This week, me old ‘London Shoes’ sort of felt like they were being called ‘up before the beak’ and having their ‘collar felt’.
The London Shoes blog published this week, goes under the title of “Legal London” – and focusses on 3 specific locations and the stacks of history behind them, and what these locations represent today.
The 3 historic sites in question are:-
* “Lincoln’s Inn” (& its nearby “Lincoln’s Inn Fields”)
* “Middle Temple”
* “Inner Temple”
Lincoln’s Inn is one of London’s prestigious and world renowned legal ‘Inns of Court’.
Don’t be misled by the term “Inn” as it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a ‘boozer’.
London’s ‘Inns of Court’ are sites of historic educational centers and professional associations that qualified and practicing barristers of England & Wales must be members of, to be able to be called to ‘The Bar’ (and again, it’s got nothing to do with the pub).
There are 4 ‘Inns of Court’ in London and they are ‘Lincolns Inn’ – ‘Inner Temple’ – ‘Middle Temple’ & ‘Greys Inn’ – and some of the world’s most prominent judges & barristers work from these locations.
Lincoln’s Inn itself is located literally a minutes walk from Holborn tube station – and in the hustle & bustle and noise of the metropolis surrounding it, it’s surprisingly a place of peace & tranquility.
Set in an area of 11 acres, Lincoln’s Inn is by far the largest of London’s Inns of Court.
Before the 1400’s the subject of “law” could only be taught by the ‘Church’, but after that period the topic was allowed to be taught and practiced in the City of London by independent qualified lawyers.
However, when Henry VIII was on the throne, he didn’t like the idea of these practitioners having a greater power to stand in judgement on legal matters, than he did, and so he banned all lawyers from practicing within the then boundary walls of the ‘City of London’, so all the banned lawyers decided to leg it over to Holborn and set up their practices in that area, as at that time the Holborn district sat just outside the city walls.
Around that time the Earl of Lincoln owned a lot of land in what eventually became the Holborn district – and on that land he had a massive Tudor mansion.
Having a bit of sympathy for the banned lawyers, the Earl of Lincoln bequeathed his mansion and all its adjoining land, to these lawyers, with a proviso that they set-up a college for them to study, qualify and practice English Law –and that is how Lincoln’s Inn became an ‘Inn of Court’.
Some of the barrister’s chambers and other legal buildings situated within the secluded Lincoln’s Inn area, date way back to the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries – however, the majority of the original buildings there were redeveloped during the Victorian period, but with a strict proviso that their design did not deviate from the original architectural designs and structures.
The “Chapel” within Lincoln’s Inn dates back to around the early 1600’s, although records indicate that there had been a place of worship sited there since before the 1400’s.
An interesting historical aspect of the Chapel is that its bell is believed to date right back to 1596.
Another interesting and visual aspect of the Chapel, are the many ‘holes’ that are smothered across its exterior walls and interior passageways. These holes were caused by shrapnel from bombs dropped by German Zeppelins during WW1, the very first time that England had ever been invaded from the skies.
Other notable historic buildings within Lincoln’s Inn itself include the very picturesque ‘Kitchen Garden’ – the ‘Old Hall’, which originally dates back to 1489 – the ‘Gatehouse’, which was built in 1521, and whose oak gates date back to 1564 – the ‘Library’ which was built in 1471, and redeveloped in 1845, and the actual ‘Inn’ that stands today originates from 1609.
The ‘Jubilee Fountain’ that sits in the middle of the Inn’s square lawn, is a new edition, designed and instaled in 2003.
The entire area of Lincoln’s Inn, with its ‘vibe’, peace and tranquility, its magnificent historical buildings, ornate stained glass windows, and commemorative flagstones – very much gives off a feeling and ambience of the Oxford & Cambridge University sites.
The “Lincoln’s Inn” site itself may not be top of everyone’s ‘must see’ list – but believe me, it is well worth a visit.
“Lincoln’s Inn Field’s”:-
Literally just alongside the Lincoln’s Inns majestic entrance gate is the historical landmark of “Lincoln’s Inn Field’s”.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest public square in London.
It was originally ‘laid-out’ in 1630 as a private garden – and as time went on the land acquired ‘grazing rights’. Throughout the 17th & 18th centuries, it was certainly one of the top ‘go-to’ places for cattle in transit, to have their lunch!!.
This ‘grazing’ field started to attract a lot of activity, and as a result residential houses started to spring-up around the ‘Field’, and because there was housing, then retail ‘shops’ also started to appear – these shops led from the ‘Field’ to the nearest main street routes in and out of London at that time, which are today known as ‘High Holborn’ to the north & the ‘Strand’ to the south.
The residents of the houses surrounding Lincolns Inn Field, were mainly wealthy lawyers and judges – and, quite understandably, they didn’t take too kindly to the constant noise and muck created by the grazing cattle, as the animals would often ‘escape’ from the Field and wander around all the nearby streets and houses, leaving their mess behind them.
To solve this problem, the authorities decided to construct a strong fence around the ‘Field’ to stop the animals getting out – and to have 2 ‘turnstiles’ put in, to enable people to enter & exit the Field , without the cattle escaping.
The existence of these 2 turnstiles is still evident today, by way of the ‘Great Turnstile’ and ‘Little Turnstile’ alleys that lead towards Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
In the 1600’s ‘Lincoln’s Inn Fields’ was one of London’s notorious public execution sites, where many notable people lost their ‘heads’.
During this period a man known as London’s most useless executioner ‘Jack Ketch’, performed his work there. It has been reported that he was so bad at swinging the old axe, that it very often took him up to 6 attempts to chop his poor victim’s heads off. (Perhaps he should have gone to SpecSavers.)
The houses that surround the perimeter of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, are some of the most magnificent historical residences in London, that have been the homes of many famous people and organisations throughout the centuries.
The legendary architect and designer Sir John Soanes bought no.12 Lincolns Inn Fields in 1792, and then later also purchased no’s 13 & 14.
By 1824, he had had them all rebuilt by the architect who designed The Bank of England.
Within these particular houses Sir John Soanes created an ‘Academy of Architecture’, which he eventually ‘left to the nation’ as a museum when he died.
This museum was made up of Sir John Soanes 3 interconnected houses, and now displays numerous historic and interesting arts and artefacts, all preserved and on display in a domestic context.
The oldest building in the streets surrounding Lincoln’s Inn Fields, is believed to be ‘Lindsey House’ at no’s 59–60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, – purporting to date back to 1640. Today, Lindsey House are the chambers of the leading civil liberties barristers.
Another 17th century building survivor is no.66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was built for Lord Powis and known as ‘Powis House’.
No. 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Field is the headquarters to ‘The Royal College of Surgeons’. A collection of artefacts and anatomies that were collected by John Hunter (1728-1793) regarded to be the father of surgery – are on display in the ‘Hunterian Museum’ at the Royal College of Surgeons building.
Garden Court Chambers at no.57-58 Lincoln’s Inn Fields has an interior geometric staircase designed by Sir John Soane.
References to Lincoln’s Inn Fields also appear regularly throughout the Charles Dicken’s novel ‘Bleak House’.
In 2003 the ‘London School of Economics and Political Science’ moved into no.50 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
At no. 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields stands the architecturally magnificent building that was once the offices of Britain’s ‘Land Registry’.
Displayed on the exterior walls of no.65 is a blue plaque commemorating the fact that once the home of the famous surgeon William Marsden (1796-1867), who founded the Royal Free and the Royal Marsden Hospitals.
So that’s Lincoln’s Inn & Lincoln’s Inn Fields – steeped in history and well worth a visit.
“Inner Temple & Middle Temple”:-
The area known as Middle Temple & Inner Temple, is located just 3mins north of Temple tube station on the Embankment (one of my favourite tube stations).
Middle Temple & Inner Temple are 2 of London’s 4 ‘Inns of Court’.
The earliest recorded reference to this specific location dates back to before the 12th century, when a church belonging to the ‘Knights Templar’ stood there.
The Knights Templar’s were a sort of military order, but very much connected to religion – and their existence dates back to 1119 when the Knights Templar-‘Order’ was founded.
The Knights Templar’s were a formidable fighting force, whose members were easily recognised by the red-cross displayed on the front of their white tunics.
They were heavily linked to the Crusades and quickly built up connections and cells throughout Europe and especially the ‘Holy Land’. They were an extremely powerful ‘army’, but often had a bad reputation as being ruthless, blood thirsty marauders, particularly throughout the Holy Lands.
By the beginning of the 12th century, the Knights Templar‘s ‘Order’ had become less formidable as other religions became more prominent – and as a result, the Order just fell away.
The Knights Templar’s used to worship, and carry out all their controversial initiation ceremonies at the ‘Temple Church’ situated in the area now known as ‘Temple’ – and that is exactly how the area got its name!!
Both Inner & Middle Temple have been the location for lawyers and barristers since the late 1300’s – very much as it still is today.
The whole area is like a little world within a world, as it has the unique distinction of having special ‘rights’ that are known as ‘Liberties’ – which means that the area is completely outside of the jurisdiction of the City of London, and the religious jurisdictions of the Bishop of London.
‘Temple Church’ itself, which was originally built and consecrated by the Knights Templar’s in 1185, also has its own unique status in that it has the distinction of being a ‘Royal Peculiar’, which means that the church belongs directly to the Monarch, rather than belonging to a diocese as with a parish church.
Just like Lincoln’s Inn, Middle & Inner Temple consists of many historic buildings (approx 45 of them) that operate as barrister’s chambers.
Many of the Temple’s buildings originate from the 15th/16th/17th centuries – and although they have been subjected to considerable damage from events such as the Great Fire of London and the WW2 Blitz – any rebuilding and redevelopments have been strictly reproduced to emulate a buildings original design and structure.
There are some beautifully designed ‘courts’ & ‘squares’ situated within ‘Inner’ & ‘Middle’ Temple such as: – Devereux Court – Brick Court – Essex Court – Fountain Court.
At no.17 Gough Square, there stands the former home of ‘Dr. Samuel Johnson’ (1709-1784) – the famous author, writer and composer of the very first published version of the English Dictionary .
17 Gough Square is the only remaining one of the 18 houses that Dr Johnson once had scattered across London, and with its 4 window bays wide and being 5 storeys high, it displays the typical architectural features of city dwelling residential houses that were owned by the wealthy during that period in time.
At the other end of Gough Square, directly facing Dr. Johnson house, is a statue of ‘Hodge’ – Johnson’s much loved cat !!!
For this trek out I was once again very privileged to be accompanied by my former Barclays Bank partner-in-crime during the last 10 years of my career – me old Canary Wharf compatriot ‘Jackie’ – who I have to say, a took some mean photos for me – however, adopting her usual ‘no publicity’ stance, she was very insistent that she should not appear in any of them, but she bought me a cheeky beer, later in the pub, so I cut her a bit-of-slack!!
So – after spending a day exploring and enjoying the calm and serenity of Lincoln’s Inn – Lincoln’s Inn Fields – Middle Temple & Inner Temple, clocking up over 14,500 steps (so my accomplice Jackie reliably informed me) – it was time for a well-earned ‘cheeky’ one and some nibbles – and what better place to park one’s bum than the amazing “The Edgar Wallace” pub in Essex Street, Temple.
The pub building was constructed in 1777, and was originally called ‘The Essex Head’. It was once the regular drinking hole of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who used to hold his ‘Essex Head Club’ meetings in there with all his mates from the literary world.
Today, this one-roomed pub with an upstairs, attracts its “Billy Bunters” from mainly the nearby legal world of Temple and the Royal Courts of Justice.
To ensure that its clientele enjoy undisturbed conversation, there are no fruit machines; no music, no tv in the pub, and lap-tops are strictly barred.
In 1975 the pub was renamed ‘The Edgar Wallace’ to commemorate the prolific crime writer and novelist.
Today, every possible conceivable space on the pub’s ceiling is covered in beer mats, as is the bar area – and the interior walls of the pub are a smothered with old advertising signs for beers, spirits, cigarettes and cigars of the past.
The Edgar Wallace is a really unique pub, and definitely well worth a visit if you are ever in the ‘Temple’ area.
Apologies for the length of this article, but there was a lot of interesting stuff I wanted to cover-off.
If you are in London and are desperately looking for a bit of peace & quiet, and an escape from all the stress and turmoil of the big bad ‘Smoke’ – then you really can’t go wrong visiting ‘Lincoln’s Inn’ & ‘Temple’ – as they truly are an ‘oasis of tranquillity in a desert storm’
Hope you enjoy the photos.
More photos of Lincoln’s Inn – ‘Lincoln’s Inn Fields – Middle Temple & Inner Temple