are available, along with the Regency-era images by George Shepherd, Thomas Rowlandson, and the like. It took a bit of puzzling to determine from pictures, descriptions, and maps, which was the prison and which was the courtroom, but that might just be my brain malfunction. If you’re looking at an old map, the latter appears as “Session House,” and it ought to be perfectly clear to normal people.

I knew a gloomy walkway connected them. I’d read descriptions, which helped me visualize scenes in the book. But at the time I was writing the story, I couldn’t find images of this passageway. Recently, though, my trusty tome, The Queen’s London, provided the image you see below.

In case one doesn't already feel sufficiently low-spirited at the prospect of being hanged, the passageway will do the trick. It’s the English version of the Bridge of Sighs—that last walk from freedom, possibly from life. Please do read the cheery description under the photo.

You can read the description that accompanies the Ackermann plate (above left) here. Note that this image was done from the other end of Old Bailey, with the Sessions House in front.

Black & white photographs are from my copy of The Queen's London.

Please click on images to enlarge.


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