76 The Master's Reception at The Central Criminal Court

Wednesday 27th May 2015

At the kind invitation of Sheriff and Past Master Fiona Adler, I held my reception at the Central Criminal Court. Owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, the Central Criminal Court stands on the site of the West Gate of the Roman City of London and the medieval gate on which Newgate Prison was subsequently built. The present building was built in 1902, restored after severe damage in 1941 and extended in 1972. The colloquial title "The Old Bailey" originates from the name of the street beside which it stands, taking its name from the Norman "Baillie" or fortified place. Under the Courts Act of 1971, it became a Crown Court. It has 18 courts which handle some 1,700 cases a year and between 2,000 and 3,000 people pass through its doors each day.

Since Saxon times, the two Sheriffs of the City of London have, uniquely been elected by the citizens (Liverymen) of London and have been concerned with the administration of justice. Their primacy was displaced in 1189 by the election of the Lord Mayor, for he bacame the principal justiciar of the City by Royal Charter.

During their year in office, the two Sheriffs and their consorts live in the Central Criminal Court. So for 2014/15 it is the home of Sheriff Fiona and Liveryman David Moss. They were our informative and entertaining guides as we visited Number 1 Court in the old building, a new Court, the cells including the cell reserved for those condemned to death (last used in 1901}, the external wallway to the gallows (which becomes narrower and narrower) and the Grand Entrance with its marble, painted ceiling and statues (including one of Elizabeth Fry, the great social reformer).

We returned to the dining room for supper. It was a unique opportinity to visit somewhere we hear about regularly in the news, which dispenses justice for the most serious crimes committed in this country.