Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A part of the present building stands on the site of the medieval Newgate Gaol, on Old Bailey Road. The road follows the line of London's fortified wall (bailey.)
My patio is walled. I wonder if just any wall can be called a bailey? But then I wonder about a lot of things that come to very little.
The court was rebuilt and reopened in 1674, following the Fire of London. Hangings in the street outside were a public spectacle until 1868. Typical of the genteel and reserved British, riotous crowds would gather to pelt the condemned with rotten fruit and vegetables and rocks as the unfortunate made his way to the gallows. In 1807, 28 people were crushed to death after a pie-sellers stall overturned. Gosh, those were the days, eh?
I wonder if it existed very long before the fire? If so, perhaps it was here where Guy Fawkes took his swan dive off the gallows, splattering his head like a ripe melon on the cobbles to rob the hangman. Boy, that sure showed him, wot? But no head left to pike. I don't remember if he was still quartered or if they all just went home after that. Ah, gentle Albion. (I recently learned of Albion from this rather unusual blog.)
Today, the Old Bailey has it's own website complete with searchable records of trial proceedings through the ages, currently available for your voyeuristic pleasure, 1674-1913, should you be one of the people who can read the English of that era which called walls baileys.