The London Central Criminal Court is a famous landmark building better known as the Old Bailey. But in earlier times, the site it now stands on was home to the notorious Newgate Prison; a place where both public and private executions were carried out. Just across the road from the court is a church which witnessed both buildings and is called St Sepulchre-without-Newgate. Within this church, in a glass case, is displayed a hand-bell named the Executioner’s Bell. And it has a gory history.
The Old Bailey today
It is told that at midnight on the eve of an execution, a clerk would walk past the condemned cells ringing this bell and chanting the following verse;-
“All you that in the condemned hold do die,
Watch all, and pray, the hour is drawing near,
That you before the Almighty must appear.
Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent,
And when St Sepulchre’s bell tomorrow tolls,
The Lord has mercy on your souls.”
Not particularly uplifting if you were one of the condemned. There is another story which says that there existed a tunnel connecting the church to the prison but this is unproven.
The bell is on display within the church