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of Court (The) are four in number, viz.:
Inner and Middle Temple, Lincoln’s-inn, and Gray’inn. The word inn, like
the French hotel, signifies a
mansion. Each of these inns is governed by a committee, generally formed of
Queen’s Counsel, called benchers, who are a self-elected body. The inns
consist of shall a chapel, a library, a suite of rooms devoted to the benchers,
and a number of buildings divided into sets of chambers, occupied, for the most
part, by barristers and solicitors. Each inn has the privilege of calling
students to the bar and of dis-barring a barrister, subject to an appeal to the
judge. Formerly, when a barrister was appointed serjeant or a judge, he
forfeited his membership of his original inn and became a member of
Serjeant’s-inn. As this society has been lately abolished, each of the four
inns has re-admitted such of its members as have been raised to the bench.
GRAY’S-INN stands on the north side of Holborn, and was formerly the property of the Grays of Wilton, whence the society derives its name. Ln the time of Edward III began to be an inn of court. Nowadays the society possesses South square, Gray’s-inn-square, Field court, Gray’s-inn-place, Raymond buildings, Verulam-buildings, and the garden. The chambers are spacious and well adapted for permanent habitation, and are cheaper than those belonging to the Temple and Lincoln’s-inn. The hall, which is the smallest of the four, is nevertheless an imposing chamber, and is the oldest but one. The roof is of carved oak, divided into six compartments. The screen another magnificent specimen of carving, supported by six pillars of the Tuscan order, with caryatides supporting the cornice. Amongst the paintings which decorate the hall are portraits of Charles I., of Charles II., an James II.—both cut down to half their original size - Bishop Gardiner, Lord Coke, Nicholas Bacon, and Lord Bacon. In the windows there is magnificent stained glass, one pane is dated as early as 1552. The latest bears the escutcheon of Mr. Justice Manisty, 1876. The name and dignities of the late Lord Chelmsford are emblazoned on a window near, and so are the name and crest of Mr. Justice Lush. The library consists of three cosy rooms, in the largest of which is another portrait of Lord Bacon. The chapel, which is an ancient structure, was completely modernised in the last century; but the east window is gorgeous with the arms of several eminent divine preachers of the society. The are some eighty students attached to Gray’s-inn at the present time which means that the honourable society is becoming more popular than of yore. Lord Burghley, S Philip Sidney, Lord Bacon, and Sir Samuel Romilly, were members of the inn.
LINCOLN’S-INN became an inn of court about the year 1310, after the death of Harry Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, from whence the name of the society is derived. The principal entrance in Chancery-lane was built in the reign of Henry VII and over this gateway Oliver Cromwell is said to have lived for some period. In the erection of the wall, commenced in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Ben Jonson is said to have assisted as a brick-layer. The chapel is built upon a cloister of six open arches, under which are buried Thurloe, Cromwell’s secretary, Brome, the songwriter, and others. These cloisters served as a promenade in wet weather for the wives and daughters of members of the inn when barristers used to reside in the chambers in Lincoln’s-inn. The chapel would not be particularly remarkable but for the stained glass, on which are represented the arms of deceased worthies and fancv portraits of the saints and biblical heroes. The bell which hangs in the south-west turret was brought by the Earl of Essex from Cadiz after the capture of that town in Elizabeth’s reign. The hall, commenced in 1843, and finished in 1845, is the finest London, with the exception of Westminster-hall, being 120 feet in length, 45 in breadth, and 64 high. The oak roof is a remarkable feature in its construction, divided as it is by trusses into seven compartments. The screen is also a sumptuous piece of work. The windows are chiefly composed of stained glass containing the armorial bearings of distinguished members of the society. At the northern end is a fresco painted by Watts, R.A., “The Law givers,” a magnificent work, which is now unfortunately fading. The artist contributed this important addition to the decoration of the hall gratuitously; but when the fresco was finished the Inn presented him with a gold cup containing eight hundred sovereigns In the rooms used by the benchers are a fine collection of paintings and old engravings. Hogarth’s ‘Paul before Felix” occupies here an important position. Two hundred pounds were paid for the picture and in a frame, below the painting is an autograph letter from the artist acknowledging the money. Above the doorway is Gainsborough’s portrait of Pitt in excellent preservation. The society also possesses a large work by Giorgione a portrait of Lord Chief Baron Kelly, which has lately bee painted; and a water-colour drawing of Her Majesty and the Print Consort opening the new hall on the 13th October, 1845. On that occasion Prince Albert was made a barrister and a bencher of the inn and the Queen took luncheon in the hall. The Prince wore a field marshal’s uniform, and Her Majesty was attired in a dress of Limerick lace, a blue bonnet and feather and a scarlet shawl with a broad gold edging. The library which is attached to the hall is a comfortable building, in which space has been economised in many ingenious ways. There are many thousands of books on legal and other subjects. In the gardens close to the entrance of the hall is an iron railing of delicate workmanship; on it are embossed the name Brewster, and the letters I.C.R.V. twice. The work stands as a memorial to Lieut Col. Brewster, late commandant of the Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers —familiarly called the “Devil Own.”
The TEMPLE, in the reign of Henry II., became the home of the Knights Templars, who built their church in imitation of the temple near the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In the reign of Ed ward II. the order was suppressed and the Temple subsequently became the property of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. These worthies are believed to have let the space to professors of the law for the rent of £10 per annum; at all events, in the reign of Richard II. It is clear that lawyers were firmly established in the home which they have never since quitted. In Henry VIII.’s reign the two societies became tenants of the Crown, and in the sixth year of James I. received a grant by letters patent of the mansion of the Inner Temple at the sum of £10 yearly. The same amount was exacted for the Middle Temple. The Inner Temple hall is a modern building only a few years old. It is considerably larger than the old one, and better and more spacious as regards its offices and ante-rooms. A luncheon-room for the use of members of the inn is a welcome addition. The principal portraits are William and Mary Queen Anne, Sir Thomas Littleton and Lord Chief Justice Coke. The arms and crests of the treasurer of the inn surround the hall, which is replete with all the latest contrivances in the way of ventilation and illumination. The library consists of a series of apartments leading one into another. It is perhaps the snuggest and quietest of all the four, and contains a number of books on general, besides legal subjects. Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Edward Coke, Lord Tenterden, and Wm. Cowper, the poet, were members of the inn. Charles Lamb was born within its precincts, and Dr. Johnson lived there for some time. The gate leading into the Inner Temple from Fleet-street was built in the reign of James I.
MIDDLE TEMPLE HALL was commenced in 1562, and is one of the grandest Elizabethan structures in London. It is about 100 ft. long and is conspicuous for the massive beauty of the dark oak roof. The windows and walls are decorated with the arms of members of the inn, and the screen and the inns gallery are of dark oak elaborately carved. Over the dais is a portrait of Charles I. on horseback, by Vandyke, one of the three original paintings of the monarch painted by that master; one of the other two being at Windsor, and the other at Warwick Castle. Portrait of Charles II., James II., William III., Queen Anne, and George II are also to be seen, besides marble busts of Lord Eldon and Lord Stowell. Royal personages have frequently visited Middle Temple Hall; the Prince of Wales dined there some years ago, and the benchers took the opportunity of calling His Royal Highness to the bar and electing him a bencher within a few minutes’ time. Some seventeen years ago the new library was opened, a handsome building standing near the river, at the south-west corner of the garden. It is larger than the Inner Temple library, but is perhaps not so we adapted for close study. Besides producing many eminent lawyers, Middle Temple has called to the bar many celebrated poets and dramatists, amongst them Forde, Rowe, Wm. Congreve, Shadwell, Southerne, Sheridan, and Tom Moore. Sir William Blackston who wrote the “Commentaries on The Laws of England” was educated at the Middle Temple. The most interesting object in the Temple, however, is the church which was dedicated to the Virgin by Heradius, patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1185. It has suffered from fire and rioters on several occasions —but at the present time it is one of the most beautiful specimens of early Gothic architecture in country. It has been thoroughly restored, and new marble column have been added, and the tombs of the Knights Templars been renovated and embellished. The are two services on Sunday. Admission to the morning service may be obtained by an order from a bencher of either Temple. Admission to the afternoon service practically free. A barrister has the right to introduce one friend.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879