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Laura Norder

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (December 2012)


Laura Norder.

Or law and order. Not to be confused with an antique shop I once saw called Junk and Disorderly.

Pub signs with a legal system theme.

The places.

The Courthouse in Dartford, a listed 19th century building, used to be the towns County Court, until the Lord Chancellor’s Department sold it to Youngs Brewery in 2000. The new court is a modern building attached to Waitrose supermarket. 

The Courthouse Trowbridge in Wiltshire is said to be one of the oldest pubs in the town. It doesn’t look like a converted County Court. Trowbridge never had a regular criminal assize and so far as I can tell it was not one of the sites where the notorious Judge Jeffreys held a session of the ‘bloody assizes’.  More about him later.

The City Arms in Wells was once the local lock up, later an abattoir, now a pub with a reputation for food.

I have been able to find nothing out about the Old Courthouse in Stanford-le-hope Essex, other than it has a good reputation for bands and music. I know nothing about the building or the story behind the rather sad young man standing on what I assume is a scaffold. His clothing and that of the crowd are early 19th century – later than the heyday of the Essex Highwayman.

Serjeants, formerly the Clachan (I knew it well...) used to be a pub in Mitre Court near Serjeants Inn one of the oldest Inns of Court which accommodated the Serjeants at Law. They were a type of barrister, defunct many years (about 100) before I worked in the area. It’s all barrister’s chambers in that building now.

The famous Wig and Pen club opposite the Royal Courts of Justice is now a Thai restaurant and take away. It was a private club and I never received an invitation from a member to dine there. It didn’t have a sign that I can recall. I always imagined it as the prototype of Rumpole of the Bailey’s favourite drinking hole, Pomeroy’s Wine Bar but El Vino’s further down Fleet Street, which used to be a journalists bar until the newspapers moved out, is said to be the original.

My former boss used to speak wistfully of the underground Crypt Bar in the Royal Courts of Justice. It claimed to be the longest bar in London (several bars make the same claim – the bar at Henekeys in Holborn was very long, but is now much shorter since that pub was refurbished as the Cittee of York) and many cases were settled there out of court and over a drink. The area now contains the modern suite of Crypt Courts. Today drinking is frowned upon and far more dangerous substances have replaced port and mild.

The Miscreants

The Highwayman Shepton Mallet. This shows a highwayman examining a poster of the most famous highwayman of all Dick Turpin, who in real life was a nasty piece of work.  He seems to have never spent any recorded time in Somerset.

He was born in Essex in 1705 and at first followed his father’s trade of butcher. His grandparents are supposed to have lived in what is now the Rose and Crown pub in Enfield, Hertfordshire. After their marriage he and his wife Elizabeth took a shop in Buckhurst Hill near Loughton. The butchery trade took him into contact with poachers, especially of venison, and from there into other crimes of robbery and burglary in and around Essex and London. After the brutal assault and torture of a widow in Traps hill Loughton the authorities managed to break the Essex gang up and Turpin turned to Highway robbery. Wanted for murder he fled north through Lincolnshire to Yorkshire. It is unlikely that the midnight ride on trusty mare Black Bess ever happened. In York he was eventually apprehended for horse theft and tried at York assizes. He was hanged on the gallows in Knavesmire outside York on 7th April 1739. His headless ghost is said to ride up (or is it down) Traps Hill in Buckhurst Hill at certain nights of the year. The book, mostly ficticious, The Genuine History of the Life of Richard Turpin, written by Richard Bayes to cash in after the execution is responsible for the glamourous legend, which developed to present him as an 18th century Robin Hood. There are two pubs in Essex named the Dick Turpin; both now belong to corporate chains and are run as carvery/steak houses. Neither have a proper sign.

The Shepherd, Kelvedon Hatch Essex. There is nothing on the local history website to say what the Highwayman connection to the pub was, but there were many active in Essex on the roads approaching London.

Sixteen String Jack, Theydon Bois Essex

Another Highwayman but not an Essex man. John Rann was born in Bath in 1750 (Shepton Mallet is not far from Bath, but Dick Turpin was dead long before his birth) and started as a pickpocket in London before holding up coaches on the Hounslow Road in west London. His ploy was to dress shabbily on the road, then if caught appear at his trial dressed as a dandy, including 16 bright ribbons to tie his breeches. Hence the name. He looked so different witnesses were unable to identify him beyond reasonable doubt. Eventually he was convicted. The night before his execution at Tyburn on 30th November 1774 he entertained 7 women to dinner, dressed in a pea green suit then danced a jig on the scaffold.

Margaret Catchpole  Ipswich

A very interesting woman. She was born in Nacton near Ipswich and worked in the household of the Cobbold family, still noted in Suffolk for their brewery. In their house she learnt to read and write and was well loved by them. In particular she once rode bare-backed to Ipswich to bring the doctor out to the family, guiding his horse by a halter. Sadly she did not make a good choice in the man she loved. She fell in love with a sailor William Laud who turned smuggler. Another friend of hers, a John Barry, tried to help her. Laud shot him and fled. Margaret heard that he was in London and stole a horse from the Cobbolds to ride to him. She was arrested and sentenced to death; because of her previous good character this was commuted to transportation to Australia. She escaped from Ipswich Gaol by sliding down a 22ft wall using a clothesline. She was recaptured, then her sentence was reduced to a period of 7 years in Australia. She arrived in Sydney in 1801 and remained in Australia for the rest of her life, respected as a farmer, a midwife and a nurse. She never married and her letters home are eyewitness accounts of the history of New South Wales in the years 1806-09. She died in 1819 from influenza caught from a patient. Her story became popular due to the book written by her employer’s son Revd Richard Cobbold.

The Nightingale, Wanstead. The area was once known as Mob’s Hole and was the haunt of highwaymen and thieves, including Turpin. One Lady Butterfield at the pub used to challenge young men and women to horse and foot races to end with feasting.

Captain Kidd, Wapping

William Kidd was born in Scotland c1645. He wasn’t even a pirate, but a privateer, and many say he was unjustly prosecuted for piracy. He captured treasure from foreign ships in the East Indies and the Indian ocean which, hearing that he was a wanted man, he took to the Caribbean where he hid much of it. He was apprehended and held in New York. Then he was taken to London to stand trial before the High Court of Admiralty in London for charges of piracy on the high seas and the murder of William Moore. King William failed to grant his plea for clemency. The rich men who backed him were embarrassed and hid some of the evidence that might have cleared him of piracy, but not of murder. He was hanged at execution dock in Wapping East London in 1701. The hangman’s rope broke but he died on the hangman’s second attempt. His body was exhibited on a gibbet in Tilbury downstream towards the Thames estuary as a warning. 

The possibility of the cache of buried treasure on ‘Treasure Island’ is responsible for the growth of the legend surrounding him.

The Wyke Smugglers, Wyke Regis Dorset; The Smugglers Tavern W1 Smuggling was so much a part of life in 18th and early 19th century England that almost every town on the coast or in or near a port town has a story or legend about the trade.

The Lawyers

Judge Jeffrey’s Dorchester. This is actually a restaurant and tea rooms not a pub but Dorchester was one of the main sites of the ‘Bloody Assizes’.

King Charles II left no legitimate heir so the throne passed to his brother King James II. His leaning to Catholicism was one factor that made him very unpopular. The Duke of Monmouth led a rebellion against him from the West Country. He was the oldest of Charles’ sons and many believed him to be legitimate by a secret youthful marriage between Charles and his mother Lucy (who died young) during the Civil War or its aftermath. The rebellion was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor and Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys led the trials of more than 1400 captured rebels. At his order several hundred men were hung, or worse, hung drawn and quartered. The women were burnt at the stake, or beheaded as an act of mercy. Hundreds more were transported to the West Indies, or died of gaol fever before they reached the ships. After the Glorious Revolution of 1685 which brought James’ Anglican daughter Mary and her husband William to reign jointly Jeffreys was taken to the Tower of London where he died of a chronic illness.

Jeremy Bentham W1

His work in the theory of Jurisprudence is well known, if not (in my case) well understood. What I didn’t know about him until now was that he was responsible for the formation of the Thames River Police in 1798 which predated and influenced the work of Robert Peel 30 years later. His skeleton is preserved in the cloisters of University College London. It was brought to the College Council meetings on the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college where he was marked as ‘present but not voting’.

Judge Tindals, Chelmsford; Lord Denman, Dagenham

Judge Tindal was a prominent lawyer and judge, Chief Justice of Common pleas,  who was born in Chelmsford. Lord Denman, former Lord Chief Justice, lived in Dagenham after his retirement from the bench.

The Old Justice, Bermondsey; The Wig and Mitre, Lincoln. The other side of the sign is a picture of a bishop; the pub is halfway between Lincoln Cathedral and the complex of buildings that are the castle, the modern Crown Court and the Old Gaol.

The Punishments

The Hung, Drawn and Quartered, Tower Hill, near one of London’s most famous sites of execution.

The Old Justice, Bermondsey. This side shows the punishment of the stocks, examples of which can still be seen on many English village greens. They are a staple of British comedy in an olde worlde setting but in practice I believe they could be quite unpleasant.

The Strugglers Inn, Lincoln

People used to gather thereto watch the executions outside the prison. Sometimes the condemned man would be offered a last drink. William Clarke left his lurcher dog in the safekeeping of the pub landlord before he was hanged. The landlord cared for the dog for the rest of its life and had it stuffed after death. The dog is now in the museum within the old gaol and his ghost is said to haunt the pub. A later landlord was Albert Pierrepoint the hangman.

Traitor’s Gate, Little Thurrock. Traitor’s Gate is 20 miles upstream on the Thames at the Tower of London. It is the watergate onto the River Thames through which traitors were traditionally taken into the prison by boat. Queen Elizabeth was taken thus when she was implicated in a plot against her sister Queen Mary. On her accession she defiantly entered by the same gate on her way to the Royal Apartments at the Tower the night before her Coronation. 

The Civil Law.

The Magna Carta, Lincoln. Just outside Lincoln Cathedral where a copy of Magna Carta is held. The importance of Magna Carta does not need to be spelled out here.

The Speaker, Westminster. The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer responsible for keeping order and good behaviour. He or she is expected to renounce party loyalties and be impartial. The office is nearly as old as that of Parliament and can be traced back to the 13th century. The role of Speaker in the House of Lords used to be taken by the Lord Chancellor until the Labour government’s attempts to abolish his role. It is held by a separate individual on similar non-party principles to that in the House of Commons.

The Freeholders, formerly on the pub at St John’s Street Farnham but now in Chiswick Brewery. Who are the tenants? Is that their landlord?

Rowell Charter Inn, Rothwell. In 1204 King John granted the people of Rothwell (or Rowell) in Northamptonshire the right to hold a weekly fair. The fair is now an annual event which starts on the first Monday after Trinity Sunday with the Proclamation. Starting at the church door the Town Bailiff rides to every pub in town where he reads the Proclamation, after which he and his party of halberdiers and the Fair Band are given the traditional drink of rum and milk. These days there are only 5 pubs in town – six glasses of rum and milk are enough for any man.

The Case is Altered, Bentley, Suffolk.

There are less than a dozen examples of pubs of this name in England. Possibly named for Ben Jonson’s play of the late 16th century but every pub has its own individual story. In Bentley near Ipswich the story is told of the generous widowed landlady who allowed her drinkers to run up a bill. Once she remarried, ah, but the case was altered.

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