Barnard’s Inn today is a secret place, entered through a doorway on Holborn which gives no hint of the history through the doorways and narrow corridors. (Authoritative article here.)
By 1435 a School of Law had been established on the site by Lawrence Barnard, and the Hall dates from that time. The School was an Inn of Chancery, preparing students who wanted to be called to the bar and accredited to Gray’s Inn. It continued to provide legal education until 1888.
At this point the buildings were acquired by the Mercers Company to establish a school.
There were some curious carvings in this little inner courtyard.
Now the buildings are home to Gresham College, founded in 1597 by Sir Thomas Gresham, a wealthy merchant in the City, who was also responsible for the first Royal Exchange. He bequeathed his estate to the Corporation of the City of London and the Mercers’ Company are jointly responsible for the College and its educational work.
Gresham College has a strong programme of Free Public Lectures and on Wednesday evening I went to Barnards Inn Hall to hear Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC talk about The Iran Tribunal. It was a sickening hour which you can read about here and which made me aware of the importance of the Ministry of Justice.