Cross over London Bridge into the Borough High Street and step back in time to imagine you have joined William Garrow as he cleaves his way through a chaos of carts and carriages, the jostling hubbub of Borough Market and, with the stench of breweries, tanneries and slaughterhouses in the air, passes by the Marshelsea and Kings Bench prisons and heads towards St George’s Fields, on the 5th of May 1798.
It is ironic that after tonight’s episode of ‘Garrow’s Law’ (BBC1, 5 December 2010) people are likely to be asking ‘Who is Thomas Erskine?’, the barrister who made such a dramatic entrance in the final episode of series two. Indeed, so much has William Garrow within a few short weeks lodged himself in the public psyche as the radical reformer of his era that others – who took the greater share of the credit in the past – have been more or less relegated to a secondary or supporting role. Continue reading “Who Was Thomas Erskine?”
I have now been through all my Garrow papers and I am afraid I cannot find from where where I got Sarah’s name!
However, at the plaque unveiling yesterday I was put on to the following.
Garrow’s Law has been rewarded for so successfully bringing the previously unknown tale of William Garrow to a wide audience. In judging the prize for best history programme the Royal Television Society reported:
“The jury were very impressed by the accessible telling of such a good ‘unknown’ dramatic story based on strong historical research.” (full awards listing).
A second series now seems inevitable, and perhaps Twenty Twenty Television will investigate Garrow’s later achievements and intrigues?
The Arts and Humanities Council has also rightly claimed this as a success after funding the Old Bailey Proceedings Online – which was one of the key research sources for the series: full story.
Was Garrow the model for the defence counsel, Mr Stryver, in Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities? The question comes to mind because of a number of similarities between Garrow and Stryver as portrayed by the great novelist. In the first place the trial in which Mr Stryver is engaged takes place in the Old Bailey in 1780 close to the period of Garrow’s renown there in changing the face of criminal justice. It was the trial of Charles Darnay for treason for which the penalty if found guilty (as was generally expected) was to be hanged, beheaded and quartered.