The Sheriffs of the City of London have started a new tradition, one to be encouraged, of asking all the Sheriffs of England and Wales (55 of them) and their partners to a reception at the Old Bailey, the very centre of the criminal justice system where the most notorious trails have been held. Its formal name is “The Central Criminal Court” (from 1834). It is first mentioned as a court in 1585. It stood next to the dreaded Newgate Prison which seems to date from 1188 and remained in use until 1902.
The Old Bailey originated as the session house of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City of London and of Middlesex. It was built from a gift from Richard (Dick of legend) Whittington as part of improvements to the gaol, destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and rebuilt in 1674.
In 1856, a crime committed in Staffordshire was so notorious that there were fears for a fair trial in that county and an Act of Parliament was passed to allow it to be brought to the Old Bailey. Since then, notorious trials have often been brought to London for this reason.
On the occasion of our visit, having been very well looked after by Alderman and Sheriff Timothy Hailes JP and Sheriff Neil Redcliffe, we were allowed in to see the very newly restored Court number I, the scene of many famous cases.