Address: Old Bailey, London EC4M 7EH


Time: Mon - Fri from 10.00am

Phone: 0207 248 3277

Entry Price: Free

350m from City Thameslink

350m from St Pauls

The Old Bailey is also known as the Central Criminal Court and is Britain’s most famous court, holding all high profile cases in England and Wales. The name comes from the nearby road, with ‘bailey’ referring to the boundary wall (London Wall) of the old City of London which ran alongside.

Its origins are from the 16th century with the courtroom built next to the notorious Newgate Prison for obvious reasons. Courthouse props in those days included overhead mirrors to reflect light into the faces of the accused and sounding boards to amplify their voices. Punishment facilities included a hanging area outside the building and branding irons.

During the Great London Fire of 1666, the courthouse burnt down. It was replaced by a three storey brick building with the ground floor open on one side to the weather. This was to introduce fresh air, as typhoid was rife in the prisons and prisoners could infect the court officials, and reduce spectator influence from the outside courtyard. To eradicate this, in 1737 the building was enclosed. Danger of infection increased and in 1750 sixty people died, including the Lord Mayor. Nose protectors were then issued and herbs spread by the judges, a ceremony that continues today.

Renovations took place in 1774 and 1824 and there became 4 courts. Bt now around 100,000 cases had been heard including all London death penalty cases. From 1834 its jurisdiction widened to include all major English and Welsh cases.

At the end of the 19th century the building was demolished together with the decaying Newgate Prison. The new courthouse was opened in 1907 by King Edward VII and was built out of Portland stone with marble flooring, oak panelling and adorned with paintings and ornaments. It has a 12ft gold leaf statue of the ‘lady of justice’ on top of a 67ft high central dome. Above the main entrance is the inscription ‘defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer’. It has 19 courts, an exhibition and is open to the public.

Whilst it’s a famous London landmark, it’s best known for its primary function as a court of law rather than a tourist destination.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.