‘.. Lincoln’s Inn Fields form a fine open square, said to be the dimensions of the base of one of the pyramids of Egypt..’, according to Mr Bradshaw. It is London’s largest square, formed from Purse and Cup Fields, once used by the students from the adjacent Lincoln’s Inn for exercise.
In the early 1500s Purse Field belonged to the Hospital of St Giles and was leased to The White Hart as pasturage. At the time of Edward II (1284-1327) Cup Field was ten acres of ground, with housing, around Great Turnstile (the lane at NE corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Holborn). From 1431 it belonged to the Hospital of St John, and by mid-1500s was leased to The Ship Inn, also for pasturage.
In 1613 Sir Charles Cornwallis obtained a lease on Purse Field for residential development. Lincoln’s Inn objected and instead retained the open space, creating the current Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was then surrounded by housing for the wealthy. (Simplified; see here for more detail.)
Mr Bradshaw says the western side of the square was built by Inigo Jones and nos.59-60, Lindsey House, is all that remains of the original buildings. The house was built in 1640 as a speculative development and named after the 4th Earl of Lindsey in early 1700s. (Note the cobbled road in the photograph below.) In the 1750s the house was divided, hence the double entrance doors.
The houses at nos.57 & 58 are by Henry Joynes and very similar.
Newcastle House has a complicated history of ownership which includes Dukes, a Prime Minister, and, since 1790, a law firm.
The north side of the square looks solidly residential and includes nos.12, 13, and 14, Sir John Soane‘s Museum with ‘..a collection of great value and interest..’. He designed the building as his home and arranged it to be a museum after his death.
And this exuberant decoration at no.28
On the south side of the square is the Royal College of Surgeons, designed by Sir Charles Barry (1835-36), ‘..presenting a noble colonnade and portico of the Ionic order..’.
The College houses The Hunterian Museum, based on the collection of John Hunter (1728-93), bought by the government after his death. The first museum opened in 1813 and was replaced by the current, bigger building in 1836. John Hunter had 10,000 specimens; by 1862 the number in the collection had more than doubled. Mr Bradshaw points me to those items ‘..which invite the curiosity of the non-professional visitor..’ including extinct beasts and the skeleton of Charles Byrne, the 8-foot Irish giant. Mr Bradshaw also describes how the collection grew: ‘..Doctors on shipboard, doctors with armies, doctors in Arctic ships, or on Niger expeditions; in the far regions of Hindustan, and in the fogs and storms of Labrador, think now and then of .. the noble collection in Lincoln’s Inn Fields which every true student feels bound to honour and to help to make complete..’. I found it interesting but half an hour of bottled specimens was enough for this ‘non-professional visitor’!
Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court which are associations for barristers, providing training and a social network. Law students must join one of the Inns of Court to be called to the bar. It is a magical place, quiet and peaceful, with a mix of buildings, squares, and gardens. Lincoln’s Inn (perhaps named after the 3rd Earl of Lincoln whose crest, the lion rampant, is over the gate house on Chancery Lane) was founded in the mid-1300s and established on the current site in the 1400s. The Old Hall was built 1489-92 and The Old Buildings from 1524-1613 and abut on to Chancery Lane.
The Gate House opening on to Chancery Lane (the original entrance) was built in 1518.
The current Chapel was built by Inigo Jones between 1620-23 and is ‘..reared on huge pillars and arches..’. It is particularly magical in the fading light.
New Square is later, 1682-93, and is entered from Carey Street, through an impressive archway.
Stone Buildings were built next, 1774-80, and finally The Great Hall and the Library in 1843-45. The Great Hall was built in the Tudor Style by Philip Hardwick and opened by Queen Victoria.
And in the fading light.
The gardens are are closing down for the winter, but even so I found some flowers..