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.
Eagle Street lies at the end of Bedford Row and I found this curious object in the middle of the road –
And so into Gray’s Inn, one of the four remaining Inns of Court, ‘..legal 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 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 Encyclopaedia. Sir 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 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 gate on High Holborn leads directly past the Porter’s Lodge into South Square.
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.)
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 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’.)
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.
And apparently the double row of young trees, Canadian Red Oaks, replace plane trees brought down by the hurricane of 1987,