There are now just four Inns of Court: Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray's Inn. They are all within a short distance of one another but the two closest to Chancery Lane Underground station are Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. Just off Chancery Lane is Lincoln's Inn, the largest of the Inns with records going back to 1422.
This is the gatehouse from Chancery Lane into The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn. Built in 1518 the doors and red brickwork are original but the windows were inserted in the 17th cent.
This is what the Gateway looks like from inside Lincoln's Inn.
The Inn began as a Dominican Friary (1221-76) which in the 14thcent became a hostel for lawyers. The Old Hall (1492) was the living room of the original residential community of lawyers. Nowadays the Lawyers work from a number of offices grouped around four green areas.
The chapel (1619-23) was rebuilt in 1797 and again in 1883. The chapel bell tolls whenever a Bencher, a member of the Council, the governing body of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, dies. Upon hearing the bell toll, barristers would send their clerks to enquire about the identity of the deceased. This tradition was the inspiration for the poet John Donne's words:
'..........never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.' Donne was a 17th cent poet and priest who became the Preacher of Lincoln's Inn before he became Dean of St Paul's.
It is worth a visit to the chapel to see the stained glass windows.
A detail from one of the stained glass windows showing the Head of St Simon with a view of Lincoln's Inn by Bernard Van Linge c1624
17th cent cloisters beneath the chapel.
This path from New Square in Lincoln's Inn takes you into Star Yard where you come across this cast iron public toilet from the 1850s. I've never seen one before but its bright paint makes it look almost new. It is now padlocked so I assume it is no longer in use. I continued through the alley back onto Chancery Lane,
Also on Chancery Lane are the London Silver Vaults. I didn't realise that members of the public can visit without an appointment but yes, you can. So after the usual bag search I was in and descended down into the bowels of the building (the Vaults are three floors below the main building).
Items for a lady's dressing table.
I know this is one place I will return and spend much longer looking around the numerous other silver shops in the vaults.
I continued down Chancery lane passing the law Society on my right and King's College Strand Campus on my left.
This 19th cent Gothic Building was once home to the Public Records Office but when the records were moved to a new site at Kew, this building was converted for use by King's College London for its Maughan Library.
Side view of the library
Just around the corner from Chancery Lane on Fleet Street is Cliffords Inn. This is all that remains of Cliffords Inn, founded in 1345 as one of the Inns of Chancery.
A little further along Fleet Street is the Guild Church of St Dunstan in the West. There has been a church on this site since 988 but this present one was rebuilt after WW2. It is more well known for its clock which dates from 1671 and was the first public clock in London to have a minute hand. The figures of the two giants Gog and Magog strike the hours and quarters. The building next to the church is 186 Fleet Street, the Dundee Courier building. Sweeney Todd the demon barber of Fleet Street had his shop here. On this site it is claimed that he murdered over 100 of his clients before selling their flesh to Margery Lovett who owned a pie shop in nearby Bell's Yard.
Drinking fountain outside the church. The face inside the fountain would scare anyone taking a drink.
Moving away from the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street I walked through a couple of alleyways
I came out into Gough Square to find the house of Dr Samual Johnson (1709-84)
This 300 yr old town house is where Samuel Johnson, the writer and wit lived and worked in the middle of the 18th cent. It was here he compiled his Dictionary of the English Language but perhaps he is more well known for his many quotes:' When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.'
Opposite the house at the other end of the Square is a bronze statue of one of Johnson's cats. The cat is sitting on a dictionary with oysters at his feet. The cat was greatly indulged with Johnson himself going out to buy it some oysters.
I continued my walk up Fetter's Lane which brought me out onto High Holborn close to the wonderful Tudor frontage of Staple Inn.
During medieval times it wasn't easy to get into one of the main Inns of Court so students joined one of the Inns of Chancery in the hope of moving to one of the more prestigious Inns at a later date. During the 18th cent it became easier to get into the Inns of Court and by the late 19th cent the Inns of Chancery were no longer used and the buildings were sold. However one building does remain just a few metres from the tube station and that is Staple Inn. The original building was erected in 1545-89 and had various alterations and restorations during the 1800s. Other than the original frontage the rest of the building was reconstructed in 1937.
This is the Cittie of Yorke pub. Although it has had parts added on and rebuilt, it has been her since Tudor times and maybe even before then. For many hundreds of years it was a coffee house where financial deals would have been struck. Next to the pub is a gateway that leads into Gray's Inn. The Inn is named after Reginald De Grey, Chief Justice of Chester whose London Mansion later became a hostel for lawyers after his death in 1308.
The buildings in the Inn are grouped around two squares.
Gray's Inn chapel. There has been a chapel and chaplain(known as a Preacher) on the same site since 1315.
The Hall has been its present size and shape since 1556. Even the bombing of 1941 did not totally destroy the 16th cent walls. The windows, pictures and other irreplaceable pieces were moved to a place of safety during the war and were returned to their rightful position at the end of the war.
This is the library built in 1958 but there is evidence of a library room from 1488 when Edmund Pickering bequeathed six books to be chained there.
I left Gray's Inn Square and walked across the road to Baldwin's Gardens. I was very surprised to see this church as it just seems to appear from nowhere. St Alban the martyr is an Anglo Catholic church built in 1863,
I walked through the church into the tiny courtyard outside where there is this sculpture by the same artist, Hans Feibusch in 1985.
Brookes Market led me on to Leather Lane which was full of stalls selling all manner of street food. The street took me back out onto High Holborn and Chancery Lane Underground station.