The Old Bailey
The Central Criminal Court (better known as the Old Bailey) was established in 1834 and empowered to try treasons, murders, felonies and offences committed on the high seas or elsewhere abroad.
It occupies the site of the former Newgate Prison where public executions took place. Construction of the prison commenced on 31 May 1770 and it was completed in 1780. Shortly thereafter it suffered serious damage in the riots on June 6 the same year and it was not until 1783 the repairs were completed.
The prison was however demolished in 1902 as it was considered deficient in many aspects such as lighting and ventilation. The prison was referred to as the Old Bailey, a name which is derived from the bailey which stood nearby as a defensive rampart outside the ancient wall of London.
The present court building was built by Mountford in 1907 and has witness to some spectacular trials such as those of Oscar Wilde tried for homosexuality in 1895, Dr Crippen for murdering his wife, Christie, Peter Sutcliffe the ‘Yorkshire Ripper,’and many others. Some traditions have carried on since the days of Newgate Prison. For example, even today judges traditionally carry a small bunch of flowers at the beginning of each session, a practice that was originally developed in an attempt to somewhat mask the smell of the Newgate cells. The court is open to the public but only the public galleries where one can sit and take in an actual trial.
The porters will be able to tell you which trial will be most interesting or, if you are that way inclined, most gruesome. Children under 14 are not allowed neither is the taking of any photography or use of mobile phones.
Visitors can view trials from the public galleries. Children under 14 are not allowed in.
When in session open from 10.30 am - 13.00 pm and 14.00 pm - 16.15 pm
The Old Bailey
Central Criminal Court
Nearest Tube / Rail Station
St. Pauls Station