Regency Crime and Punishment: Assizes

For serious criminal and civil matters, the courts of assize or assizes as they were known were held in country towns.  Visiting judges from higher London courts often presided over the assizes, a system that was created sometime in the 12th Century and largely abandoned by reform in 1971 (http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/laworder/court/overview/assizes/).  Judges, normally in pairs, moved around circuits on royal commission (http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/archives/Leaflets/Assizes.pdf). Cases were assigned to … Expand

Regency (H)Not Spots: Fleet Prison

For over 700 years, Fleet Prison saw its share of criminals and miseries.  Built in 1197 along the eastside of the River Fleet, by the 18th Century it had become a prison for primarily debtors and those who had gone bankrupt.  Within the walls, the community ranged relatively free, with more than 300 prisoners adhering to rules set by a prisoners’ committee (londonlive.org).  Artistocratic and … Expand

Regency Crime and Punishment: The Assassination of Spencer Perceval

It was a sunny Monday, May 11th, 1812, when the prime minister made his way toward his chambers at the House of Commons.  The 49 year old was a lawyer by trade, the younger son of an aristocratic family who was born and raised in London.  After rising to MP in 1796, the Tory rose through the ranks to be solicitor general, attorney general and … Expand