The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.520675, -0.101680


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 16 April 2024 at 4:10AM.

South front of Hicks Hall in about 1750: a wood engraving published in 1873, some 90 years after the building's demolition

Hicks Hall, or Hickes' Hall, was a courthouse at the southern end of St John Street, Clerkenwell, London. It opened in 1612, and was closed and demolished in 1782. It was the first purpose-built sessions house for justices of the peace of the county of Middlesex (including the City of Westminster), and became the main court of petty sessions and arraignment for more serious offences, including cases involving plots, attacks and minor transgressions against the state.

The hall stood at the start of the Great North Road, running from London to York and Edinburgh, and was routinely used as the datum point for measuring mileages along that route.

Prehistory and location

From at least the 1540s, the Middlesex justices regularly held their sessions in an inn at the southern end of St John Street. This was one of the closest points in the county of Middlesex to the City of London, lying immediately north of Smithfield Bar, a tollgate on the City boundary. Two inns were used at different times: the Castle, on the west side of the street, and the Windmill, slightly further north on the east side.[1]

In the 1570s, Elizabeth I granted a lease of waste land in the street to the surveyor Christopher Saxton for building a new sessions house, but nothing more is heard of this project.[1]

Hicks Hall

Hicks Hall marked on John Rocque's Map of London, 1746

In 1609, James I was petitioned by the magistrates of Middlesex for a new site for a sessions house.[1] The petition was successful, and this time the building was erected, being completed in 1612.[1]

The location chosen was an island site in the middle of St John Street where it broadened out, opposite the Windmill inn, and close to the junction with St John's Lane. The estimated costs of construction alone were estimated at up to £900 (in general commodities equivalent to £192,000 in 2021). The building was paid for by the wealthy fabric merchant Sir Baptist Hicks (or Hickes), later created 1st Viscount Campden.[2] At the first session held in the new building, in January 1613, it was resolved that it should be named "Hicks-hall" in honour of its patron.[1]

For 170 years, Hicks Hall was used to hear cases in the county of Middlesex, and is mentioned in many contemporary reports. On 9 October 1660, a grand jury was convened here to try 29 of the men who had signed the death warrant of Charles I, proceedings then continuing at the Old Bailey Sessions House. In 1679, Titus Oates gave evidence here in connection with the "Meal-Tub Plot" against James, Duke of York. In 1682, Count Karl Johann von Königsmarck was acquitted at Hicks Hall of complicity in the murder of Thomas Thynne (although he had in fact almost certainly hired the three assassins). In 1683, William, Lord Russell was condemned to death at Hicks Hall, following his trial at the Old Bailey, for his involvement in the Rye House Plot.[3][4]

The hall receives a passing mention in Samuel Pepys's diary for 6 December 1660:

Before I went forth this morning, one came to give me notice that the Justices of Middlesex do meet tomorrow at Hickes hall and that I, as one, am desired to be there; but I fear I cannot be there, though I much desire it.[5]

In addition to the sessions house, the original intention was to incorporate a small prison in the building, to relieve overcrowding at Newgate. In the event, the site proved too constricted to allow this, but a more modest lock-up was included.[1]

Closure and successor courthouses

By the 1770s the street had become uncomfortably busy and noisy for court business, and the building itself had fallen into disrepair. Although some consideration was given to rebuilding, it was eventually closed and demolished in 1782.[6] Sessions were transferred to the new Middlesex Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green (which, for a time, also became known colloquially as "Hicks Hall").[4] Middlesex Sessions House closed in turn in 1921, when cases spanning the Inner London area on both sides of the Thames were moved to the Sessions House in Newington.[7]


The site of Hicks Hall in St John Street (looking north)

A carved oak chimneypiece, commemorating Hicks' gift, was installed in Hicks Hall in 1618. Following the building's demolition, this was transferred first to the Clerkenwell Green Sessions House, and afterwards to that at Newington, where it survives.[8] It is 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.[2]

The site of Hicks Hall remains obvious as a large island in the middle of St John Street, distinguished by the divergence of the building frontages on either side of the street to leave space for two clear thoroughfares. In the late 19th century a set of public toilets were built on the island, described in 1892 as "a modern erection which, if more useful, is less dignified" than the original courthouse.[2][8]

Use as datum point

Hicks Hall was the notional starting point of the Great North Road, and was used as the datum point for mileages on that road. Measurements were taken from the building's front.[9] The location's use for this purpose survived the demolition of the building itself: it continued until the early 19th century when Charing Cross (the statue of Charles I) began to be treated as the notional centre of London, and the agreed point from which all distances from London were measured. Until the late 19th century, milestones could still be seen on the Great North Road stating the number of miles "from Hicks Hall", or "from where Hicks Hall formerly stood".[2][10]

Cultural references

An Old Dull Sot, wh'had told the Clock,
For many years at Bridewel-Dock,
At Westminster, and Hickses-Hall,
And Hiccius-Doctius play'd in all ...

— Hudibras, part III, canto 3[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Temple 2008, p. 206.
  2. ^ a b c d Woodd Smith, B. (1892). Jeaffreson, John Cordy (ed.). "Sir Baptist Hicks". Middlesex County Records: Volume 4: 1667–88. London: Middlesex County Record Society. pp. 329–349. Retrieved 8 May 2020 – via British History Online.
  3. ^ Temple 2008, pp. 206–207.
  4. ^ a b Timbs 1865, p. 57.
  5. ^ Latham, Robert; Matthews, William (eds.). The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Vol. 1. London: G. Bell & Sons. p. 311. ISBN 0-7135-1551-1.
  6. ^ Temple 2008, pp. 207–208.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Inner London Sessions Court (1385732)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  8. ^ a b Temple 2008, p. 208.
  9. ^ Webster, Norman (1974). The Great North Road. Bath: Adams and Dart. pp. 15–16.
  10. ^ Timbs 1865, p. 54.
  11. ^ Butler, Samuel (1905) [1678]. Waller, A. R. (ed.). Hudibras: written in the time of the late wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 298.


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

7 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

I'm not sure exactly what Hickes's Hall was, but it can be seen marked on this 1746 map (bottom right):…

The modern-day map link shows the site is now occupied by a public loo!

dirk  •  Link

Hickes's Hall

The only reference to Hickes's Hall I could find on the web is from a newspaper in 1726:

"16 July 1726
On Monday at the Sessions at Guild-hall, (which began there and at Hickes's-Hall that Day) one Joseph Cuttler was try'd and convicted of a Misdemeanor, for attempting to extort Money from a Shopkeeper in Fleetstreet, threatning, in case of refusal, to swear Sodomy against him. He was sentenced to pay a Fine of 10 Marks, to suffer half a Year's Imprisonment, and to stand in the Pillory in Fleetstreet, over-against Shooe-Lane End." (The London Journal)


Brian G McMullen  •  Link

Here is a notation for Hick's Hall from the following site:…

Saint John's street, without West Smithfield Bars, L. Here is Hicks's Hall, where the Justices of the Peace hold their Sessions; and the Grand Jury finds Bills against Criminals to be tryed at Old Baily.

Brian G McMullen  •  Link

This may be a stretch but I found the following at:…

Early American Secular Music and its European Sources, 1589-1839:
Source Data-E75.119

Title: Hick's Hall Has Broke Us All (t)

Number E75.119
Short Title Johnson CD-6, 1751

Just a wonderful title!

Brian G McMullen  •  Link

Last one:…

From The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby

"February 27th. -- The bills against the three murderers of Mr. Thynne had been found against them as principals, and against the Count as accessory at the sessions at Hick's Hall, which had begun on the 2oth of February, and ended on the 28th ; all the rest of the persons apprehended or bound over for that offence being reserved as witnesses till the trial. On the 28th they were tried at the Old Bailey, where, after a trial that lasted from nine in the morning till five in the afternoon, and a very strict prosecution by the relations of Mr. Thynne, the three were brought in principals of the said murder, and received sentence of death accordingly. The Count was acquitted as not accessory by the same jury, it being per medietatem linguae, according to the privilege of strangers. I carried the King the news the first of this, who was not displeased to hear that it had passed in this manner. The party of the Duke of Monmouth, who all appeared to countenance the prosecution, were extremely concerned that the Count did escape.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

The Middlesex Sessions House in St. John Street, Clerkenwell, named after Sir Baptist Hicks, one of the justices, and afterwards Viscount Campden, at whose cost it was built in 1612. The Sessions House was removed to the present building on Clerkenwell Green in 1782.
---Wheatley (1896).

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Great North Road out of London to York, Edinburgh and all points in between, began at Smithfield Market.

Distances to the north were measured from Hicks’ Hall, the former courthouse of the Middlesex magistrates at the southern end of St. John Street, and marked by milestones along the road.

Travelers passed the first stone at Islington Green, milestones 2 and 3 were found at Highbury Corner and Holloway, before they met Four Mile Stone at the foot of Highgate Hill and then, after a steep climb, Five Mile Stone was to be discovered on North Hill. Next came the Six Mile Stone at what was known as Finchley Common, the most dangerous place in London for highwaymen.

At Six Mile Stone was a gibbet where the bodies of executed highwaymen were hung in chains and left to rot for the birds to feed upon, as a discouragement to other miscreants from attracted to this malevolent trade.

The Great North Road evolved in the early 17th century.
At first the road was uneven, narrow, muddy, full of puddles, and wheels ruts. Inclement weather made communication difficult and often dangerous. It twisted, turned, shrank, expanded, and it changed its course, sometimes by design and occasionally by accident.

Passing along its length were pilgrims, soldiers, peasants, vagabonds, rebellious armies, cattle drovers, coaches, and highwaymen.

The first recorded stage coach operating from London to York was in 1658 taking 4 days. Faster mail coaches began using the route in 1786, providing a quicker service than the other passenger coaches.

THE ROUTE: London/Hicks' Hall on St. John’s Street, Clerkenwell – Islington Green - Highbury Corner – Holloway - Highgate Hill - North Hill – Finchley Common - Stamford – Grantham – Retford – Doncaster – York – Durham – Newcastle-Upon-Tyne – Morpeth – Alnwick – Berwick-Upon-Tweed - Edinburgh

Info from…
and https://theyorkshirejournal.files…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Dec