December 2016 - Illuminating the Inn

Walking the Inn’s precincts after dusk offers a glimpse into a bygone world, with the many gas lamps still in use casting an atmospheric glow by which to navigate.

Read more: December 2016 - Illuminating the Inn

November 2016 - Tavy, Thavy or Davy? The Mystery of Thavie's Inn

The origins of the Inns of Chancery are as obscure as those of the Inns of Court. It appears that by 1540 there were nine in existence, and their role as law colleges led them to essentially become preparatory schools for the Inns of Court. Up until the eighteenth century each Inn of Court had at least two Inns of Chancery associated with them. In the case of Lincoln’s Inn these were Furnival’s Inn and Thavie’s Inn.

The early history of Thavie’s Inn seems shrouded in ambiguity. The oldest deed pertaining to the Inn in the Archive is an indenture dated 24 November 1548, by which Roger Pateshale sold Thavie’s Inn for £100 to Gregory Nicholas, a Citizen and Mercer of London.

Indenture dated 24 November 1548, Parchment with tag for pendant seal [seal missing]

Read more: November 2016 - Tavy, Thavy or Davy? The Mystery of Thavie's Inn

October 2016 - Opening of the Great Hall and Library

Opening of the New Hall, Joseph Nash, 1845

With membership increasing apace during the 1800s, the Old Hall had become too small for the Inn’s needs. Similarly the Library, which had been moved to No. 2 Stone buildings in 1787, was running out of room to expand and to accommodate users. Development works were urgently required to improve the facilities the Inn could offer its members.

The building of a new hall had first been suggested in 1835, with the site originally proposed being at the south end of Stone Buildings. After other proposed plans were rejected, the architect Philip Hardwick was given the task of designing the new building. He recommended that the new hall  (which would become known as the Great Hall) and library should be situated on the west side of the garden and proposed that ‘the collegiate style of architecture, of the period towards the end of the sixteenth century should be used.’ Work began on his accepted design in 1843, with the foundation stone of the Great Hall being laid by Treasurer, Sir J L Knight-Bruce, on 20 April 1843.

Read more: October 2016 - Opening of the Great Hall and Library

September 2016 - The Great Fire of London

Engraving from Samuel Rolle's Shlohavot, or, The Burning of London in the year 1666 

This September marks the 350 anniversary of the Great Fire of London. The fire started on 2 September and raged until the 5 September 1666, destroying an area from the river in the south to London Wall in the north and the Tower of London in the east to Fetter Lane in the west, shown in this map on the British Library website. Although the fire stopped just short of Lincoln's Inn, this did not prevent the Inn taking precautions against the threats posed by the fire. The first reference to the Great Fire of London appears in this entry in the  Black Books on 13 November 1666, two months after the fire had been extinguished. Keilway Guidott, the Inn's Butler and Steward, petitioned Council describing his loss incurred on the property at Newgate Market he leased from the Inn which was destroyed by the fire.

Read more: September 2016 - The Great Fire of London

August 2016 - Readings at Lincoln's Inn

The methods used to teach law have altered greatly over the centuries, although arguably the biggest change came with the disappearance of 'readings' in the late seventeenth century. Readings were a series of lectures that were given twice a year, one in Lent term and one in Autumn term. Those in the Autumn term took place in August, usually between the first Monday of the month and the 24th (the feast day of St. Bartholomew). Readings originally lasted for about three and a half weeks although this reduced over time. Readings were given by senior barristers, usually benchers, and were designed to give students and barristers instruction as to the best ways to form a legal argument. At Lincoln's Inn would have taken place in the Old Hall. Readers had help from 'assistants' who were usually senior barristers of the same Inn and were often elected to be Readers themselves. Debate would take place over a particular statute or case chosen by the reader who, in order to give him time to prepare, was usually elected six to twelve months before he was expected to give his reading.  Of all the Inns of Court, Lincoln's Inn can claim both the earliest instance of readings taking place in 1464/5 (as recorded in the Black Books) and the most complete list of readers.

Read more: August 2016 - Readings at Lincoln's Inn

July 2016 - Library extension

Even though the Great Hall and Library building was opened in 1845, by November 1868 a report presented to Council recognised that the Library was in a 'crowded state' with not enough room for the ever growing collection of books. By 1870 a resolution had been passed by Council to extend the Library at a cost not to exceed £3000. To enlarge the original building by Philip Hardwick, the Inn employed the services of the architect George Gilbert Scott who drew up his designs for the project. He presented 22 drawings to be considered by Council, of which five survive in the Inn's Archives. These can be viewed by clicking on the Eastern elevation below. 


Read more: July 2016 - Library extension

June 2016 - Ground breaking walnut trees

This month ceremonial spades will be used to 'break ground', marking the official start of the building works connected to the Inn's new development. One of the spades which will be used has been in the Inn's possession for a while, however. When digging it out from storage, it was found to have a note attached to it that reads 'Queen Mary's spade'. The obvious questions then arose as to why Queen Mary's name was attached to this item. 

Searching the Black Books it quickly became apparent that Queen Mary, who was made a Royal Bencher of Lincoln's Inn in November 1943, visited the Inn on 30 October 1945 to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Great Hall. As part of the celebrations, she planted a walnut tree in the North Lawn opposite 2 and 3 Stone Buildings, the spade being used to put soil around the base of the tree. Below is the relevant extract from the Black Books (ref: A1a47) describing her visit followed by a photograph (ref: M6/10/17) showing her in the Great Hall after the tree planting. 

Read more: June 2016 - Ground breaking walnut trees

May 2016 - Sir Mathew Hale

The 17 May 1636 marks 380 years since Mathew Hale was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn. Hale was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 8 November 1628 having previously attended Magdalen Hall (now Hertford College), Oxford and is listed as being of Alderley in Gloucestershire. He was later made a bencher of the Inn on 16 November 1642 on the same day as William Prynne and Richard Raynsford and Wadham Wyndham, two of Hale's fellow 'Fire Judges' who sat in the 'Fire Court' which was devised by Hale and dealt with issues and disputes arising from the reconstruction of the City of London following the Great Fire of London in September 1666. His involvement with this will be studied more closely in the September edition of the Archive of the Month which will look at the effects of the Great Fire of London on Lincoln's Inn, its members and premises.

Read more: May 2016 - Sir Mathew Hale

April 2016 - Jinnah

Through its membership, Lincoln's Inn can lay claim to numerous important legal minds, both past and present, sixteen of whom went on to become Prime Ministers and two who have even gone on to be canonised. Equally as impressive is that one of our other most famous members, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, is remembered for being the founder of Pakistan in 1947.  

Jinnah was born on Christmas Day 1876 and is described in the admissions register as the first son of 'Jinnahbhai' of Karachi, Sind, India, merchant. He was admitted on 5 June 1893 aged 19. Of course these dates do not tally as if he was 19 on admission he would have been born in 1874. However, the date of 1876 is considered his official birth year in Pakistan which would have made him 16 on admission and aged 19 at call. Although the Inns have never had formal age requirements for admission, it has long been the case that one had to be 21 to be called to the bar but in the eyes of the Inn he was certainly 21 when called. Below is his entry in the admissions register (Archive ref: B1a/27)

Read more: April 2016 - Jinnah

March 2016 - The Moroccan Ambassador

Although there are varied examples of handwriting in the Archives at Lincoln's Inn, including samples written in Latin and French as well as English, there is one unusual entry in the Golden Book that is written in Arabic. This was entered on 4 March 1682 by the then Moroccan Ambassador, Mohammed bin Hadou, who had been sent to England by the Moroccan ruler Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif. Mohammed bin Hadou arrived In England on the 29 December 1681 and left on 23 July 1682, so was about half way through his diplomatic visit when he visited the Inn. The image below shows the entry in the Golden Book and has been roughly translated as 'Praise be to God alone! Written by the servant of the wise, the pilgrim to God, Muhammad the son of Muhammed the son of Haddu, belonging to Sus, the Bahamwani. May God be gracious unto him! Amen'.

Read more: March 2016 - The Moroccan Ambassador

February 2016 - Thomas More


On 12 February 1496, one of the Inn's most famous past members, Sir Thomas More, was admitted. On his admission he was 'pardoned four vacations at the instance of his father, John More', who was a bencher. Such 'special admissions' for those with the right connections were not uncommon. Unlike today, however, 'vacations' in the late fifteenth century were one of the periods of most intense learning, so it is perhaps slightly puzzling that such exemptions were sought by those who might want their sons or relatives to undergo, rather than escape, their educational obligations.  Admitted on the same day as More was a Richard Stafferton who was also admitted at John More's instance and on the same terms as Thomas. As Richard married Thomas' sister Joan, this extended privilege is perhaps not so surprising. Indeed this family connection was continued in 1520 when on the 24 June, it is recorded that Richard Stafferton, son of Richard and Joan, and Thomas More's nephew, was admitted to the Inn at the instance of Thomas More.

Read more: February 2016 - Thomas More

January 2016 - Foundlings

The past practice of abandoning children in the hope they would be rescued and offered a better life elsewhere is well documented, with the instances of abandonment in London becoming so great during the eighteenth century that the Foundling Hospital was established in 1741 to provide care for many such forsaken children. The Foundling Museum contains many interesting archives and very moving items relating to these foundling children. As it happens, the Inn has a direct connection to the Foundling Hospital in that Taylor White, Treasurer of the Inn in 1764, was Treasurer for the Hospital from 1746 to 1772. 

It is less well known, however, that the undercroft under Lincoln's Inn Chapel was a favoured spot for children to be left. The first detailed reference, shown below, to a foundling at the Inn appears in the account books for 1732 where 2s 6d was given to 'a woman that keept a child that was dropt under the Chappell', although it is implied in the Black Books and accounts that babies had been left at the Inn before this date. 

Read more: January 2016 - Foundlings