Hicks Hall

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Hicks Hall (1611 — 1778) was the first purpose-built sessions house for Justices of the Peace in Clerkenwell and became the main court of petty sessions and arraignment for more serious offences for much of the former county of Middlesex, including the City of Westminster, hence receiving many of the known cases involving plots, attacks and minor transgressions against the state.

History[edit]

For many years to 1612 the Middlesex Justices had held their sessions at the Castle also known as Windmill Tavern on the east side of the Street, just north of Smithfield Bars (i.e. vestage of gate) and therefore at the nearest point in the county of Middlesex to the City of London.[1]

The new building, which was paid for by wealthy fabric merchant Sir Baptist Hicks (or Hickes), later created 1st Viscount Campden, opened in 1611 on land that had been granted to the magistrates of Middlesex by James I the previous year. The estimated cost of building alone was estimated at up to £900, in general commodities equivalent to £157,810 in 2014.

At the first session in the new building, it was resolved that the building would be named "Hicks-hall" in honour of its patron. For 167 years, Hicks Hall was used to hear cases in the county of Middlesex. It is mentioned in many contemporary reports and in Samuel Pepys's diary. One notable case was on 9 October 1660, when a grand jury was convened to try several men who signed the death warrant of Charles I.

Hicks Hall remained in use until 1778. By that time the building had fallen into disrepair so was closed and demolished. Hicks Hall sessions were transferred to the new Middlesex Sessions House at Clerkenwell Green. In a main room there an engraved Chimney Piece from the old Sessions House was kept, which was inscribed:

Sir Baptist Hickes of Kensington in the County of Middlesex Knight one of the justices of the peace of this county of Middlesex of his worthy disposition and at his own proper charge buylt this session house in the year of our Lord God 1612 and gave it to the justices of peace of this county and their successors for a sessions house for ever. 1618.[1]

When it closed in 1921, cases spanning an Inner London area on both sides of the Thames were moved to the Sessions House in Newington.

Geographical importance[edit]

Hicks Hall, directly north of Smithfield Market, was the traditional starting point of the Great North Road and was used as the initial datum point for mileages on that road, long after the building had been demolished. Measurements were taken from the building's front, which was approximately in the middle of St John Street ("the High-street of Saint John"), at the point where much shorter St John's Lane branches off.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b John Cordy Jeaffreson (editor) (1892). "Sir Baptist Hicks". Middlesex county records: Volume 4: 1667-88. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Norman Webster (1974) The Great North Road. Bath, Adams and Dart. pages 15–16

Coordinates: 51°31′15″N 0°6′6″W / 51.52083°N 0.10167°W / 51.52083; -0.10167