Guide to the Inns
1 February 2013
2 September 2009
1 February 2003
1 February 2003
15 March 2007
18 October 2004
Choosing an Inn can be a difficult proposition for the uninitiated - here is Lawyer2B’s guide to help you through.
Background: While none of the Inns can concretely prove their date of origin, Gray’s Inn is thought to have been in fully-fledged existence by 1388. The Inn and surrounding area was formerly the dwelling (‘inn’) of Sir Reginald de Grey, Chief Justice of Chester in addition to being Constable and Sheriff of Nottingham, and was made up of at least one lake, market and manor house.
During subsequent centuries the Inn prospered, and in the 16th century Gray’s Inn became the place du jour for noblemen and country gentlemen to send their sons.
Beyond the entertainment, dancing and masquerades at the Inn, few members actually had the intention of fulfilling their education to become qualified barristers. The situation peaked between 1561 and 1600 when the average admittance to the Inn was sixty-two but the annual calls to the bar amounted toonly six.
The true hub of the Inn is located in the hall, and the site comprises an extensive library, chapel, chambers and sixty residential flats available for qualified members to rent.
Quirky fact: In 1750, the librarian Fergus Clavering was granted an increase in salary to £30 per annum. He was so overcome when he heard the news he died soon afterwards.
General: There is an Association of Gray’s Inn Students (AGIS) - a student-led organisation that liaises between the Inn’s members and its benchers and administration. AGIS publishes a weekly newsletter called ‘The Griffin’.
Defining feature: You can join a membership list that dates back to 1521 and includes great names such as Thomas Cromwell, John Pym, Shakespeare’s patron the Earl of Southampton, and philosopher Francis Bacon.
Background: Lincoln’s Inn possesses formal records contained in the ‘Black Books’, which date its legal activities from 1422.
The Inn’s name most probably derives from Henry de Lacy, the third Earl of Lincoln (1249-1311), who is said to have been the patron of the Inn and to have lived in nearby Shoe Lane.
The lion from the de Lacy family’s coat of arms still features on the Inn’s crest. The mill-rinds also visible on the crest were derived from the arms of Richard Kingsmill, a bencher who played a leading role in the 1580 acquisition of the whole of the current site.
The charm of the Inn lies in its stunning architecture, which fortunately managed to escape the devastation caused elsewhere by the bombs of World War II.
The Chancery Gatehouse was constructed in 1518, and the Old Hall and some chambers also date from this century. Architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, of St Pancras Station fame, extended the library by three bays eastwards in 1871-72.
Former members of Lincoln’s Inn include fifteen prime ministers - Tony Blair among them - and novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard and
John Galsworthy. Poet John Donne was Preacher to the Inn and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Most famously, Thomas More was admitted as a student in 1496 and later became a bencher and governor of the Inn.
Quirky fact: During the 18th and 19th centuries, girls unable to care for their babies would sometimes leave them at the chapel of the Inn. The babies were subsequently ‘adopted’ and cared for into adulthood by the Inn. The children were often given the name Lincoln.
General: The Inn has strong connections with the Chancery Bar, but welcomes students aspiring to all fields of practice. It supplements a pupil’s formal training by arranging debates, moots, instruction, exercises in advocacy and experience as a judge’s marshal.
Defining feature: A former and well-established member Lord Denning set up an exclusive society, with membership restricted to those who hold scholarships or bursaries at Lincoln’s Inn.
The Denning Society meets three times annually - the most important occasion being a dinner in January to celebrate the great lord’s birthday.
Background: The history of Inner Temple begins in the middle of the 12th century when the Order of the Knights Templar constructed the Temple Church on a site near the Thames. It was modelled on the Church of St Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the original church still forms part of the Temple Church that is visible today.
Two hundred years later, lawyers came to inhabit the buildings left there after the abolition of the Order, and split themselves into two societies known as the Inner and the Middle Temple.
Each society occupied one of the halls constructed by the Templars on the site, but it was not until 1732 when a deed of partition formally divided the area between them.
Each building can be identified by the emblems sculptured on them: a Pegasus represents the Inner Temple, although the reasons behind the design of a mythical horse are unknown. It has been speculated that the Pegasus could have been taken from the Templars’ seal of two knights with shields on horseback, with the shields resembling wings.
Former members of Inner Temple include foreign statesmen, most notably Mahatma Ghandi, while the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal both currently hold positions as Royal Benchers.
Quirky fact: It is alleged that Geoffrey Chaucer was a member of the Inner Temple, and the Inn is mentioned in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
General: The Inn has a strong reputation for producing European and world mooting or debating champions. There are many societies to which Inner Temple students can belong, including the mooting, debating and drama societies, as well as gaining automatic membership of the Inner Temple Student Association.
Defining feature: Hidden within Inner Temple is a unique three-acre garden, which boasts several unusual species of trees and flowers.
During the Victorian period, the Inn hosted some of London’s top flower shows, a tradition that continued until 1911. The Inn is immensly proud of its garden and employs a head gardener and a team of permanent staff solely for the upkeep and presentation of the site.
Background: Middle Temple’s history is linked closely with that of Inner Temple, as both have their roots in the original site created by the Order of the Knights Templar. The area occupied by both Inns made up one of the ancient Houses of Order, the Knights’ bases in England.
It is alleged that the name Middle Temple first appeared in 1337, when instructions to repair part of the jetty at the riverside referred to a lane passing through the middle of the Court of the Temple. Middle Temple buildings can be distinguished by the stone emblem of a lamb and flag.
Middle Temple owns records dating from 1501, and a survey taken 73 years later already shows a very active society with some two hundred members.
Famous former Middle Temple members include Sir Walter Raleigh and William Makepeace Thackeray. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, holds a position as Royal Bencher.
The 16th century was an important period for the growing Middle Temple and some of the oldest books in the library that date from this time demonstrate the depth of the subject matter studied.
Today, the library boasts around 150,000 books on a range of topics in addition to legal texts. It also has an enviable rare book collection on topics as varied as topography, early exploration, science and medicine. Moreover, the library owns two Molyneux Globes, made by famous Elizabethan globemaker Emery Molyneux. The pair comprises a terrestrial and celestial globe, and are two of only six left in existence.
Quirky fact: When barristers are called to the bar at Middle Temple, they stand at a table known as the Cup Board to sign their name in the Inn’s book. This table is made of the hatch cover of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind.
General: The Inn is famous for holding the annual Rosamond Smith Mooting Competition and its templars are among the past victors of the World Debating Championship. The Inn also contributes into a fund to support events organised by students.
Defining feature: Middle Temple was defined as a local authority under the Temples Order of 1971, so therefore it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Common Council of the Corporation of London.
Middle and Inner Temples are both known as liberties, an old word meaning geographic division.