The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


The learned Fortescue inclines to the opinion that the inns of court were so denominated, not because the persons resident there followed the profession of the law, but from their being the inns, hospitals, or hotels, where young men of family and other persons attached to the court resided. In process of time, the residents began to associate themselves into fraternities of a collegiate description, and it is not improbable that the majority of them may have devoted themselves to legal studies and pursuits. Persons of rank and opulence sent their sons here, not so much with a view to their following the profession of the law, as to form their manners, improve their minds, and preserve them from the contagion of vicious habits; for in these inns, we are assured,

all vice was discountenanced and banished, and every thing good and virtuous was taught there; music, dancing, singing, history sacred and profane, and other accomplishments.

Among the very ancient inns of court, of which there is no longer any trace, called Chester inn is said to have been situated on


the spot where Somerset-house now stands; a at Dowgate; a at ; and a somewhere still nearer , which, in the days of its degradation, was the principal place of business for lawyers. Each practitioner had his own pillar in the cathedral, where he took his stand at stated hours of the day, with a pen and paper book, ready to receive the instructions of clients. So perfectly, indeed, was the practice recognized, that on the making of a sergeant, it was usual for the whole body of sergeants to walk in their robes to , to invest their new brother with his particular pillar of business.

The number of these inns of court appears, in the reign of Henry III. to have been so much on the increase, that it was thought necessary to restrain them by proclamation. The mayor and sheriffs were commanded by his majesty to proclaim

through the whole city, and firmly to forbid that any


should set up schools of laws in the said city, and teach the laws there for the time to come.

Some of the inns of court which now exist were, however, erected after this prohibition. The number remaining is , of which are within, and without, the liberties of the city; and all (we believe) extra parochial.

The inns were anciently of classes; of these might properly have been designated the outer and inner; the bore the name of Sergeant's Inns. The outer were called Inns of Chancery, from their being places of elementary instruction, where young men were taught the nature of chancery writs, which were then considered as developing the principles of law. Such were Clifford's, Thavies, Barnard's, Staple's, Clement's, Lyon's, New Inn, and some others now extinct. In the reign of Henry the , there were of these lesser inns, each of which contained not less than a students. When persons had made some progress at these inns, they were then admitted into the superior or inner courts, where they perfected their degrees. Of these courts there were , namely, the Inner and Middle Temple, , and , which still retain the pre-eminence they originally possessed. At the period of which we have just spoken, none of these inns of court had less than members.

The Sergeants' Inns, of which formerly there were , were of a still higher order than any of the others, being occupied solely by the lawyers, who had been advanced to the dignity of the coif, including the judges, who, though promoted to the bench, call every sergeant their


of these inns, which was situated about the middle of , was held on a lease from the dean and chapter of York; and on the expiration of the lease, it was not thought proper to renew it. The place, though now differently occupied, still retains the name. Another inn, for the use of sergeants only, was situated in Scroop's court, , near St.


Andrew's church. The only Sergeant's Inn at the present day is situated at the south end of .

The great periods of study in the inner and outer courts were termed vacations. commenced on the Monday after Lammas; each continued weeks and days; and during this period nothing was heard of but readings, and mootings, and boltings, and other learned exercises.

The attendance of the students at these exercises was, however, entirely voluntary; and being carried on in a barbarous jargon, called Law French, it is not surprising that in the course of time it should have greatly declined, and at last given way to the more comfortable and now venerated practice of eating 's way to the bar. Ere the century had elapsed, the inns-of-court gentleman, once the pattern of

every thing good and virtuous,

had become a dissolute idler and gallant.

When he should be mooting in the hall,

says Lenton, in his Characterismi,

he is perhaps mounting in his chamber, as if his father had only sent him to cut capers.

All his pursuits, however,

says the facetious editor of the Percy Histories,

were not so innocent nor so confined in example. Out of doors he was the gayest, boldest Hector to be seen; his beard the bushiest, his rapier the longest, and his hosen and doublet the newest fashioned; no


knew better how to



shove groat shilling,


beat a knave into a twigger bottle;

the play house was his hall, and dealing in troth-plights his lawyer's exercise.

In the reign of Henry VIII. an order was made in the Inner Temple, that

the gentlemen of that company should reform themselves in their disguised apparel, and not wear long beards: and that the treasurer should confer with the other treasurers of court, for an uniform reformation, and take the justices' opinion upon the matter.

The king afterwards ordered, that

those who would not reform in their apparel should be expelled;

and that

all persons should be put out of commons who wore beards.

Parliament was also called upon to lend its aid to the reformation of these communities, by an act ( Henry VIII.) which prohibited them from playing at shove or slip groats, under a penalty of for each offence. Still, however, but little reformation took place. In the reign of Philip and Mary, we find, that the beards had so far maintained their ground, that an order was made in the Inner Temple, that fellows of that house might wear beards, week's growth, but not longer, under a penalty of ; and in the of queen Elizabeth, it was in Lincoln's-inn

ordered, that no fellow of that house should wear a beard above a fortnight's growth,

under the penalty of loss of commons; and, in case of obstinacy, of final expulsion. Such was the love for long beards, however, that it triumphed at last over every restriction; and, in , all previous orders touching beards were repealed. The long rapier, an appendage of


a still more obnoxious description than the long beard, did not fare so well. When the would-be-obeyed Elizabeth ordered watches to be set at each gate of the city, to take measure of every man's sword that it did not exceed feet, the inns of court gentlemen were obliged to conform, like others, to this standard; and were farther obliged to lay their rapiers aside on entering their halls, and to content themselves with the dagger behind.

The Christmas revels of the inns of court were particularly distinguished for their wildness and licentiousness. Every day there was nothing but

feasting, music, singing, dancing, dicing, to which last all comers were admitted; and (the play) was so high that the box-money amounted to

fifty pounds

a night; which, with a small contribution from each student, has defrayed the charges of the whole Christmas. Sometimes, when they had a young gentleman who would be profuse, they created him prince, and he had all his officers, and a court suitable to


with that title. At such times, most of the principal nobility, officers of state, &c. were splendidly entertained. These sports and feastings used to last from All Saints day to Candlemas, in each house; and some young student was chosen master of the revels.

We learn farther, from a statutory prohibition of the reign of Henry VIII. that during this saturnalia, bands of these revellers used to go about armed out of the precincts, for the legal purposes of breaking open houses and chambers, and

to take things in the name of rent and distress.

Even as late as the reign of Charles I. this sort of perambulation was complained of.

The gay and chivalric character which the inns of court gentlemen now affected, was remarkably displayed in a grand masque with which they entertained Charles I. his queen, and their whole court, on Candlemas day, . The object of this exhibition, as we are told by Whitelocke, who was of the committee of the Middle Temple for managing it, was to manifest their opinion of Prynne's new learning, and serve to confute his

Histriomastix against Interludes.

The masquers assembled towards the evening, at Ely House, , and proceeded by torch light to the banquetting house at . At the head of the cavalcade were footmen, or marshal's men, who cleared the streets, dressed in scarlet liveries trimmed with silver lace, and carrying each a sword, a baton, and a torch; then came the marshal himself,

Mr. Darrel, of Lincoln's-inn, who was afterwards knighted by the king, an extraordinary handsome proper gentleman, mounted upon


of the king's best horses and richest saddles; his own habit exceeding rich and glorious.

The marshal was followed by about a dozen trumpeters, preceding gentlemen of the inns of court,

the most proper and handsome of their respective societies, gallantly mounted on the best horses, and with the best furniture that the king's stable, and the stables of all the noblemen in the town, could afford;

and all richly habited and attended by pages


and lacqueys bearing torches. The next groupe which presented themselves, being the of the anti-masquers, offered a singular contrast to these shewy cavaliers. They consisted of cripples and beggars on horseback, mounted on the poorest and leanest jades that could be gotten,

and advanced to the music of keys and tongs, and other equally sounding instruments. After this beggarly train came

men upon horseback, playing upon pipes, whistles, and instruments, sounding notes like those of birds of all sorts, and in excellent concert,

introductory to an anti-masque of birds, consisting

of an owl in an ivy bush, with many different sorts of birds in a cluster gazing upon her.



anti-masque, which was of a very satirical character, is said to have been chiefly got up under the direction of Noy, the attorney-general, who wished to throw ridicule on the number of projectors of that day, and on the country which more particularly produced them. It was heralded by bagpipes and hornpipes, and other Scottish instruments of music. Foremost in this anti-masque rode

a fellow on a little horse with a great bit in his mouth, signifying a projector, who begged a patent, that none in the kingdom should ride their horses but with such bits as they should buy of him.

He was followed by another, with a bunch of carrots on his head and a capon upon his fist, who was described as a projector, who

wanted a monopoly for the invention of fattening capons with carrots.

Several other profound projectors were typified with equal significance. After these came


musicians on horseback, habited as heathen priests, who prepared the way for a chariot full of gods and goddesses, attended by running footmen with torches in their hands. A similar band of musicians, and a


chariot filled with pagan deities, followed. Then came the


chariots of the grand masquers. These chariots were in the form of the triumphal cars of the Romans, and painted all over in brilliant colours, inlaid with silver. Each was drawn by


horses, abreast, covered to the wheels with coloured and silver tissue, and with huge plumes of red and white feathers on their heads and cruppers. In each chariot sat


grand masquers, chosen from the different inns of court, who were

handsome young gentlemen; their habits, doublets, trunk hose, and caps, were of the richest tissue, covered as thick with silver spangles as they could be placed; large white silk stockings up to their trunk hose, and very fine sprigs on their caps. On each side of the chariot were footmen in liveries of the colour of the chariot, carrying large flambeaux, which gave such a lustre to the paintings, and spangles, and habits, that hardly any thing could be invented to appear more glorious.

The number of spectators was immense, and the banquetting house was so crowded

with fine ladies, glittering with rich clothes and fairer jewels, and with lords and gentlemen of great quality, that there was scarce room for the king and queen to enter.

Their majesties, who stood at the window to see the masque come by, were

so delighted with the noble beauty of



that they sent to the marshal, to desire that the whole show might fetch a turn about the Tilt-yard, that they might see it a


time. The masquers then alighted, and were conducted to several apartments prepared for their entertainment. The queen joined in the dance with some of the masquers; and the great ladies of the court were very free and civil in dancing with all of them. The revelry was kept up till it was almost morning, when their majesties having retired, the masquers and inns-of-court gentlemen were brought to a stately banquet; and after that was dispersed, every


retired to their own quarters.

The total expense of this magnificent pageant, which was borne by the societies and the individual members, was reckoned to be not less than Among the grave and learned personages who had a share in the devising and arranging of it, we observe, besides Whitelocke and Noy, the names of John Selden, sir Edward Herbert, Edward Hyde, sir John Finch, &c.

Whitelocke says, the

airs, lessons, and songs,

for the masque,

were composed by the celebrated Lawes; and the music was so performed, that it excelled any music that ever before that time had been held in England.

The masque was also

incomparably performed in the dancing, speeches, music, and scenes; none failed in their parts; and the scenes were most curious and costly.

The queen was so delighted with the spectacle, that she expressed a wish to have it repeated; and a hint of this having been given to the lord mayor, he invited the king and queen, and the inns of court masquers to an entertainment in merchant-taylors' hall; and on this occasion, they came in procession into the city, in exactly the same order, and with equal splendour and applause as at .

How different is the aspect of the inns of court at the present day, from that which they must have exhibited at the times of which we have been speaking. How quiet and still those squares and terraces where formerly mirth and revelry held their court! And yet no mark of desertion or desolation is there. The change is honourable to the age; and among many striking proofs of the advancement we have made in morals and refinement.


[] Percy Hist. vol. ii. p. 142.

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 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda