Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Old Bailey Proceedings

The Old Bailey is the nickname of the Central Criminal Court in London and the Proceedings of the Court, from 1674 to 1913, are available on-line at It is a fabulous site and contains the details of over 210,000 criminal trials and the biographical details of approximately 3,000 men and women executed at Tyburn. The Proceedings, which contain accounts of the trials, were published on a regular basis from 1674 until 1913 and were initially targeted at a popular audience. These Proceedings are now digitised and are fully searchable.

You can search by Crime e.g. Theft by pocket picking (there are 13, 656 of those) or by punishment e.g. Transportation (there are 41,515 of those) or you can combine the punishment and the crime and the you will discover that 4,942 people were transported for Theft by pocket picking.

You can also search by name so you might find an ancestor listed as either a defendant, a witness or an official. One simple trial from April 1832 lists John Roach, as the defendant, Edward Grubb, as the victim, and John Jefford and George Robins who are members of the Police force or the Watch. John Roach was 20 at the time of his offence and sentenced to 14 years of transportation. There are also accounts of high profile trials such as the trial of Oscar Wilde for 'gross indency' in 1895. Some of the more interesting punishments include Death - death and dissection and Death - Drawn and Quartered.

They are a fascinating resource for both social and family historians.
A trial in the Old Bailey in 1773. The Old Bailey sentenced over 41,000 people to transportation, firstly to British colonies in America, which stopped after the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. From 1787 they were sent to Australia with the first convicts (736 in all) arriving at Botany Bay with the First Fleet on January 18th, 1788. The First Fleet is pictured above.

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