The Old Bailey
The Old Bailey, also known as Justice Hall, the Sessions House, and the Central Criminal Court, was named after the street in which it was located, just off Newgate Street and next to Newgate Prison, in the western part of the City of London. Over the centuries the building has been periodically remodelled and rebuilt in ways which both reflected and influenced the changing ways trials were carried out and reported.
This site also includes historical background covering policing, crimes tried, trial procedures, judges and juries, trial verdicts, and punishments. It provides important information to help the researcher understand proceedings, especially in the case of punishments. Defendants could be given more than one punishment, and the actual punishment a convict received often differed from that specified at their trial. It is worth searching later sessions by the name of the defendant using the “Personal Details” search page to see if the sentence was mitigated.
Because the actual punishment a convict received often differed from that specified at their trial, It is also possible to search separately for information about pardons or executions. Although this information was not consistently reported in the Proceedings, there are regular reports of pardons from 1739 until 1796 and of executions from 1743 until 1792. Additional evidence about whether (and how) punishments were carried out can be found within the Associated Records.
Note on Punishments: A large number of eighteenth-century statutes specified death as the penalty for minor property offences (the "bloody code"), meaning that the vast majority of the people tried at the Old Bailey could be sentenced to hang (one could be executed for stealing a handkerchief or a sheep). Nevertheless, judicial procedures prevented a blood bath by ensuring that sentences could be mitigated, or the charge redefined as a less serious offence.
Through partial verdicts, juries reduced the charges against many convicted defendants. Through the mechanisms of benefit of clergy and pardons many more defendants found guilty of a capital offence were spared the death penalty and sentenced instead to punishments such as branding, transportation, or imprisonment. Many received no punishment at all.