Coordinates: 51°31′01.65″N 00°06′52.48″W /
51.5171250°N 0.1145778°W / 51.5171250; -0.1145778
The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn
The Honourable Society of
Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of
London to which barristers of
England and Wales
England and Wales belong and
where they are called to the Bar. It is recognised to be one of the
world's most prestigious professional bodies of judges and lawyers. It
is the largest Inn and it covers 11 acres (4.5 hectares). The other
three are Middle Temple,
Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. The Inn is
believed to be named after Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln. The Inn
is also well known for its large garden and library, which have
existed since 1422. It awards the Buchanan Prize to the student who
is placed first in the annual Bar Examinations.
Lincoln's Inn is situated in Holborn, in the
London Borough of Camden,
just on the border with the City of
London and the City of
Westminster, and across the road from
London School of Economics and
Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice and King's College London's
Maughan Library. The nearest tube station is
Holborn tube station or
2 Structure and governance
3 Buildings and architectural points of note
3.1 Old Hall
3.3 Great Hall
3.6 New Square Lawn
3.7 East Terrace Underground development, New Library and New Teaching
4 Coat of arms
5 Notable members
6 Preachers of Lincoln's Inn
7 Other organisations based in the Inn
8 See also
11 External links
During the 12th and early 13th centuries, the law was taught in the
City of London, primarily by the clergy. Then two events happened
which ended this form of legal education: firstly, a papal bull in
1218 that prohibited the clergy from teaching the common law, rather
than canon law; and secondly, a decree by
Henry III of England
Henry III of England on 2
December 1234 that no institutes of legal education could exist in the
City of London. The secular lawyers migrated to the hamlet of
Holborn, near to the law courts at
Westminster Hall and outside the
A map showing the boundaries of the Inn in 1870
As with the other Inns of Court, the precise date of founding of
Lincoln's Inn is unknown. The Inn can claim the oldest records – its
"black books" documenting the minutes of the governing Council go back
to 1422, and the earliest entries show that the Inn was at that point
an organised and disciplined body. The third Earl of Lincoln had
encouraged lawyers to move to Holborn, and they moved to Thavie's Inn,
one of the Inns of Chancery, later expanding into
Furnival's Inn as
well. It is felt that
Lincoln's Inn became a formally organised Inn
of Court soon after the Earl's death in 1310.
At some point before 1422, the greater part of "Lincoln's Inn", as
they had become known, after the Earl, moved to the estate of Ralph
Neville, the Bishop of Chichester, near Chancery Lane. They retained
Thavie's and Furnival's Inn, using them as "training houses" for young
lawyers, and fully purchased the properties in 1550 and 1547
respectively. In 1537, the land
Lincoln's Inn sat on was sold by
Richard Sampson to a
Bencher named William Suliard, and his son
sold the land to
Lincoln's Inn in 1580. The Inn became formally
organised as a place of legal education thanks to a decree in 1464,
which required a Reader to give lectures to the law students
During the 15th century, the Inn was not a particularly prosperous
one, and the Benchers, particularly John Fortescue, are credited with
fixing this situation.
Structure and governance
New Hall of Lincoln's Inn, London, by Henry Fox Talbot, circa 1841/46
Lincoln's Inn had no constitution or fundamental form of governance,
and legislation was divided into two types; statutes, passed by the
Governors (see below) and ordinances issued by the Society (all the
Fellows of the Inn). A third method used was to have individual
Fellows promise to fulfill a certain duty; the first known example is
from 1435, and starts "Here folowen certaynes covenantes and promyses
made to the felloweshippe of Lyncoll' Yne". The increase of the
size of the Inn led to a loss of its partially democratic nature,
first in 1494 when it was decided that only Benchers and Governors
should have a voice in calling people to the Bar and, by the end of
the sixteenth century, Benchers were almost entirely in control.
Admissions were recorded in the black books and divided into two
categories: Clerks (Clerici) who were admitted to Clerks' Commons; and
Fellows Socii who were admitted to Fellows' Commons. All entrants
swore the same oath regardless of category, and some Fellows were
permitted to dine in Clerks' Commons as it cost less, making it
difficult for academics to sometimes distinguish between the two –
Walker, the editor of the Black Books, maintains that the two
categories were one and the same. During the 15th century, the Fellows
began to be called Masters, and the gap between Masters and Clerks
gradually grew, with an order in 1505 that no Master was to be found
in Clerks' Commons unless studying a point of law there. By 1466,
the Fellows were divided into Benchers, those "at the Bar" (ad barram,
also known as "utter barristers" or simply "barristers"), and those
"not at the Bar" (extra barram). By 1502, the extra barram Fellows
were being referred to as "inner barristers", in contrast to the
"utter" or "outer" barristers.
In Lord Mansfield's time, there was no formal legal education, and the
only requirement for a person to be called to the Bar was for him to
have eaten five dinners a term at Lincoln's Inn, and to have read the
first sentence of a paper prepared for him by the steward.
The Gate from
Lincoln's Inn Fields
A Bencher, Benchsitter or (formally) Master of the Bench is a
member of the Council, the governing body of the Honourable Society of
Lincoln's Inn. The term originally referred to one who sat on the
benches in the main hall of the Inn, which were used for dining and
during moots, and the term originally had no significance. In
Lincoln's Inn, the idea of a
Bencher was believed to have begun far
earlier than elsewhere; there are records of four Benchers being sworn
William Holdsworth and the editor of the Black Books both concluded
that Benchers were, from the earliest times, the governors of the Inn,
unlike other Inns who started with Readers. A.W.B. Simpson,
writing at a later date, decided based on the Black Books that the
Benchers were not the original governing body, and that the Inn was
instead ruled by Governors (or gubernatores), sometimes called Rulers,
who led the Inn. The Governors were elected to serve a year-long term,
with between four and six sitting at any one time.
The first record of Benchers comes from 1478, when John Glynne was
expelled from the Society for using "presumptious and unsuitable
words" in front of the governors and "other fellows of the Bench", and
a piece of legislation passed in 1489 was "ordained by the governors
and other the worshipfuls of the Bench"[clarification needed]. By the
late 15th century, the ruling group were the Governors (who were
always Benchers) with assistance and advice from the other "masters of
the Bench", and occasional votes from the entire Society. The
Benchers were still subordinate to the Governors, however; a note from
1505 shows the admission of two Benchers "to aid and advice for the
good governing of the Inn, but not to vote". The practice of using
Governors died out in 1572 and, from 1584, the term was applied to
Benchers, with the power of a Governor and a new
There are approximately 296 Benchers at the moment November
2013[when?], with the body consisting of those members of the Inn
elected to high judicial office, those who have sat as Queen's Counsel
for six or seven years and some of the more distinguished "junior"
barristers (those barristers who are not Queen's Counsel). There are
also "additional benchers"—members of the Inn who have been
successful in a profession other than the law, who have the rights of
a normal bencher except that they cannot hold an office, such as
Treasurer. In addition there are "honorary benchers", who hold all the
rights of a
Bencher except the right to vote and the right to hold an
office. These are people of "sufficient distinction" who have been
elected by the Inn, and includes people such as Margaret Thatcher,
former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In common with the other Inns,
Lincoln's Inn also has a "Royal
Bencher"—a member or members of the Royal Family who have been
elected Benchers. The present Royal
Bencher is Duke of Kent who was
elected after the death of the previous incumbent Princess Margaret.
In 1943, when she was elected as Royal Bencher, Queen Mary became the
Bencher in any Inn. His Royal Highness Prince Andrew
Duke of York was elected a Royal
Bencher in December 2012.
Buildings and architectural points of note
The Inn is situated between
Chancery Lane and
Lincoln's Inn Fields,
north of Inner and Middle Temples and south of Gray's Inn. The Inn is
surrounded by a brick wall separating it from the neighbourhood; this
was first erected in 1562, and it is said that
Ben Jonson did some of
the brickwork. The only surviving part is that on that on the
western side between the North Lawn and the Fields. As well as the
major buildings discussed below, the Inn consists of three squares;
Old Square, Old Buildings,
Stone Buildings and Hardwicke buildings.
The two specimens of early 16th century mural paintings upon plaster
were uncovered in the pictured room when the original building of 1538
was partially reconstructed in the years 1969–1970 and after
preservation were replaced in the same building.
First built in 1683, New Square, sometimes known as Serle Court,
finished in about 1697. New Square was originally named Serle's Court
because it was built as a compromise between the Inn and Henry Serle
over ownership of the land. A compromise was made in 1682, and Serle
built eleven brick sets of chambers on three sides of the square
between 1682 and 1693. Alterations were made in 1843, when the
open area in the middle was replaced by gardens and lawns. Because of
its difficult history of ownership, some parts of the Square are still
freehold, with individuals owning floors or sections of floors within
the buildings. The
Lincoln's Inn Act 1860 was passed directly to
allow the Inn to charge the various freeholders in the Square
Stone Buildings was built between 1775 and 1780 using the designs of
Robert Taylor, with the exception of No. 7, which was completed the
range in the same style in 1845. The design was originally meant
to be part of a massive rebuilding of the entire Inn, but this was
Stone Buildings were seriously damaged during The
Blitz, but their external appearance remains much the same. From
'within' it appears as a cul de sac rather than a square, the two
ranges closed to the north with a third which originally contained the
library. The eastern side along
Chancery Lane and the western backing
onto the North Lawn. These provide the standard layout of 'staircases'
of working chambers. From the North Lawn there is no access but the
west range provides a fine institutional range of some distinction.
No. 10 was originally provided by the Inn to strengthen its ties with
Chancery (which used to be held in the Old Hall) as the office of the
Six Clerks of the Court of Chancery, with the Inn taking it back when
the Clerks were abolished and the Court moved to the Royal Courts of
Justice in 1882. It is currently used as the headquarters of the
Inns of Court
Inns of Court & City Yeomanry, part of the Territorial Army. The
Officers Mess facilities make use of the principal rooms. Lincoln's
Inn has maintained a corps of volunteers in times of war since 1585,
when 95 members of the Inn made a pledge to protect Queen Elizabeth
against Spain. George III gave the then-temporary unit the epithet
"The Devil's Own", which remains attached to the Regiment to this
day. There is a large War Memorial between New Square and the
North lawn containing the names of the members of the Inn killed in
the First World War and World War 2.
Lincoln's Inn, building 1 to 4
Old Square and Old Buildings were built between 1525 and 1609,
initially running between numbers 1 and 26. Although 1 exists near the
Gatehouse, the others now only run from 16 to 24, with some buildings
having been merged to the point where the entrances for 25 and 26 now
frame windows, not doorways. Hardwicke Buildings was built in the
1960s, was originally named 'Hale Court', between the east range of
New Square name changed in the 1990s. The buildings of Lincoln's Inn
in Old Square, New Square and
Stone Buildings are normally divided
into four or five floors of chambers, with residential flats on the
top floor. The buildings are used both by barristers and solicitors
and other professional bodies.
Lincoln's Inn Old Hall
The Old Hall dates from at least 1489, when it replaced the smaller
"bishops hall". The Old Hall is 71 feet long and 32 feet wide,
although little remains of the original size and shape; it was
significantly altered in 1625, 1652, 1706 and 1819. A former
librarian reported that it was "extensively remodelled" by Francis
Bernasconi in 1800. This remodelling led to the covering of the oak
beams with a curved plaster ceiling, "a most barbarous
innovation". The weight of the plaster created the risk that the
roof would collapse, and between 1924 and 1927 Sir John Simpson
dismantled the entire hall, straightening warped timbers, removing the
plaster, replacing any unserviceable sections and then putting the
entire hall back together. It was reopened on 22 November 1928 by
As well as its use for revels, moots and feasts, the Old Hall was also
used as a court. The
Master of the Rolls sat there between 1717 and
1724 while the Rolls Court was being rebuilt, and Lord Talbot used it
as a court in 1733. From 1737 onward it was used to house the Court of
Chancery, a practice that ended with the opening of the Royal Courts
of Justice. The Hall's most famous use as a court is in the start
of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, which opens with "London. Michaelmas
Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn
Hall". It is now used for examinations, lectures, social
functions and can be hired for private events. In 2010 the
Hall was refurbished and its Crypt was improved and made more
accessible by the installation of a stairs from the outside.
17th century vaulted undercroft below the chapel
The Great Hall of Lincoln's Inn, during the 2010 Gresham Special
The Library (left) and Benchers' rooms (right)
The first mention of a chapel in
Lincoln's Inn comes from 1428. By the
17th century, this had become too small, and discussions started about
building a new one in 1608. The current chapel was built between
1620 and 1623 by Inigo Jones, and was extensively rebuilt in 1797 and
again in 1883. Other repairs took place in 1685, after the
consultation of Christopher Wren, and again in 1915. The chapel is
built on a fan-vaulted, open undercroft and has acted (sometimes
simultaneously) as a crypt, meeting place and place of recreation. For
many years only Benchers were allowed to be buried in the Crypt, with
the last one being interred on 15 May 1852. Before that, however, it
was open to any member or servant of the society; in 1829 a former
Preacher was interred, and in 1780 William Turner, described as
"Hatch-keeper and Washpot to this Honble. Society", was buried.
The chapel has a bell said to date from 1596, although this is not
considered likely. Traditionally, the bell would chime a curfew at 9
pm, with a stroke for each year of the current Treasurer's age. The
bell would also chime between 12:30 and 1:00 pm when a
died. Inside the chapel are six stained glass windows, three on
each side, designed by the Van Linge family.
The chapel's first pipe organ was a Flight & Robson model
installed in 1820. A substantial William Hill organ replaced it in
1856; a model designed at the peak of his skill, with thick lead and
tin pipes, a set of pedals, and three manuals. During its
service years it was rebuilt nine times, the final overhaul carried
out in 1969. In the 2000s the organ, increasingly unreliable, was seen
to have little unaltered initial material, with little hope of
returning it to original condition, and it was replaced with a Kenneth
Tickell model, the new organ installed during 2009–2010.
The chapel is used for concerts throughout the year.
The Great Hall, or New Hall, was constructed during the 19th century.
The Inn's membership had grown to the point where the Old Hall was too
small for meetings, and so the Benchers decided to construct a new
hall, also containing sizable rooms for their use, and a library. The
new building was designed by Philip Hardwick, with the foundation
stone laid on 20 April 1843 by James Lewis Knight-Bruce, the
The building was completed by 1845, and opened by
Queen Victoria on 30
October. The Hall is 120 feet long, 45 feet wide, and 62 feet
high, much larger than the Old Hall. The Great Hall is used for
the call to the Bar, as a dining place and for concerts arranged
through the Bar Musical Society.
The lower ground floor was divided by a mezzanine in 2007 and the
upper part became the Members Common Room for informal dining and with
a lounge. It replaced the Junior Common Room, Barristers Members Room
and Benchers Room as a social facility. In effect it is a club
providing bar and restaurant facilities for all 'entitled' persons,
i.e. members of the Inn and its bona fide tenants.
The Library was first mentioned in 1471, and originally existed in a
building next to the Old Hall before being moved to a set of chambers
at No. 2
Stone Buildings in 1787. A bequest by John Nethersale in 1497
is recorded as an early acquisition.
The current Library was built as part of the complex containing the
Great Hall, to the designs of Hardwick and was finished in 1845 being
formally opened by Queen Victoria. At this point it was 80 feet long,
40 feet wide and 44 feet high. It was extended, almost doubled, in
George Gilbert Scott
George Gilbert Scott in the same style. The ground floor
contained a Court room which became part of the Library facilities
Court of Chancery
Court of Chancery moved out of the Inn in the 1880s. It has
since 2010 been utilised as a lecture room and during the developments
of 2016 to 2018 became the 'interim' Members Common Room.
The Library contains a large collection of rare books, including the
Hale Manuscripts, the complete collection of Sir Matthew Hale, which
he left to the Inn on his death in 1676. The Library also contains
over 1,000 other rare manuscripts, and approximately 2,000
pamphlets. The total collection of the Library, including
textbooks and practitioners works, is approximately 150,000 volumes.
The collection also includes a complete set of Parliamentary
records. The Library is open to all students and barristers of
Lincoln's Inn, as well as outside scholars and solicitors by
The Library is primarily a reference library, so borrowing is
restricted. The only other lending service available is offered by
Middle Temple Library, which permits barristers and students of any
Inn, on production of suitable ID, to borrow current editions of
textbooks that are not loose-leaf – but not any other material –
half an hour before closing for return by half an hour after opening
the following day.
Gatehouse of Lincoln's Inn
The Gatehouse from
Chancery Lane is the oldest existing part of the
Inn, and was built between 1518 and 1521. The Gatehouse was mainly
built thanks to the efforts of Sir Thomas Lovell, the Treasurer at the
time, who provided at least a third of the funds and oversaw the
construction itself—as a result, his coat of arms hang on the gate,
along with those of the Earl of Lincoln and Henry VIII (the king at
The Gatehouse is a large tower four stories high and features diagonal
rows of darker bricks, along with a set of oak gates that date from
1564. The Gatehouse was restored in 1695 and again between 1967 and
1969—the arms of the Treasurers for those years (Lord Upjohn, John
Hawles and Princess Margaret) were added to the inwards side of the
Gatehouse itself. Minor repairs also took place in 1815, when the
three Coats of Arms were repaired and cleaned. The image shown
here however is in fact the Victorian Gated Entrance to Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn Fields, and is not to be confused with the ancient
Gatehouse of the Eastern wall adjoining Chancery Lane.
New Square Lawn
The New Square Lawn is surrounded by the block of New Square. It is
bordered by the Lincoln Inn chambers, and is visible from the
Gatehouse. Centered on the New Square Lawn is Jubilee Fountain. After
the original fountain from 1970 was removed, William Pye installed the
new Jubilee fountain in 2003, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Golden
Jubilee. The construction of the fountain was funded by David
Shirley. The Jubilee fountain is a two tier fountain centered in New
Square. The top level of the fountain creates arches in the air with
the water, and the lower level has complimentary tiny fountains. A
photo of the fountain can be found on the designer's website
East Terrace Underground development, New Library and New Teaching
The Inn has self funded a major improvement and extension of its
facilities from 2016 due for completion in 2018. The Inn being a
conservation area and consisting of listed buildings could not simply
add modern structures within the precincts without considerable
difficulty of their impact on the current layout and planning
objections by interest groups, as well indeed from members of the Inn.
The improvement requirements for the Library and teaching activities
were partly addressed by demolition of the Under Treasurer's House on
the north side of the Library, which was a post WW2 building,
replacing it with an extension to the Reading Rooms and Book Stack.
The solution of providing a 150-seat Lecture Theatre and Tutorial
Rooms was to exploit the space under the large east Terrace of the
Great Hall. This when completed will hardly be noticeable as the only
visible change shall be a staircase on the unused part of the Terrace
and plate windows lying flush with the 'floor' to provide natural top
Coat of arms
An approximation of the arms (but the lion should be purpure in
For many years, the Inn used the arms of the 3rd Earl of Lincoln as
their own; in blazon, a "lion rampant purpure in a field or", which is
a purple lion on a gold field. Around 1699, Sir Richard Holford
discovered the Inn's own coat of arms on a manuscript, granted to them
in 1516. The arms are "azure seme de fer moline or, on a dexter canton
or a lion rampant purpure". Following validation using some heraldry
books, the arms were placed first in the council chamber and then in
the library. Since then, they have been used continuously in Lincoln's
List of members of Lincoln's Inn
Preachers of Lincoln's Inn
The office of Preacher of
Lincoln's Inn or Preacher to Lincoln's Inn
is a clerical office in the Church of England. Past incumbents
John Donne (1616–1622)
Reginald Heber (1822–?)
Edward Maltby (1824–1833)
William Van Mildert
William Van Mildert (1812–1819)
William Warburton (1746-?)
Other organisations based in the Inn
68 Signal Squadron
The volunteer militia, later formalised (1908) within the Territorial
Army, and today forming the headquarters of 68 Signal Squadron.
Lincoln's Inn Fields
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Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln's Inn
Inns of Court
Inns of Chancery
Inns of Chancery (Barnard's Inn, Clement's Inn, Clifford's Inn,
Furnival's Inn, Lyon's Inn, New Inn, Staple Inn, Strand Inn, Thavie's
Faculty of Advocates
History of the formation of the
London Borough of Camden
Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, Ely Rents and Ely Place
St Andrew Holborn
Holborn Above the Bars with St George the Martyr
St Giles in the Fields
St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury
St George Bloomsbur