Beneath the “Bulldog’s” Bilge

The brig lay in four fathoms of water on the edge of the Great Bahama
Bank. She had been a solid little vessel, built for the fruit trade,
and she was about two hundred tons register. Her master had tried to
sight the “Isaacs,” but owing to the darkness and the drift of the
Gulf Stream, he had miscalculated his distance in trying for the New
Providence channel. A “nigger-head,” a sharp, projecting point of
coral, had poked a hole about four feet in diameter through her bottom,
and she had gone down before they could run her into the shoal water on
the bank.

Down to the graveyard of good ships, Key West, the message was hurried,
and the wreckers of Florida Reef heard the news. A heavily built sloop
of thirty tons, manned by ten Spongers and Conchs, started up the
Florida channel and arrived upon the scene two days later.

The _Bulldog_ had settled evenly upon her keel, but as she was sharp,
she had listed until her masts were leaning well to starboard, dipping
her yardarms deep in the clear water. She was submerged as far up as
her topsail yards.

The captain of the wrecker was a Conch. His mate was a giant negro of
the Keys; young, powerful, and the best diver on the Florida Reef.
His chest measured forty-eight inches in circumference over his
lean pectoral muscles, and he often bent iron bars of one-half inch
to show the set of his vise-like grip. He was almost black, with a
sinister-looking leer upon his broad face, his eyes red and watery like
most of the divers of the Bank. He could remain under four fathoms for
at least three and a half minutes, and work with amazing force, and
continue this terrific strain for six hours on a stretch, with but
five minutes between dives. Half fish or alligator, and half human,
he looked as he lounged naked in the hot sunshine upon the sloop’s
forecastle, his skin hard and callous as leather from long exposure to
a tropic sun and salt water. He was ready for the work ahead, for it
had been rumoured that the _Bulldog_ had not less than fifty thousand
dollars in silver aboard her. She was known to have been chartered by
agents of the Venezuelan revolutionists, and to have arms and money
aboard in abundance for their relief.

The day was well advanced when the spars of the brig showed above the
sea. The sky was cloudless, and the little air there was stirring
scarcely rippled the ocean; the swell rolling with that long,
undulating sweep and peculiar slowness which characterizes calm weather
in the Gulf Stream.

Far away the “Isaacs” showed above the horizon, and just the slightest
glint of white told of the nearest cay miles away on the Great Bank.
To the westward it was a trifle more than sixty miles to Florida
Cape across the channel, with the deep ocean current sweeping to the
northward between. The steady set of the Stream brought the wreckers
rapidly nearer the brig in spite of the calm, and they let go their
first anchor about fifty fathoms due south, and veered the cable to let
the sloop drift slowly down upon the wreck. Then, lowering all canvas,
they got out their kedges and moored the sloop just over the port rail
of the _Bulldog_ which could be distinctly seen about ten feet below
the surface of the sea.

Three of the crew, all experienced divers, made ready while the mate
went slowly to the rail and gazed fixedly down into the clear water.
In calm weather the bottom on the Bank can be seen distinctly in
five fathoms, and often at much greater depth. The weather was ideal
now, and no one thought it necessary to use the “water-glass,” the
glass-bottomed bucket into which the diver usually sticks his head and
gazes into the depths before making his plunge.

“I reckon ye might as well make a try,” said the captain, coming to
the mate’s side. “Start here an’ let the drift o’ the current take ye
th’ whole length.” And as he spoke he hove a life-line overboard for
the men to grasp should the stream carry them too far. Coming to the
surface they would be tired and not want to swim back. A man stood by
to haul in and save the diver the exertion.

The mate raised his eyes. He looked over the smooth sea and tilted his
nose into the air, sniffing the gentle breeze.

“It might be a wery good day, Cap, but I sho’ smells shurk. I ain’t
much perticular about this smooth weather. It nearly always brings ’em
along ’bout dis time o’ year. De season am mighty nigh done on de Bank.
Yo’ knows dey is mighty peart when dey gits plentiful.”

“Are you feared?” asked the captain, looking at him scornfully.

“Well, I smell him plain, an’ dat’s a fact,” said the mate, “but here
goes.”

The giant mate fell slowly outboard, then putting his hands before him
he dropped straight down into the sea with hardly a splash. The captain
bent over the rail and watched him as he swam quickly down, his great
black form looking not unlike a turtle as it struck out vigorously with
both hands and feet. Down, down it went until the shimmering light
made it distorted and monstrous as the distance increased. Then it
disappeared under the bend of the _Bulldog’s_ bilge.

A second diver came to the side and looked out over the smooth swell.

There was nothing in sight as far as the eye could reach save the glint
of white on the distant cay to the eastward. The Gulf Stream was
undisturbed by even a ripple.

In a couple of minutes a loud snort astern told of the mate’s
reappearance. He seized the life-line and was quickly hauled alongside.
He climbed leisurely to the deck.

All hands were now assembled and waited for his report.

“Tight as a drum. There ain’t no way o’ gettin’ into her there,” said
the mate after two or three long breaths.

“Well, will you try the hatchway, then?” asked the captain.

“I ain’t perticular about workin’ down hatchways,” said the giant, with
a scowl.

“Nor me either,” said the man who had come to make the second trip.
“They said the stuff was aft under the cabin deck,” said a tall man
with aquiline features, known as Sam.

“Dynamite,” whispered another, “what’s the difference?”

“Plenty, if the underwriters come along and find her blown up. She
ain’t ours yet,” said the captain sourly.

“An’ who’s to tell?” asked the mate with a fierce menace. “Who’ll know
what knocked a hole in her? They’ll nebber float her. Bust her, says I.”

The captain looked about him. There was nothing in sight, save the
distant cay, ten miles or more to the eastward, which might harbour an
inquisitive person. And then the light-keeper himself was a wrecker.
He thought a moment while the mate stood looking at him, and then went
slowly down into the cabin and brought up a box of cartridges. Sam
immediately brought out some exploders and several fathoms of fuse.

In a moment a large package was wrapped up and lashed with spun-yarn.
It contained five half-pound cartridges and an exploder, with a fathom
of fuse. A piece of iron was made fast to the whole to keep it upon the
bottom, and then the mate called for a match. The fuse would burn for
at least two minutes under water before the exploder was reached, and
give time for the diver to get clear.

The captain scratched a light upon his trousers and held it to the
fuse. A spluttering fizzing followed. Then over the side went the mate
with the charge in his hand, and the men on the deck could see him
swimming furiously down through the clear depths, the dynamite held
before him and a thin spurt of bubbles trailing out from the end of the
burning fuse.

He had little enough time to spare after he disappeared under the curve
of the bilge. Coming to the surface he was quickly dragged aboard by
the life-line, and then all hands waited a moment, which seemed an
hour, for the shock.

A dull crash below followed by a peculiar ringing sound told of the
discharge. The water lifted a moment over the spot some twenty feet
astern, and then a storm of foam and bubbles surged to the surface.
The captain gazed apprehensively around the horizon again, and then
smiled.

“I reckon that busted her,” he said.

Over the side plunged the mate, followed by two more men, and as they
went a great, dark shadow rose slowly to the surface in the disturbed
water. It was the body of a giant shark.

The captain stood looking at it for a moment.

“The harpoon, quick,” he yelled.

A man sprang for the iron, but the monster rolled slowly over upon his
belly, and opened his jaws with spasmodic jerks. A great hole was torn
in his side, and his dorsal fin was missing. He gave a few quick slaps
with his tail, and then sank slowly down before the harpoon could be
thrown.

“He’s as dead as salt-fish,” said a sailor, “clean busted wide open.”

“He’s a tiger,” said the captain, “an’ they never hunt alone. I c’ud
see his stripes.”

A diver called from the end of the life-line and was hauled up. One
after another they came up, the mate last.

“What was the thing yo’ dropped overboard?” he asked with a grin. “I
seen him sinking an’ thought he ware alive.”

“It was a tiger,” said the captain solemnly, looking askance at the big
man.

“That settles it fer me,” said one diver, “they always go in pairs.”

“Me, too,” went the chorus from the rest.

The mate said nothing. He had seen something below that made his eyes
flash in spite of their salty rheum. The dynamite had done its work
well, and with more daring than the others he had penetrated the hull
far enough to catch a glimpse of the treasure. The explosion had
scattered bright silver coins about the entrance of the hole, and he
had seen what they had missed in the roiled water.

Here was a sore problem for the captain. He had the first chance at the
wreck without observers, and here the carcass of a huge tiger-shark had
upset everything. Within a few hours, the spars of other wreckers might
show above the horizon, and then farewell to treasure-hunting. He could
expect nothing but salvage at the most. If the owners decided to raise
her he could do nothing more than sell his claim upon her, and probably
lose most of that, for he was a poor man and dreaded the Admiralty
courts. It would be much better if he could get what money there was
in her, finding it in an abandoned hull. Having the whole of it in his
possession was much better than trying to get back from the owners his
share under the salvage law. Any delay for shark-hunting meant a heavy
loss. He looked askance at the big mate, but said nothing, knowing full
well that it lay with that black giant whether he would take the risk
of going below again or not.

“I knew I smelt him plain enough,” said the giant, sniffing the air
again, “dem big shurks is mighty rank.”

The shark which had met with the dynamite explosion was one of a pair
of the great “carcharodon” variety. They had come in on the edge of the
Bank at the beginning of the warm season, and one of them had slipped
up along the bottom to the wreck not a minute after the mate had placed
the charge. The package had attracted his attention, and it was while
nosing it the charge had exploded, tearing him almost to pieces. His
mate was but fifty fathoms away, and came slowly up to examine the
place where the crash occurred.

The female was about twenty feet in length. She was lean and muscular
from long cruising at sea, and her hide was as hard as the toughest
leather. Vertical stripes upon her sides, black upon the dark gray of
her body, gave her the name of “tiger.” Her jaws were a good eighteen
inches across, and her six rows of triangular teeth formed the most
perfect cutting machine for anything made of flesh. The long tapering
tail and huge fins told of enormous power, and her heavy frontal
development proclaimed her of that somewhat rare species of pelagic
monster which is very different in disposition to the thousands of
sharks that infest all tropical seas.

She came upon the body of her mate as he sank slowly down, shattered
and torn from the explosion. He lay motionless upon the clean coral
bottom, and as she nosed him she came to the grisly wounds and knew he
was dead. The feeling that the floating object above was responsible
for his end took possession of her instinctively. He, her mate, had
travelled with her for months and over thousands of miles of ocean.
There was an attachment similar to that in evidence among the higher
animals, and sullen fury at her loss grew against the thing above. It
was like the implacable hatred of the cobra snake for the slayer of his
mate, the snake who will follow the slayer’s trail for miles to wreak
vengeance. And as the monster’s fury was growing, the black diver was
preparing to make a plunge for the money within the brig’s bilge.

“Gimme a line,” said the black man. “If dere is another feller like de
one we busted down dere, yo’ kin pull me back ef he don’t git a good
hold o’ my laig. De water is mighty roiled yit, en I’d like to see a
bit o’ the bottom. ‘Pears to me I seen something movin’ astern dere.”

The captain passed a line, and he fastened it around his waist. The
rest of the crew stood looking on. Then taking a bag rolled tight in
one hand to open below and fill with the silver, he gazed anxiously
around the surrounding sea again.

“Here goes,” said the big mate, “but I reckon it’s de debble himself
dat’s waitin’ fer me, I feels it sho’.”

He went down with a straight plunge without any splash, and they
watched him until he disappeared under the bends.

The mate had his eyes in use as he swam swiftly towards the hole made
by the explosion. He watched the shadows upon the coral bottom in the
dim light that penetrated the depths. The huge shadow of the brig cast
a gloom over the white rock, and at the depth of her keel objects were
hard to distinguish, except out beyond where the sunshine filtered
down. He knew the location of the hole, and headed straight for it
until the black and ragged mouth of the opening showed before him. He
had just reached for it when a form shut off the light behind him. At
the same instant the dread of something horrible flashed through his
brain. He turned instantly to see the giant mouth of a monstrous shark
close aboard, the teeth showing white against the dark edge of the
throat cavity.

There was but a moment to spare. He must get away in the fraction of a
second, and his quick mind, used to emergencies, seized upon the only
way possible.

The line about his waist was still slack, and he dove headlong into the
black mouth of the hole in the brig’s bilge. The opening was just large
enough to let him through, the splintered edges raking his back sorely
as he entered. Then he turned quickly, hoping to see the monster sweep
past.

The outline of the hole showed dimly, a ragged green spot set in inky
blackness. He was ready to make a dash outboard, and swam to hold
himself close to it, for the tendency was to rise into the black depths
of the submerged hull. Inside was total darkness, and the unknown,
submerged passages to some possible open hatchway beneath his own
vessel’s bottom were not to be thought of for safety. He could hold his
breath but for a very short time longer, and he was more than twenty
feet below the surface of the ocean. Even as he swam his foot struck
something solid above him. He watched the hole and had just about
decided that the monster had passed when the hole disappeared from view.

He knew he had not moved, for he could feel the stillness of the water
about him. With a growing feeling of horror he groped for the opening.

In the total darkness he thought he was losing the instinct of
direction. The danger of his position was so deadly that, in spite of
his iron nerves, a panic was taking possession of him. To be lost in
the hold of a sunken wreck appalled him for an instant. He must act
quickly and accurately if he would live. The precious moments were
passing, and his heart already was sending the blood with ringing
throbs through his head. He made a reach ahead, and as he did so the
greenish light of the hole in the bilge came again before him. He
struck out for it powerfully. Then it failed again, but as it did so
he made out the form that was closing it. The great head of the shark
was thrust into the opening, withdrawn again as though to try to get a
better position to force its way in, and then came total blackness.

The mate was failing fast. He had been under water more than two
minutes. He saw that it was certain death to force the entrance.
Outside waited the monster who would cut him to pieces before he could
reach the surface and help from his vessel. It was a horrible end.
The thought of a mangled form being devoured into the bowels of such
a creature decided him. Any death but that. He hesitated no longer,
but with maddening haste he swam upward into the blackness, groping,
struggling through doors and passages, wildly, aimlessly trying for a
blind chance that he might at last come through the hatchway into the
sea above.

He had cast off the line to his waist as soon as it came taut, and
instantly it flashed upon him that he had severed the last link between
himself and his men. On and on he struggled, the bright flashes of
light which now began to appear before his eyes, caused by the strain
and pressure, made him fight wildly forward, thinking that they came
from the light outside. He knew he was lost. The picture flitted before
him of the men hauling in the line. Then the silence of the deck in the
sunshine and the looks of his shipmates, the case of “lost man.” He
had seen it before when he was upon the deck, and now it was his turn
below. A bulkhead brought him to a sudden stop. He reached upward and
found the solid deck. It was no use. He gave one last gigantic stroke
forward along the obstruction and started to draw in his breath, which
meant the end. Then his head suddenly came out of the water into air,
and his pulses leaped again into action.

The pressure was not relieved upon his lungs, and it was some moments
before he recovered. Then his great strength came back to him and he
began to grope about in the blackness until his feet came in contact
with a step. He felt along this and found that it was evidently a
companionway leading to the deck above. He put forth his hands into
the space overhead and found a solid roof but a foot or less above the
surface of the water he was in. Then it dawned upon him that he was
beneath the coamings of the hatchway, and the air was that which had
been caught under the top as the brig had settled. She had only been
sunk about fifty-five hours, and the air had not found its way through
the tight cover overhead. It was compressed by the pressure of the
water above it. It was only about twelve feet to the surface from where
he now rested, and if he could get free he might yet get away safely.
The shark was probably below under the bilge, trying to get in the hole
and would not notice him if he came up through the hatchway. He could
make a dash for the surface, and call for a line before the monster
could locate him. The air within the small space was already getting
used up while he waited to recover. There were not more than half a
dozen cubic feet of it altogether, and he must work quickly if he would
be free.

He now groped for the fastenings of the hatchway, hoping to seize
them and force the slide back. The covering was of peculiar pattern,
high-domed above the coamings, and it was for this reason that the air
had failed to find its way through the front of the opening. He felt
for the lock and finally found that the hasp was on the outside. He was
locked below.

He had been away from the sloop for more than five minutes now, and
the men aboard had hauled in the line. It came fast enough, and some
leaned over the rail watching until the end came into view. Then they
knew, or fancied they knew, the story.

“Gone, by God,” came the exclamation from the captain–“he was
right–they always travel in couples–” Then he stood there with the
rest, all gazing steadfastly down into the clear water of the Gulf
Stream that now went past crystal-like and undisturbed. The dim forms
of the coral showed below, but nothing like the shape of either man
or shark was visible. The disturbed water from the blast had all gone
to the northward with the current, and they wondered. If there were a
monster lurking in the depths, he must be well under the brig’s bilge
in the deep shadow. The line told the story the eye failed to reach. It
was not new, the story of a lost diver on the Bahama Bank.

They hung over the side and spoke seldom: when they did, it was in a
low tone. There was nothing to do, for no one had the hardihood to
make the plunge to find out what had happened. They must wait for the
wrecking crew. Diving was not to be thought of again for hours.

Meanwhile the mate was below in the dome of the hatchway.

Finding that the slide was fastened on the outside, he put forth all
his giant strength to force it. Planting his feet upon the after end,
he managed to keep his mouth out of the water and get a grip upon the
hatch-carline. Then he strained away to burst the lock.

In the little bubble of compressed air the exertion caused him to pant
for breath. He must hurry. The wood creaked dully. A jet of water
spurted in his face. The slide was giving way, letting in the ocean
from the outside, and in another moment the remaining space of air
would be gone. With one tremendous shove he tore the carline loose.
Then he clutched frantically at the splintering wood, and as the water
closed over him he wrenched the slide loose and drove himself blindly
through the opening. The next instant he shot upward, and in a moment
he saw the light above. He came to the surface under the sloop’s port
quarter, bursting into the sunshine with a loud splash.

The captain heard the noise and hurried over to look. The mate’s black
head was just a fathom below him, and he quickly dropped him a line.
Then willing hands reached over and he was dragged on deck. He had been
below nearly a quarter of an hour.

Staggering like a drunken man the great mate lounged forward, his
bloodshot eyes distended, and his breath coming in loud rasping gasps,
a little thin trickle of blood running from his nose and mingling with
the salt water pouring down his face. Men seized him and tried to hold
him up, but he plunged headlong upon the deck and lay still.

It was nearly half an hour later before he opened his eyes and looked
about him. All hands were around him, some rubbing his huge limbs and
others standing looking on, waiting to do what the captain might
direct. Then he came slowly to and rose unsteadily to his feet. There
was a feeling of relief and the men talked. The captain asked questions
and plied his mate with whiskey.

The giant black stood gazing out to sea, trying to realize what had
happened, and while he looked he saw a thin trail of smoke rising upon
the southern horizon. He pointed to it without saying anything, and all
hands saw it and stopped in their work to stare.

“It’s the wreckin’ tug from Key West,” said the captain. “No more
divin’ to-day. Jest our bloomin’ luck. Nothin’ to hinder us from doin’
a bit o’ bizness. No danged shurks nor nothin’ to stop a man, an’ here
we lose our chance.”

“I reckon it’s all right, cap’n,” said the big mate, speaking for the
first time. “I done quit divin’ fer this season, ennyways. ‘N’ when I
says I smells shurk, I means _shurk_. ‘N’ the fust man what begs me toe
go under ag’in when I says that, I gwine toe break his haid.”

Continue Reading

THE SERJEANTS AND SERJEANTS’ INNS

Like so much of the history of the Lawyers and their Inns, the origin of
the Serjeants and the steps by which they obtained a monopoly of
pleading are buried in obscurity. It is, at any rate, certain that the
Serjeants-at-Law, or _Servientes ad legem_, early acquired the exclusive
right of audience in the Court of Common Pleas, wherein were determined
all matters between subject and subject, where the King was not a party.

The Serjeants-at-Law had secured a monopoly of pleading; but, as
business increased in the Courts, they found themselves unable to deal
with it. In 1292, therefore, they were empowered, by an ordinance of
Edward I., to select from the students and apprentices of the Common Law
some of those best qualified to transact affairs in the King’s Courts
(_cf._ p. 6). It is not clear who these students and apprentices were,
but they were destined in the course of time to supersede the body of
Counsel whom they were called in to aid.

‘Apprentice’ is a term that smacks of the Guild, and though in the
fifteenth century it came to be applied to the Serjeants themselves, it
must originally have denoted the students who sat at the feet of some
recognized teacher of the Law. But, in truth, we have not enough
evidence to enable us to trace the developments of the relationship
between the Serjeants, the Students, and the Inns. The fact that the
Serjeants, or Doctors of Law, upon attaining that degree, entirely
severed their connection with their Inns, and that it was the Masters,
and not they, who formed the governing bodies of the Inns, may be
significant of some early difference or antagonism between the original
Serjeants-and Apprentices-at-Law.

The custom of tolling a newly-elected Serjeant out of Lincoln’s Inn by
ringing the chapel bell–‘a half-humorous, half-serious reminder that
hence-forward he was dead to the Society’–may be considered to support
this view.[79]

The obscurity of this question is enhanced, not only by the lack of
documentary evidence, but also by the fact that the technical terms of
the profession had no stationary significance. _Apprenticii ad legem_
was a fluid phrase; it came to be applied to the genuine junior
apprentices of the law in the Inns of Chancery, to the senior students
who instructed them, as well as to those who had completed the eight
years’ curriculum of the University, and, having passed their
examinations, were admitted to practise as advocates in Court, to the
very Serjeants and Judges themselves.

We have seen how the topography of the Inns of Court–and of London
itself–is bound up with the history of the Crusades and the Order of
Templars who sprang from them. It is supposed that the Order of
Serjeants, these Professors of the Common Law, who acquired the
exclusive privilege of practising in the Court of Common Pleas, imitated
the second degree of the Old Templars, and derived their name from the
‘free serving brethren’ of the Order of the Temple. The word Serjeant is
said to translate the Latin _Servientes_, and the King’s
Servants-at-Law, _Servientes domini Regis ad legem_, were, it is
suggested, the lineal descendants of the _fratres servientes_, the
servant brethren, of the Knights Templars. The peculiar dress of the
‘Order of the Coif’ is advanced as an argument in support of this
fascinating pedigree. The Serjeants-at-Law marked their rank, it is
suggested, by wearing red caps, under which, as in the East, a linen
cap, or coif, was worn. Did the Templars bring this habit from the East,
and were their first ‘servants’ Mohammedan prisoners? At any rate, the
coif proper was a kind of white hood made of lawn (later of silk), which
completely covered the head like a wig, and whilst the later black patch
represented the cornered cap worn over it, the true vestigial
representative of the coif is to be found in the white border of the
lawyer’s wig.[80] A connection may be traced between the white linen
thrown over the head of a Serjeant on his creation and the white mantle
in which the novice was clothed when, in the Chapel of St. Anne, he was
initiated into the Order of the Knights Templars, and declared a free,
equal, elected and admitted brother.

In this connection it is at least noteworthy that the Serjeants had a
cult for St. Thomas of Acre (Thomas à Becket), and that in the Chapel of
their patron Saint, adjoining the Old Hall of the Temple, they used to
pray before going to St. Paul’s to select their pillars. The Knights of
St. Thomas in Palestine were placed at Acre under the Templars in the
Holy Land, and a Chapel dedicated to St. Thomas of Acre was built for
them. Can it be that the Serjeants trace from the subservient Order of
the Knights of St. Thomas?

There is some trace of an ecclesiastical origin, not only in their
‘long, priest-like robes,’ which Fortescue describes, ‘with a cape,
furred with white lamb about their shoulders, and thereupon a hood with
two labels,’ but also in their performance of a rite, which none but
priests might offer, in a solemn ceremony that lasted down to the
Reformation. When feasts were held in the Temple Hall, the Serjeants, in
the middle of the feast, went to the Chapel of St. Thomas of Acre in
Cheapside, built by Thomas à Becket’s sister after his canonization, and
there offered; and then to St. Paul’s, where they offered at St.
Erkenwald’s shrine; then into the body of the Church. Here they were
appointed to their pillars by the Steward of the feast, to which they
then returned.

The theory has, indeed, been advanced that the coif was a device for
covering the tonsure of ecclesiastical pleaders after clerics had been
forbidden to practise in the secular Courts. But this explanation seems
too ingenious.

The ceremony of choosing a pillar at St. Paul’s, referred to above,
points to the ancient practice of the Lawyers taking each his station at
one of the pillars in the Cathedral, and there waiting for clients. ‘The
legal sage stood, it is said, with pen in hand, and dexterously noted
down the particulars of every man’s case on his knee.’[81]

It long remained the custom of the Law-Courts to adjourn at noon. Then
the Serjeants would repair to the ‘Parvis,’ or porch, of St. Paul’s to
meet their clients in consultation. And this practice is alluded to by
Chaucer:

‘A serjeant of the law ware and wise,
That often had y been at the “Parvise,”
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence;
He seemed such, his words were so wise.
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent and by pleine commissioun.’
_‘Prologue,’ Canterbury Tales._

Whatever the exact history of their lineage, the trained lawyers who
were summoned to attend and advise the King in Council did, undoubtedly,
become a recognized Order, styled _Servientes Regis ad Legem_–King’s
Serjeants-at-Law. From their ranks the Judges were always supposed to be
chosen. The old formula at Westminster, when a new Serjeant approached
the Judges, was, ‘I think I see a brother.’ Down to the time of the
abolition of the Order, a lawyer, when nominated a Judge, first had to
get himself admitted a Serjeant, and to enter the Order of the Coif.
This was always an expensive step.

Fortescue enlarges upon the cost which attended the ceremonies, when one
of the persons ‘pitched upon by the Lord Chief Justice with the advice
and consent of all the Judges’ was summoned in virtue of the King’s Writ
to take upon him the state and degree of a Serjeant-at-Law.

His own bill for the gold rings he was obliged to present–_fidei
symbolo_–on such an occasion to the Princes, Dukes, Archbishops and
Judges who were present at the ‘sumptuous feast, like that at a
Coronation, lasting seven days, which the new-created Serjeants were
called upon to give,’ amounted to £50. There is record of a Serjeants’
Feast held in the Inner Temple, 1555, which cost over £660. These feasts
were held at first at Ely Place, Lambeth Palace, or St. John’s Priory at
Clerkenwell. Afterwards they took place in the Hall of the Inn of which
the new Serjeant had been a Student. The whole House contributed to the
expense of this degree. The elaborate ceremonies which attended the
creation of a new Serjeant-at-Law are given at length by Dugdale
(chapter xli. _et seq._). It would be out of place to recount them here.

It has been humorously, though not quite accurately, observed that the
Bar ‘went into mourning for Queen Anne, and has remained in mourning
ever since.’ The sombre robes now worn by the English Bar may well be
thought to symbolize the dignity of the law and the gravity of the
profession, as the ‘spotless ermine’ typifies the integrity and
independence of the Judges. But, as was the case with the hoods and
gowns of other degrees in other Universities, or the black _felze_ of a
gondola at Venice, brilliancy and splendour of colour was the original
note, and dulness was the result of restriction. The robes which the
Serjeants wore varied from time to time, and with different occasions.

In the seventeenth century Dugdale observes that their robes still in
some degree resembled ‘those of the Justices of either Bench, and were
of murrey, black furred with white, and scarlet. But the robe which they
usually wear at their Creation only is of murrey and mouse-colour,’ with
a suitable hood and the coif.

Arrangements were made about 1635 between the Judges and Serjeants, in
accordance with which gowns of black cloth were to be worn for
term-time; violet cloth for Court or holidays; scarlet in procession to
St. Paul’s, or when dining in state at the Guildhall or attending the
Sovereign’s presence at the House of Lords, and black silk for trials at
_Nisi Prius_. But the fashions and colours were always changing. The
violet gown, which superseded the mustard and murrey worn in Court
during term-time, gave occasion for Jekyll’s witty rhyme, when a dull
Serjeant was wearying the Court with a prosy argument:

‘The Serjeants are a grateful race;
Their dress and language show it;
Their purple robes from Tyre we trace;
Their arguments go to it.’

It was the militant Chief Justice Willes who, ten years after the ’45,
first endeavoured to secure the abolition of the exclusive right of the
Serjeants to practise in the Court of Common Pleas. But their hour had
not yet come. In 1834 a mandate was obtained from William IV. abolishing
the privilege of the Serjeants, but this was set aside by the Privy
Council as being defective in form. At length doom fell upon the old
Order of the Coif, in the shape of an Act of Parliament, 1846, which
threw open the Common Pleas to all counsel indiscriminately. The last
Queen’s Serjeants to be appointed were Serjeants Byles, Channel, Shee,
and Wrangham, in 1857. By the Judicature Act of 1873, which consolidated
the three Courts of Law at Westminster (_See_ Chapter I.) into the High
Court of Justice, the Judges were no longer required to receive the coif
on their nomination to the bench. The knell of the Serjeants’ doom had
now rung. Five years later their Inn in Chancery Lane and the
Brotherhood were dissolved.

When the mere pillars of St. Paul’s had ceased to be regarded as
satisfactory ‘chambers,’ the Serjeants, like the law-apprentices, took
possession of Inns for the purposes of practice and residence. These
Inns remained independent bodies, and never became, like the Inns of
Chancery, subject to the Inns of Court.

Scrope’s Inn, adjoining the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, and opposite
the Church of St. Andrew in Holborn, was the first abode of the
Serjeants. Its site was long marked by Scrope’s Court in Holborn. It
took its name from the Le Scropes, who rose to eminence under Edward I.
Two brothers, Sir Henry and Sir Geoffrey, both became Chief Justice of
King’s Bench, in 1317 and 1324 respectively. Richard Le Scrope, son of
the former, was created Baron Scrope of Bolton, and was twice Chancellor
of England. He died in 1403, whilst in residence at his Inn. Scrope’s
Inn would thus naturally be a centre round which the trained professors
of the law would congregate, as round Lincoln’s Inn and Grey’s Inn, to
help in the transaction of the business of the Justice of King’s Bench.
It then became an Inn for Judges and Serjeants-at-Law, and so continued
until, in 1498, it was abandoned. For the lawyers were concentrating
upon the southern end of Chancellor’s Lane and Fleet Street. The
Serjeants took up their residence in Serjeants’ Inn (Fleet Street) at
least as early as the reign of Henry VI., and probably much earlier
(Dugdale). This Inn is connected with the Inner Temple by a passage past
the little garden once in the possession of Sir Edward Coke, and
afterwards known as the ‘Benchers’ Garden.’ But the principal entrance
is from Fleet Street, through a pair of handsome iron gates, in which
are wrought the arms of the Inn, a dove and a serpent.

The Gate House forms the offices of the Norwich Union Fire and Life
Assurance Society. The whole Inn was burnt down in the Great Fire, and
was afterwards rebuilt (1670) by means of voluntary subscriptions on
the part of the Serjeants. But upon the expiration of the lease then
granted to them, the Serjeants abandoned their Inn, with its fine
chapel, hall, and houses that surrounded the Court, and united with
their brethren in Chancery Lane. The Inn was afterwards pulled down and
rebuilt from the designs of Adam, the architect of the Adelphi, for
private houses and Assurance offices. The ‘elegant building,’ as Herbert
calls it, in the classical style, which was erected on the site of the
old Hall, formed at first the offices of the Amicable Assurance Company,
and is now occupied by the Church of England Sunday School Institute.
The quiet quadrangle is surrounded by pleasing eighteenth-century
houses, with decorated porches and fine iron-work. Some of them have
extinguishers for the links in front of their porches. Loftie noted the
initials “S. I.” and the date 1669 upon one survivor of the Serjeants’
rebuilding.

The Inn, which the Serjeants joined when they left Fleet Street, had
been occupied by their brethren since the end of the fourteenth century.
But, though leased to their representatives by the Bishops of Ely, who
held the freehold, or their lessees, it was not called Serjeants’ Inn
until 1484. Prior to that date it was known as Faryngdon’s Inn in
Chancellor’s Lane. Here all the Judges, as having been Serjeants-at-Law
before their elevation to the Bench, had chambers assigned to them.

A plain, unpleasing, stuccoed, Early Victorian building now faces
Chancery Lane, and drops as a screen of ugliness across the old brick
buildings within. This we owe to Sir Robert Smirke, who rebuilt the Inn
(1837-1838), with the exception of the old Hall, which was ‘approached
by a handsome flight of stone steps and balustrade.’ So Herbert, who
says that in his day (1804) all the buildings were modern. He describes
the Inn as then consisting of two small Courts, the principal entrance
from Chancery Lane fronting the Hall, and the second Court communicating
with Clifford’s Inn by a small passage. As there is an exit from
Clifford’s Inn to Fetter Lane, it is thus possible to pass from Chancery
Lane to Fetter[82] Lane without going into Fleet Street. When, in 1877,
the Brotherhood of Serjeants dissolved, they sold the Inn for some
£60,000 to Serjeant Cox, and divided the proceeds, but gave the
twenty-six valuable portraits of their predecessors, that had adorned
the walls of the Hall, to the National Portrait Gallery. The tiny Hall,
the single, narrow Court of plain stuccoed houses, and some trees and
turf behind some railings, remain to remind us of the Serjeants’ Inn and
the Serjeants’ Garden, where Lord Keeper Guildford would take his ease,
and where the great roll of English Judges have had chambers. But the
beautiful old stained glass windows of the Hall and Chapel, which bore
the arms of the various members, together with the heraldic device of
the Order–an ibis _proper_ on a shield _or_–were removed by the
purchaser to his residence of Millhill, where he built a chamber, the
facsimile of the Hall, for their reception.

Such is the story of the Inns of Court, which have gone on from strength
to strength, and of the Inns of Chancery and the Serjeants’ Inns, which
have almost vanished, together with the Societies which made them
famous, from off the changing face of London. It is a story which,
though briefly told, and told by a layman who makes no claim to
originality of material, can hardly fail to be of interest to those who
are alive to the charm of the old things of the Capital.

It brings before us, not only the vision of the great Justiciars who
transacted the business of the King’s Courts, of the great Lawyers who
built up the mighty fabric of English Law, and the great Judges who
defended the rights and liberties and progress of the people, but also
many of the greatest names in literature and architecture. The precincts
of the Temple remind us of the Order of the Red-Cross Knights, and near
at hand are the vacated Inns of that other Order which has been likewise
dissolved. For we see no more, save in the light of imagination, either
the mail-clad figures of the Templars in their white cloaks stamped with
the red cross, or the Serjeants in their white lawn coifs and
parti-coloured gowns, wending their way from the Temple Hall to the
shrine of St. Thomas.

The silver tongue of Harcourt is mute as the impassioned eloquence of
Burke and Sheridan, yet these buildings seem to echo with their voices,
with the sonorous declamation of Dr. Johnson, or the witty stammer of
Charles Lamb. There, in Gray’s Inn, we still seem to see the figure of
Francis Bacon, pacing the walks with Raleigh, talking of trees and
politics and high adventure; from the Gateway of Lincoln’s Inn, and past
the red bricks laid by Ben Jonson, when Wolsey was Cardinal, the form
of Sir Thomas More emerges; and across the way the thin, alert figure of
Sir Edward Coke steps briskly from his tiny garden into Old Serjeants’
Inn.

Here Dickens talks with Thackeray, and Blackstone scowls at Goldsmith;
there, in the Middle Temple Hall, Queen Elizabeth leads the dance with
Sir Christopher Hatton, and the rafters ring with the music of
Shakespeare’s voice and Shakespeare’s poetry. And the buildings
themselves are the works of a noble army of English Architects,
admirable creations and memorials of the genius of Sir Christopher Wren,
Inigo Jones, Adam, Hardwick, Street, and of the unknown builders of
Norman, Gothic, and Elizabethan things. These facts once known, not all
the dirt and fog of London air, not all the noise and distraction of
City business and legal affairs, can ever again wholly obscure the
charm, the romance, the historical and literary associations, which
haunt these homes of so many great English Lawyers, Writers, and
Administrators.

Continue Reading

INNS OF CHANCERY

As is the case with regard to the origin of the Inns of Court, the first
beginnings of the Inns of Chancery are buried in obscurity, from which
they can only be retrieved by the discovery of new documents. It seems
probable, in the absence of definite evidence, that there was at first
no distinction between Inns of Court and Inns of Chancery, but that, all
alike, Inns of Court and the ten lesser Inns called Inns of Chancery,
mentioned by Fortescue, were originally mere Hostels where Students of
the Law congregated, lived and learned. Then, in course of time, the
natural laws of differentiation and development came into play, and
these Inns or Hostels gradually resolved themselves into two classes.
The four great Inns of Court developed, as we have seen, from small
associations in small hostels into great and wealthy institutions upon
lines of aristocratic monopoly. The other Inns, taking their names from
the Clerks of the Chancery who chiefly studied there, passed through
different stages of development into subjection under the Inns of Court,
and after a period, during which they partly performed the function of
preparatory schools for the preliminary training of young students who
were afterwards admitted as members of the Inns of Court, crystallized
into close corporations of Solicitors and Attorneys. Then all official
connection between the two kinds of Inns came to an end.

Thus, whilst the Inns of Court became aristocratic Schools of Law,
reserved for lawyers of gentle birth, the Inns of Chancery were
gradually monopolized by Writ clerks, both of the Court of Chancery and
of the Court of Common Pleas, and by other minor officials. These
gradually ousted the well-born Apprentices who were training on for the
Inns of Court. On the one hand Attorneys and Solicitors were excluded
from the Inns of Court. In 1557, for instance, they were refused
admission to the Inner Temple, and ordered to repair to their Inns of
Chancery. In 1574 such as remained were expelled the House. The Middle
Temple soon followed the example of the Inner. On the other hand, in
spite of the remonstrances of the Benchers, the Attorneys, who had
gained an ascendancy over the Inns of Chancery, set themselves to secure
a monopoly of them. Without definitely excluding students for the Bar,
they received them so ungraciously that, for instance, Sir Mathew Hale
passed straight from Magdalen College, Oxford, to Lincoln’s Inn (1629).
Indeed, John Selden, the antiquary (1584-1654), seems to have been the
last of the great lawyers to be trained at these schools for the larger
Societies. Thus one step in the ladder of education, so much approved by
Coke and Fortescue, was eliminated. The Inns of Chancery were abandoned
to the Attorneys.[71] They then gradually fell out of fashion and
deteriorated in discipline as in prestige. By the middle of the
eighteenth century they had become obsolete. But if they fell early into
decline, their decadence was long drawn out. The proceedings of the
Court of Chancery in 1900, in regard to the sale of Clifford’s Inn,
marked their final disappearance.

Of these ten lesser Inns, mentioned by Fortescue as having, in his day,
each one hundred students studying the first principles of the Law and
preparing to pass into the four Inns of Court, all have been now
dissolved, and many of them have been destroyed.

In the days when Clerks of Chancery and Attorneys dwelt in these Inns,
together with embryo Barristers who were learning the rudiments of their
legal craft, Stow neatly describes them as Provinces, for they were
severally subject to one of the Inns of Court. Their relationship is
obscure. Mr. Inderwick[72] compares it to that which the smaller seaport
towns of the Kent and Sussex coast bore to the more important Cinque
Ports.

An Inn of Court appointed Readers for its Inns of Chancery, settled the
precedence of their Principals, admitted their members at a reduced fee,
and entertained their Ancients at grand feasts and festivals. Each Inn
of Chancery had its own Hall for meetings, moots, readings, and
festivity, but none could boast of a Chapel of its own. It was only
after having studied the necessary exercises at these ‘provincial’ Inns,
including boltings, moots, and putting of cases, that the young students
or apprentices were admitted as students at one of the four Inns of
Court.

Of the Inns of Chancery, Staple Inn and Barnard’s Inn were attached to
Gray’s Inn; Clifford’s Inn, Clement’s Inn, and Lyon’s Inn to the Inner
Temple; Furnival’s Inn and Thavie’s Inn to Lincoln’s Inn; and to the
Middle Temple, New Inn and Strand Inn.

Of these by far the most interesting and picturesque at the present time
is Staple Inn.

It was of this ‘little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles’ that
Dickens wrote in ‘Edwin Drood’:

‘It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing
street imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having cotton
in his ears, and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks
where a few smoky sparrows twitter in smoky trees, as though they called
to one another: “Let us play at country,” and where a few feet of
garden-mould and a few yards of gravel enable them to do that refreshing
violence to their tiny understandings.’

Nothing could be more striking or delightful than the block of quaint
old buildings, with its overhanging stories of timber and rough-cast,
and its gabled roof. The preservation of this delightful specimen of
Elizabethan domestic architecture, which stands at Holborn Bars like an
island of art in an ocean of crude ugliness, we owe to the wisdom and
good taste of the Directors of the Prudential Assurance Company, to whom
the site now belongs. It is a pleasure to express one’s gratitude to
them.

Staple Inn Hall, which forms the south side of the first Court within
the old entrance archway facing Holborn, was built and embellished
between 1580 and 1592. The frontage dates from about the same time, so
that Sir George Buck, writing in 1615, could describe it as ‘the fayrest
Inn of Chancery in this University.’ The Hall is now used for the
Institute of Actuaries. It retains a delightful little louvre, with a
bell in a cupola. Mullioned windows and a charming Gothic doorway (1753)
open, on the far side of the Hall, upon the garden front.

Beyond this old sunk garden, which is bounded by a terrace and iron
railing, the Patent Office occupies part of what was once the property
of the Inn. To the west the garden is overshadowed by the flamboyant
atrocity of a gross Bank building. The houses which form these quiet
courts were for the most part rebuilt in the eighteenth century. No. 10,
in the second Court, is that immortalized by Dickens in ‘Edwin Drood’
(Chapter XI.). It was rebuilt in 1747, and the initials over the doorway
do _not_ stand for Perhaps John Thomas, or Perhaps Joe Tyler, nor for
any other of the phrases the humourist suggests, but for plain Principal
John Thomson, who ruled in that year.

Staple, or Stapled Inn, has been so called since the beginning of the
fourteenth century (1313). The Staple Inn, or House, was the Warehouse
in which commodities, especially wool, chargeable with export duties,
might be stored, weighed, and taxed. It was the business of the Company
of Staplers, established in the reign of Edward III., ‘to see the Custom
duly paid.’[73] The proximity of Portpool Market–or Ely Fair, as it was
called, after the Bishops of Ely, whose large property lay on the North
side of Holborn–doubtless added much to the importance of this Staple
Inn.

The site of this Inn may possibly have been included in the Old Temple
property, which the Templars sold to the Bishopric of Lincoln when they
moved South (Chapter I.). However that may be, some time in the
fifteenth century Staple Inn ceased to have any claim to be a
Customs-house,[74] and was given over to the Lawyers. It was not a
surprising change, for the conduct of the King’s wool-trade and the
settlement of the disputes that must have arisen in connection with the
clearing of woollen merchandise for export were likely to have made ‘Le
Stapled Halle’ long ere this a home of clerks and apprentices of the
Law.[75] The steps by which this home of lawyers passed into the control
of the ‘Grand Company and Fellows’ of Staple Inn, with a Principal and
Pensioner at their Head, are not known. They must, at least, have been
taken long before ‘the first Grant of the inheritance thereof to the
Ancients of Gray’s Inn’ mentioned by Dugdale as being dated in the
twentieth year of Henry VIII. The transaction referred to would seem to
have been rather in the nature of the creation of a trust. At any rate,
Staple Inn became an appendance of Gray’s Inn. But by the end of the
last century it had long ceased to fulfil the functions either of a
Customs-house or of an Inn for Law-students.

Finally, in 1884, the Society of Staple sold their property, and the
Prudential Assurance Company presently acquired it. Under their
public-spirited and artistic care, Mr. Alfred Waterhouse made a
practical and scholarly restoration, displacing from

[Illustration: STAPLE INN HALL AND COURTYARD

THE Hall was built between 1580 and 1592, and has a fine hammer-beam
roof, and some old stained glass in its windows.]

the frontage the plaster with which the eighteenth century had
disfigured it.

The most famous occupant of rooms in Staple Inn was Dr. Johnson (1759),
who came here after he had completed his ‘Dixonary.’ It was here that he
wrote his little romance of ‘Rasselas,’ in order to pay for his mother’s
funeral.

The Mackworth coat-of-arms over a modest doorway between 22 and 23
Holborn used to indicate until recently the entrance to Barnard’s Inn,
the other Inn attached to Gray’s Inn.

This was the residence of Dr. John Mackworth, who was Dean of Lincoln in
the reign of Henry VI. When leased by his successor to Lyonel Barnard,
it took the name which it now bears. The Inn was let to students of Law
as early as 1454, for in that year Stow records that there was a great
affray in Fleet Street between ‘men of Court’ and the inhabitants there,
in the course of which the Queen’s Attorney was slain. As punishment,
the principal Governors of Clifford’s Inn, Furnival’s Inn, and Barnard’s
Inn were sent to prison.

Barnard’s Inn was governed by a Principal and twelve Ancients. The study
of legal forms was insisted on with great strictness. Fines were imposed
of one halfpenny for every defective word, one farthing for every
defective syllable, and one penny for every improper word in writing the
writs according to the form of the Chancery, in the moots of the
House.[76]

A Reader was appointed by Gray’s Inn, and great respect was paid to him.
The Principal, accompanied by the Ancients and Gentlemen in Commons in
their gowns, met him at the rails of the House on his coming, and
conducted him into the Hall.

This is a delightful fifteenth-century building. The original timber and
rough-cast exterior was cased in red brick in the eighteenth century. It
has a high-pitched roof and louvre in the centre, and, within, an open
timber roof, and some heraldic glass in the windows (1500). It stands in
a small courtyard, beyond which there used to be another Court, wherein
were the Library and Kitchen, and, beyond, houses grouped about a
railed-in garden.

Portraits of Lord Chief Justice Holt, the most distinguished Principal,
and of Lord Burghley, Bacon, Lord Keeper Coventry, and Charles II. once
hung upon the walls. In 1854 the Society consisted of a Principal, nine
Ancients, and five Companions. The Companions were chosen by the
Principal and Ancients. The advantage of being a Companion was, in the
evidence given before the Royal Commission in 1855, stated to be ‘the
dining’; the advantage of being an Ancient ‘dinners and some little
fees.’ Barnard’s Inn is now the property of the Mercers’ Company, who
moved their School hither in 1894. Only the Hall now (1909) remains of
the old buildings. Even the passage from Holborn has been altered, and
an imposing block of offices, fronting Holborn, is in course of
erection, behind which lie the Hall and modern School buildings.

Furnival’s Inn, which Stow says belonged to Sir William Furnival and
Thomasin, his wife, in the reign of Richard II., lay to the west of the
Bishop of Ely’s Palace in Holborn. It was brought by the heiress of the
Furnivals to the Earls of Shrewsbury, from whom it passed to the Society
of Lincoln’s Inn, and was by them leased to the Principal and Fellows of
the Inn of Chancery there inhabiting (1548).

Inigo Jones erected a building on this site in 1640, which was
afterwards demolished. It was rebuilt in 1820, and the site is now
occupied by part of the new offices of the Prudential Assurance Company.
Of this Inn Sir Thomas More was Reader for more than three years, and
here Charles Dickens wrote the ‘Pickwick Papers,’ and here he gave John
Westlock chambers in ‘Martin Chuzzlewit.’ To Charles Dickens’s rooms in
Furnival’s Inn came an artist seeking employment, who offered two or
three drawings to illustrate ‘Pickwick,’ which the rising young author
did not think suitable. This artist was William Makepeace Thackeray. A
bust of Dickens by Percy Fitzgerald is placed within the entrance of the
modern pink pile of offices.

Opposite Ely House, and adjoining Crookhorn Alley, stood Thavie’s Inn,
which is another form, no doubt, of Davy’s Inn. It is spelt so in the
early records, and the will of John Tavy (1348) mentions his hospice in
St. Andrew, Holborn (see pp. 5 and 39). The spelling ‘Tavy,’ I suppose,
indicates the Welsh origin of this Mr. Davy. A John Davy occurs as
holding lands in Holborn fifty years later. This Inn was also closely
connected with Lincoln’s Inn.

Of the Inns of Chancery which were attached to the Inner Temple, only
Clifford’s Inn survives, and its days are numbered. Lyon’s Inn, which is
mentioned as an Inn of Chancery in King Henry V.’s time, lay between Old
Wych Street and Holywell Street, and disappeared with them

[Illustration: THE GREAT HALL OF THE ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE

STREET’S noble Gothic Hall, through which the Judges pass in dignified
procession at the opening of the Courts after the Long Vacation.]

in the course of the recent Strand improvements. Clement’s Inn took its
name probably from ‘a fountain called St. Clement’s Well,’ which Stow
describes (1603) as ‘North from the parish Church of S. Clement’s, and
neare unto an Inn of Chancerie called Clement’s Inne; [it] is faire
curbed square with hard stone, kept cleane for common use, and is
alwayes full.’

The picturesque Queen Anne buildings of the Inn have disappeared, and in
their place some more pretentious flats and offices have been erected.
They looked out, until the beginning of 1909, upon a green open space,
some two acres in extent, bounded by the Law Courts, Carey Street, and
the Strand. A road runs under the Judges’ Rooms in the Law Courts from
the Strand to a flight of steps, which lead up to Carey Street beneath
ornamental arches. This space was intended to be covered by the Law
Courts, according to the original design. But the estimates were cut
down, and the block which was meant to cover this space was sacrificed.
The inconvenience which has resulted for lawyers and litigants ever
since has been the gain of the less litigious public. For, thanks to the
generosity of the late Mr. W. H. Smith, the vacant place was laid out as
a lawn and flower-garden, and has long formed a refreshing strip of
greensward in the heart of this busy centre of London. Two-thirds of it
have now been sacrificed, for the pressing need of more accommodation is
at last to be met by the extension of the Law Courts, and the erection
of four new Courts, which have been begun at the north-west end of this
plot. The new building, designed to harmonize with Street’s somewhat
bastard Gothic building, will be connected with it by a bridge of three
arches spanning the walk between Carey Street and the Strand.

Clifford’s Inn still survives. It can be approached either from Chancery
Lane, through Serjeants’ Inn, from Fetter Lane, or from Fleet Street.
Out of the roar and bustle of that busy thoroughfare a passage leads up
past the porch of St. Dunstan’s Church. On the north side of a tiny
Court, from which an archway leads into a larger one, stands a tiny
Hall, with a large clock and windows full of heraldic glass, amongst
which the chequers of the Cliffords are conspicuous. This Hall in its
present shape, re-cased and transmogrified, dates from 1797, but a
fourteenth-century arch at the end of it points to pristine beauty.

A few separate houses are dotted irregularly about on the opposite
side. But the chief charm of Clifford’s Inn lies in the green grass
space and shady trees, a garden bounded by railings, and on two sides by
old brick buildings, with deep cornices and tiled roofs, which forms so
grateful a view from the interior of the Record Office, or from the
Court of Serjeants’ Inn.

The Inn is called after Robert de Clifford, whose widow (1344) let the
messuage to students of the law for £10 per annum. It was acquired by
the Society at a rental of £4 towards the end of the fifteenth century.
The Society was composed of the Principal and Rulers, and the Juniors or
‘Kentish Men.’ It would be of interest, if for no other reason, because
Coke and Selden once resided here.

It was in Clifford’s Inn that Sir Matthew Hale and the other
Commissioners sat to deal with the cases which arose after the Great
Fire of London and the questions of boundaries and rebuilding.

Clifford’s Inn was always reckoned, except by its members, a dependency
of the Inner Temple. No Inn of Court, at any rate, acquired its lease or
freehold. Clifford’s Inn paid its own way, had its own customs, its
great days, and peculiar rules. The most interesting of its old customs
was a kind of grace, which used to be performed after dinner by a
member of what was mysteriously called the Kentish Mess. The Chairman of
this Mess, for which a special table was always provided, after bowing
gravely to the Principal, took from a servitor four small loaves joined
together in the shape of a cross. These he dashed upon the table before
him three times, amid profound silence. The bread was then passed down
to the last man in the Kentish Mess, who carried it from the Hall. A
number of old women used to wait at the buttery to receive these crumbs
which had fallen from the rich man’s table. The exact significance of
the symbolism of this performance is not clear. It is probably the usual
mixture of Pagan rites and Christian observance. Antiquaries, indeed,
have suggested that ‘this singular custom typifies offerings to Ceres,
who first taught mankind the use of laws, and originated those peculiar
ornaments of civilization, their expounders, the lawyers.’[77]

Of the Inns attached to the Middle Temple, the Strand, or Chester’s Inn,
so-called ‘for the nearnesse to the Bishop of Chester’s house’ (Stow),
stood near the Church of St. Mary le Strand, without Temple Bar. It was
pulled down by the Protector, Duke of Somerset, ‘who in place thereof
raised that large and beautiful house, but yet unfinished, called
Somerset house.’

Lastly, there was New Inn. In St. George’s Lane, near the Old Bailey,
was an Inn of Chancery, whence the Society, Stow tells us, moved to ‘a
common hostelry, called of the sign Our Lady Inne, not far from
Clement’s Inne, and which they hold by the name of the New Inn, paying
therefor £6 rent, for more cannot be gotten of them, and much less will
they be put from it.’ (See p. 40.)

This ‘New Inn,’ which lay west of Clement’s Inn, in Wych Street, has
also disappeared. Here Sir Thomas More studied prior to his being
admitted to Lincoln’s Inn.

Next to Serjeants’ Inn in Chancery Lane, and adjoining the garden of
Clifford’s Inn, stood the House of the Converted Jews, founded by Henry
III., in place of a Jew’s house forfeited to him (1233).

There were gathered a great number of converted Jews and Infidels, who
were ‘ordayned and appointed, under an honest rule of life, sufficient
maintenance,’ and who lived under a learned Christian appointed to
govern them. As was the case, however, with the similar House of
Converts founded by Henry at Oxford, when all Jews were banished from
the Kingdom in 1290, the number of converts naturally decayed, and the
House was accordingly annexed by Patent to William Burstall, Clerk,
Custos Rotulorum, or Keeper of the Rolls of the Chancery, in 1377. ‘This
first Maister of the Rolles was sworne in Westminster Hall at the Table
of Marble Stone; since the which time, that house hath beene commonly
called the Rolles in Chancerie Lane.’ So the invaluable Stow, who adds
that Jewish converts continued none the less to be relieved there.

Henry III. also built for his Converts ‘a fair Church,’ afterwards ‘used
and called the Chapel for the custody of Rolls and Records of
Chancerie.’ The fabric of Rolls Chapel, after being frequently rebuilt,
had ceased to have any merit. It was demolished when the recent
additions to the Record Office were made (1895), and when to the vast
Gothic Tower, designed by Pennethorne, the section facing Chancery Lane
was added. This building, in spite of its feeble minarets and decadent,
nondescript ornamentation, often, by virtue of its mass and handsome
material, looks extremely effective, especially when London sun, shining
through London mist, dimly suffuses its pearly domes with delicate
pinks and yellows.

Upon the site of Rolls Chapel a Museum of equal size has been built,
which the present Deputy Keeper of the Records, Sir Henry Maxwell Lyte,
has made so interesting a feature of our National Archives. In this
Museum of the Public Record Office, three large monuments, once in the
Rolls Chapel, have been re-erected, two of them in their former
positions. They are of great interest and beauty. Chief among them is
the Tomb of Dr. Young, who was Dean of York and Master of the Rolls
(died 1516). This beautiful terra-cotta monument is ascribed to
Torrigiano, who made the splendid tomb in Henry VII.’s Chapel. Here,
too, are the monuments, in alabaster, of Sir Richard Allington (died
1561), and of Edward Bruce, Lord Kinlosse, Master of the Rolls, who died
in 1611.

Amongst other Masters who were buried in Rolls Chapel, Pennant mentions
Sir John Strange, but without the quibbling line–

‘Here lies an honest lawyer, that is Strange.’

Bishop Butler’s ‘Sermons at the Rolls’ and the fame of Bishop Atterbury
and Bishop Burnet keep alive the memory of the office of ‘Preacher at
the Rolls,’ an office held also by the late Dr. Brewer, whose name is
famous in the annals of historical research. As to Bishop Burnet, the
story runs that, in 1684, he preached here upon the text, ‘Save me from
the lion’s mouth, for Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns’
(Ps. xxii. 21), and was promptly dismissed for a sermon supposed to be
levelled at the Royal Arms.

Seven panels of heraldic glass have been transferred from the old Chapel
to the new windows of the Museum, and some fragments of a fine chancel
arch of the thirteenth century, found in the East wall, are there
preserved. In the Museum a series of Documents of historical interest
are exhibited, ranging from Domesday Book to the Coronation Roll of
Queen Victoria. One of the most interesting, perhaps, of the many
autographs is the suggestive signature of Guy Fawkes before and after he
had been examined by torture.[78]

In view of the origin of this House of the Rolls, it is interesting to
note that Jews began to be admitted to the Bar at the beginning of last
century. In 1833 Mr. (afterwards Sir) Francis

[Illustration: CLIFFORD’S INN

SHOWING the gloomy little Hall reconstructed in 1797 (see p. 178), a
corner of the shady garden, and the fretted lantern of St. Dunstan’s
Church in Fleet Street.]

Goldsmid was ‘called’ at Lincoln’s Inn, and Sir George Jessel in 1847.
The latter, in 1873, succeeded Lord Romilly as Master of the Rolls, and
Keeper of those Records which are stored upon the site of the House
founded for the maintenance of converted Jews and Infidels.

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