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Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeRye City CourtHolding CourtHolding Court: The Court of St. James & The Other Rye Grill

Holding Court: The Court of St. James & The Other Rye Grill

(PHOTO: Retired Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin at the other Rye Grill.)
(PHOTO: Retired Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin at the other Rye Grill.)

Holding Court is a series by retired Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin. Latwin retired from the court in December 2022 after thirteen years of service to the City.

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By Joe Latwin

Your author recently visited Merry Olde England to check up on how they were progressing without the colonies. They’ve come a way.

Joe Latwin Holding Court - Court of St. James - 1-2Our first stop was in Rye, Sussex, UK, the place from whence we got our name. We left London St. Pancras Station (not on track 9 ½) aboard the Southeaster Railways, changing at Ashford International Station. That train took us to Rye (UK).

Like Rye (NY), the train station is near to town. Rye (UK) is one of the Royal and Antient Cinque Ports that was granted special privileges for their service to King and Crown consisting of providing coastal defense and manpower for the King’s Army. Going across the street, we entered Rye (UK). Just like Rye (NY) there was a Rye Grill near the train station.

While Rye (NY) streets are bumpy, Many of Rye (UK)’s streets are old cobblestone.

Joe Latwin Holding Court - Court of St. James - 3

Both Ryes had a history of smuggling – NY during Prohibition, and UK during the 1600s and 1700s. It was apparently a thriving endeavor leading to severe punishment if caught. Smugglers who were caught sometimes were placed in gibbets – metal frames that were then hung in the public square.

The smugglers would remain on display often until all that remained were your bones. In NY we don’t even have the power to set bail in most cases, let alone hang criminal’s remains on public display. Ah, the good old days.

(PHOTO: Ah, the good old days.)
(PHOTO: Ah, the good old days.)

Joe Latwin Holding Court - Court of St. James - 5

We returned to London and visited the Tower of London.

Every story but one we heard was gruesome. The first prisoner on the Tower got his guards drunk and escaped with the help of friends who had a horse and boat waiting. The Two Princes were allegedly stabbed while being held prisoner in the Tower by or on the orders of Richard of Gloucester (clearing his way to become Richard III). Next were three of Henry VIII’s six wives – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey were all imprisoned in the Tower, beheaded, and interred in the chapel. There were tales of botched beheadings. Sometimes multiple chops of the axe were required to sever the head.

Complete severing of the head and it being held up for the public to see was a requirement of law. In one case, a butcher was hired as executioner and failed to sever the head after several whacks. So, he promptly pulled out his butcher knife and finished the jobs by slicing the remaining tendons and skin.

Joe Latwin Holding Court - Court of St. James - 6-2

Actually, most beheadings, other than Boleyn’s were not conducted in the Tower. The Warder Yeomen (the Beefeaters) would escort the prisoners out of the Tower and half way up the adjoining Tower Hill, where they would turn them over to the Sheriff to supervise the execution.

As far as I have been able to discern, there has not been a botched beheading in Rye (NY).
I did learn some good things we can adopt from our English friends. We need better dressed Court Officers. The swords are impressive!

(PHOTO: A well dressed court officer.)
(PHOTO: A well dressed court officer.)


  1. Our role model:Judge GeorgeJeffrey, Baron of the Aziizes “whose cruelty was moderated only by his ill temper”
    After sentencing a participant in Monmouth’s rebellion to hanged, drawn, and quartered, He responded to the defendant’s wife’s plea for mercy by commuting the sentence to hanging. What a guy. No word on the opinion of the Commission on Judicial Conduct

  2. I once handled a murder case. The defendant was convicted, but I did such a good job for him that I got the voltage on the electric chair reduced.


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