Earlier this year, I was commissioned to do a painting of the Old Bailey in The City of London. It was a double commission really, she wanted one of the Royal Courts of Justice too.
They were a retirement present for her husband. He was a TV camera man for many years and had witnessed all the trials and tribulations in both courts over his long career so the idea was to have two paintings of him at work.About
The Old Bailey
I was looking forward to this, it is a lovely building to paint and a pretty buzzy area too, so I was hoping to get to chat to a few people to help inform the work and pass the time.
I ascended from St Paul’s station and was greeted by a chilly wind and a thin persistent rain. The Old Bailey is not far down the road and I took the gamble that I may find a wee bit of shelter once I got on site. The gamble paid off as once there I poached a bit of cover beneath the horning of a hotel. The wind was going away from me and the rain wasn’t so hard. I was in business.
Drawing the Old Bailey
I lifted my sketchbook and regarded the scene. The central Criminal Court or ‘Old Bailey’ was first mentioned as being on this site in 1585 when it was attached to the older Newgate Prison. Newgate has long been resigned to history through the courts, has continued in various guises, and the classical building which stands here today was opened in 1907.
I began top down with the golden statue sporting the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other hand to mete out punishments should the balance tip the wrong way.
Whilst working, I couldn’t help noticing that the street was very quiet. In the 15 minutes I had been there I had not seen a single soul. No one. I could hear traffic off to my left though I was totally alone. Where is everyone?
Pushing on, I worked my way down from the central tower to the bulk of building to the main arch dominating the front. The structure was certainly built with the full force of the law in mind and the doors were hard shut.
It was then it occurred to me why no one was about. It was the weekend and the doors were locked. Even Justice it seems is suspended at the weekend. ‘Mighty Justice here, except on Saturdays and Sundays’ How very British.
Half an hour later and I was alone still, it rained harder, and the wind changed direction. I was getting soaked so drawing had to end. I was cold and gloomy. What could be worse than being stuck outside the Old Bailey on a dull weekend? I mused at mighty sword of justice again, ahh yes, being stuck on the inside during the week.
And finally I have placed the accompanying painting of The Royal Courts of Justice. They went rather well together.