The Malefactors’ Bloody Register
A river runs through it
74 cells and 18 courts
Eight murders a day, Wilde tried twice –
Old Bailey’s rich in recorded vice
Reggie Kray, William Joyce
Crippen, Ripper among the choice
Characters before Justice’s voice
Start not, nor deem their spirits fled
700 years Newgate stood instead
Defoe revered, Kidd reviled…
…for from Whittington’s fresh cages
Sprung the Calendar’s carmine pages.
What a gift of a postcode! When I signed up for 26’s Postcode sestude project, my first thought was to draft a little something about a hotel in Manchester. Interesting, intersecting lives, hotels are a wealth of intriguing guests and sublime stories.
But no, instead I got EC4M 7EH: The Old Bailey, built on the site of Newgate Prison. I started to look into it and the facts came flooding through – like Dick Whittington had left money for Newgate to be rebuilt! Did you know he was Lord Mayor of London four times (not three)? Was the cat real? We’re not so sure…
But the most fascinating fact to turn up was the Newgate Calendar, a monthly list of executions at the prison. This bulletin name was appropriated by the gossip writers of the day, who turned out salacious mini-magazines (called ‘chapbooks’) describing the scandalous lives of infamous Newgate prisoners. There were literally oodles of famous names tried, imprisoned or both on the same postcode site. Delicious!
Trying to get all this across in prose looked way too tough, so I tried to make every word count in poetic form. Do dig in, you’ll make many a malevolent mate…