Click on the arrows to see pictures of our trip to the Inns of Court. Scroll down to read all about it.
Commercial London with its glistening glass towers is known to us; historical London with its Tower and colourful Beefeaters we are familiar with; but Legal London – that’s a new one for most of us! That’s probably why the trip was so popular and the enjoyable day so interesting.
One of the benefits – in addition to an excellent guide in Clare – was how compact the tour was. On arrival, Clare escorted us to the pub The George, directly opposite the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice. The pub was originally one of the famous coffee shops of the 18th century.
After refreshments, Clare conducted us a few hundred yards to the Inner Temple, with the Middle Temple nearby, the original area associated with the law and lawyers. The area got its name from the Knights Templar, who originally owned the land and built the circular church which is still there and in daily use (it is mentioned in The Da Vinci Code).
The Temple Church was consecrated in 1185 but the land was taken from the Knights Templar by Henry III in 1240 and given to the Knights Hospitaller of St John. The area was taken over in 1608 by the lawyers of the time.
There are a number of self-contained historical courtyards, called Courts – for example, Pump Court, Essex Court, New Court. In the doorways of the buildings making up the Inns of Court there are large white boards that list the names of the lawyers who have their offices there – you get the impression that there are hundreds of them!
Middle Court is the similar area next door and has in it the magnificent Middle Temple Hall dating from 1573. It looks exactly like the dining hall in Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films. This was probably (with the interior of the Royal Courts of Justice) the most impressive sight of our day. On the buildings throughout the Middle Temple Courts we saw the Lamb and Flag symbol, which is the sign of the Middle Temple (and, for Christians, the sign of the Resurrection).
Leaving the Middle Court we crossed the road to the Royal Courts of Justice, the front of which we have all seen on television. After proceeding through Security – like in an airport – we stood in the vast hall that lies behind the Victoria façade. The scale and grandeur, rather like the inside of a cathedral, took one’s breath away.
We saw directions to 25 courts (there may have been more) and Clare told us that usually the place is a hive of activity, with bewigged barristers and lawyers hurrying around. However, perhaps because it was half-term, today it was quiet. We were invited to look into the courts but found them all locked.
Shepherded by Clare we returned across the road to The George, where we had a splendid carvery meal. After dinner we boarded the coach and went off to see Lincoln’s Inn, a similar site to the Middle Temple. We learned about the history of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the larges public square in London, which was laid our by Inigo Jones in the 1630s, as well as the story of the surrounding lawyers’ offices.
Then we re-boarded the coach to drive down Fleet Street and past the Old Bailey. (Because the Royal Courts of Justice are Civil courts the public is allowed in but not so at the Old Bailey Criminal Courts.)
We then had an hour and a half to do our own exploring. Some of us went to visit the Middle Temple Church and all of us looked for a cup of tea or coffee.
On the way back to the coach a good number of our party visited the magnificently restored church of St Clement Danes, which stands on an island where the Strand meets Fleet Street. Almost gutted by enemy action during the Blitz, after the war it was amazingly restored and dedicated to the Royal Air Force, who now view it as “their” church! Should you ever be in that part of London it definitely merits a visit.
We set off home at 4.40pm and were all agreed that it had been a most interesting and enjoyable day out, thanks to the planning and hard work of the organisers.