Bradshaw’s Hand Book to London, Day 6, Gray’s Inn (no.37)

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Walking out of Red Lion Square, past the Conway Hall and along Theobalds Road takes me to Bedford Row, part of Nicholas Barbon’s developments around 1684: ‘..a fine specimen of the broad thoroughfares of a century back, when all beyond this point was nearly open country..’. The street was part of an endowment of land by William Harpur, Lord Mayor of London in 1561, to a school which he established in Bedford.

Bedford Row
Bedford Row
Bedford Row
Bedford Row

Eagle Street lies at the end of Bedford Row and I found this curious object in the middle of the road –

Lamp post  and pump? in Eagle Street
Lamp post and pump? in Eagle Street

And so into Gray’s Inn, one of the four remaining Inns of Court, ‘ societies which have the sole right in England and Wales to admit law students as barristers, meaning they can prosecute and defend cases in court. The term Inn was originally applied to the societies because they provided full board and lodgings for their students..’.

The entrance into Gray's Inn from Eagle Street
The entrance into Gray’s Inn from Eagle Street

The site was originally the Ancient Manor of Purpoole in Holborn, and the London residence (nice imaginative description) of Sir Reginald le Grey, Chief Justice of Chester, according to The London EncyclopaediaSir Reginald died in 1308 and by 1370 the house was described as a hostel for lawyers. (The map and map below are the earliest I can find, with image of gardens.)

Gray's Inn, 1591, Agas
Gray’s Inn, 1591, Agas
Gray's Inn, 1677
Gray’s Inn, 1677
Gray's Inn, 1702, showing The Walks
Gray’s Inn, 1702, showing The Walks

Gray’s Inn was extensively damaged by bombing in 1941 which destroyed the Hall, the Library (and 30,000 books), and the Chapel. Sir Edward Maufe undertook the reconstruction after the War. (This extraordinary site gives some idea of the horror of those months.)

The Badge ‘..(often incorrectly called the crest) is heraldically described as “Sable a griffin segreant or”, that is, a golden griffin on a black field..’. The Motto reads: “Integra Lex Aequi Custos Rectique Magistra Non Habet Affectus Sed Causas Gubernat” (Impartial justice, guardian of equity, mistress of the law, without fear or favour rules men’s causes aright).

The badge on a drainpipe
The badge on a drainpipe
And carved in stone
And carved in stone

The gate on High Holborn leads directly past the Porter’s Lodge into South Square.

The gate into Gray's Inn from High Holborn
The gate into Gray’s Inn from High Holborn
Gray's Inn, South Square
Gray’s Inn, South Square, spoilt by all the cars!

The Hall dates from 1556 but was destroyed by bombing in 1941 and subsequently rebuilt. Shakespeare’s Patron was the Earl of Southampton, a member of the Inn, and so the Comedy of Errors had its first production in the Hall in 1594. (Photographs of the interior here.)

The Hall, Gray's Inn
The Hall, South Square, Gray’s Inn
The interior of the Hall, Gray's Inn
The interior of the Hall, Gray’s Inn

A Library at Gray’s Inn was first mentioned around the same time as the Hall. In 1941 the building and 30,000 books were destroyed by bombing, although the rare books and manuscripts survived, having been removed out of London. The library is named after a bencher, Sir John Holker, who gave funded the building developments in the 1920s.

The new Holker Library, opened in 1958
The new Holker Library, opened in 1958
Sir Francis Bacon in South Square
Sir Francis Bacon outside the Library in South Square

The Chapel overlooks Gray’s Inn Square and remains on the same site as the chapel of 1315, although it has been changed and rebuilt several times, most recently after bombing in WWII. (This print is described as ‘old’.)

Gray's Inn Chapel & Hall, before 1822
Gray’s Inn Chapel & Hall, before 1822
The Chapel, Gray's Inn
The Chapel facing Gray’s Inn Square
Gray's Inn Square
Gray’s Inn Square
The passageway connecting Gray's Inn Square and Field Court
The passageway connecting Gray’s Inn Square and Field Court

The Gardens, known as ‘The Walks‘, were laid out by Sir Francis Bacon in c.1606. It is suggested that he planted the catalpa tree at the rear of no.4 Raymond Buildings as a slip brought back by Sir Walter Raleigh. The layout of the gardens changed in the early 1800s to accommodate new buildings.

The Gardens, Gray's Inn
The Gardens, Gray’s Inn

And apparently the double row of young trees, Canadian Red Oaks, replace plane trees brought down by the hurricane of 1987,

The Gardens, Gray's Inn
The Gardens, Gray’s Inn
The Gardens, Gray's Inn
The Gardens, Gray’s Inn

Gray's Inn IMG_0739

3 Responses

    • Candy Blackham

      I am always pleased when people enjoy the posts, and the explorations around London. Every time I go on a walk I find something ‘new’, or interesting, and often very beautiful.

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