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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