The importance of the street meant notable coffeehouses and taverns including the Tipperary, London’s oldest Irish pub, built on the side of a 14th century monastery in 1606. It survived the Great Fire of 1666 and still retains two bars and fittings from the 1700’s. I’ve had lunch here several times and they make an excellent chicken burger with chunky fries – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Just past the Courts is Temple Bar, which marks the division between the City of London and the City of Westminster. Here, the Strand turns into Fleet Street. Fleet Street traces its roots back to the 14th century when it was the main route between the commercial centre which was the City of London and the political hub which was the City of Westminster. It was also, until fairly recently, home to all the British national newspapers and it is still associated with the great press barons.
The senior clergymen had their palaces on Fleet Street and it is home to the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A personal highlight was attending Easter service in the cathedral a few years ago.
Just after the Cathedral the street changes its name again to Cannon Street and eventually becomes Great Tower Street leading to the Tower of London. The Tower is actually a castle founded by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion.
Methinks the City has housed some fine criminal minds!
Moving on… to Clink Street. This was the site of the notorious medieval prison known as ‘The Clink’ and it is possibly the oldest prison for both men and women in England. While the Tower was for the elite, the Clink was for the poor and conditions were appalling. The poorest prisoners, those who couldn’t pay the gaolers for food and water, had to beg at the below street level window grates.
In the 16th century The Clink became a prison for heretics, after the Reformation and England’s cessation from papal control, finalised by Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy (1534), which recognised that the king was 'the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia.'
A step away is Shakespeare’s new Globe Theatre. The current production is a tribute to one of the finest criminal minds in literature – Iago.
We took the Millennium Bridge back to the North side and passed St Paul’s again to walk up Old Bailey road. At the top is the Central Criminal Court, or the ‘new’ Old Bailey, which was built on the site of the infamous Newgate Prison. The Old Bailey was named after the street in which it was located, off Newgate Street and next to Newgate Prison. Having stood their trials at the Old Bailey, the convicted men and women were sent to various prisons, including Newgate, which was linked to the courthouse by a passageway to facilitate the transport of prisoners between the two.
The ‘old’ Old Bailey building was severely damaged by the 1877 fire and was eventually pulled down, along with the dilapidated Newgate Prison, which too was severely damaged by the fires; first during the Gordon Riots in 1780 and later in 1877. The new Old Bailey building, constructed on the site of the old prison, was opened in 1907 by Edward VII and cost £392,277 to construct. The building was heavily damaged by bombing in 1941 and rebuilt yet again. A modern extension was added in 1972.
Some of the most infamously popular executions of the first half of the nineteenth-century were those of the Swiss valet Courvoisier, 1840 and the Mannings couple in 1849.
It was said that the execution of the latter attracted anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 spectators of all classes. Privilege bought closer access. The Newgate Calendar "comprising interesting memoirs of the most notorious characters who have been convicted of outrages on the laws of England since the commencement of the eighteenth century; with anecdotes and last exclamations of sufferers," originally a monthly bulletin of executions, produced by the keeper of Newgate prison in London published details of all crimes and their perpetrators.
By 1840s, the population of England approximated 25 million people. On average 2,7 million execution broadsheets and other printed material were sold annually; along the Newgate Calendar, The Sunday Drop, Scaffold Weekly News, Old Bailey Enquirer, and the Life in Newgate, faithfully provided titillating details of the coming executions.
On that cheery note, at the end of our tour of the Victorian London’s criminal past, a stiff drink was required and we repaired to the cosy bar at the Westbury Hotel. ...
The prisoners convicted of capital offences eventually made the journey to the intersection of Oxford Street (formerly Tyburn Road), Edgeware Road and Park Lane, the site of the Tyburn Tree gallows. Public hangings on the day of the Tyburn Fair captivated the rich and the poor, young and the old. In 1783, a few years after the Gordon Riots, the gallows were moved to Newgate. In 1868, the public executions were abolished in favour of private.
Notes from Dickens’ diary show the educated became quite immune to the notion of execution, and viewed it as a natural part of daily life.