Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ins and Outs of the Inns of Court

Monday morning Sonia and I got up (relatively) early and took the Tube up to the Holborn station, where we met up with a group of ladies from the American Women's Club (AWC) for a walking tour of the Inns of Court.  The process of entering the legal profession in the UK is very different from that in the US, and the four Inns of Court serve as a sort of home base for lawyers throughout their careers.  Think of them as the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin of lawyers.

Our guide, Brian, was wearing a Blue Badge, indicating that he was a professional guide who wasn't just going to make stuff up.  Sure enough, over the next two hours, he gave us an in-depth history of each of the four courts, explained the process of becoming a barrister or solicitor, described several of the traditions associated with the legal profession, and even threw in a few amusing anecdotes.  He was very engaging and seemed remarkably knowledgeable about the subject, and the Inns themselves were beautiful, historic buildings with lovely gardens.  I would definitely recommend the tour if you want an interesting perspective on the history of London.  You don't have to be a lawyer -- or even be married to one -- to appreciate it.

It's going to be a challenge for me to remember everything he told us now that a few days have passed, but I'll do my best to hit some of the highlights of what we saw and learned...

We started out in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which is a large square where public beheadings once took place.  If you were wealthy enough to own a house overlooking the square, you could watch them from the privacy of your own home.  Talk about prime real estate!  Brian pointed out one of the larger houses, which was once a private home but has housed the law offices Farrer & Co since 1790.
Newcastle House (Farrer & Co)
Lincoln's Inn Park
We started at Gray's Inn, which is symbolized by a Gryphon (yes, very Harry Potter!).  While none of the Inns traditionally claim to be any older than the others, this one dates back to at least 1391, and is known for the large garden paths, or "walks" that run through the courtyard.
Gryphons at Gray's Inn
Many of the buildings in Gray's Inn were damaged in WWII.  This one was rebuilt with financial assistance from the U.S., and one of the stained glass windows bears an American eagle symbol to commemorate this.
Dining Hall at Gray's Inn
Francis Bacon was a member of Gray's Inn, and his statue stands in one of the courtyards.
Francis Bacon
The Inns of Court were originally affiliated with Inns of Chancery, which served as a sort of finishing school for lawyers, where they received their initial training in the law and also learned how to dine and behave properly.  The Staple Inn -- so called because it once where the staple good wool was traded -- is one of the only buildings to survive the Great London Fire of 1666.
Staple Inn
Next we visited Lincoln's Inn, which is represented by a lion.  It is known for the large brick wall surrounding it.  Margaret Thatcher and Tony & Cherie Blair are members of Lincoln's Inn.
Lincoln's Inn
Under the chapel
No kidding!
Lincoln's Inn Hall

Queen's Jubilee Fountain at Lincoln's Inn
We also stopped by the venerable shop Ede & Ravenscroft, which is akin to Ollivander's or Madam Malkin's Robes, to carry on the Harry Potter theme.  This is where barristers and judges buy their robes, ceremonial attire, and wigs.  Yes, wigs.
Ede & Ravenscroft
Judges and barristers (who argue cases in court, as opposed to solicitors, who provide legal advice) still wear wigs when appearing in court.  They are made of horsehair, and can cost as much as £1,600 ($2,600).  The more important you are, the larger the wig -- hence the term "bigwig."

Next we moved on the Inner Temple Inn and Middle Temple Inn, which are adjacent -- so I'm not entirely sure which photos are from which Inn.
One of the Temple Inns
The name comes from an actual temple, which is still standing, that was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century.  (And was featured in The Da Vinci Code)
The Temple
The Middle Temple Inn is represented by a lamb and is known for its Hall, which hosted the first production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which he may have also acted in.  Prince William and David Cameron are members of Middle Temple Inn.
Middle Temple Hall
Inner Temple Inn is represented by a pegasus and is known for its garden, where, legend has it, the War of the Roses began -- with actual roses.  Notable members include Mohandas Gandhi, Jawarhalal Nehru, and John Maynard Keynes.
Inner Temple Garden
After the tour, several of us had lunch at a nearby pub.  I didn't get to chat much with the other women during the tour, so it was nice to have a chance to meet some of them and learn their names and their stories -- where they came from, and how they ended up in London.  A couple of the women at our table had Bay Area connections, so we reminisced about our favorite restaurants.

Since the day was still young and we were already in central London, Sonia and I made our way to Kensington after lunch and went to -- you guessed it -- the Victoria & Albert Museum!  Sonia had never been there before, and there were still plenty of exhibits I hadn't seen yet.

The V&A
Modern Design Hall
Since I had to bail on the Theatre & Performance section when I was there with Robin last week, we went back so I could see the rest of it.  The first thing you see as you enter is this crazy "Breakfast Dress" worn by Dame Edna.
Breakfast Dress

Valkyrie costume from The Producers
Costumes from The Lion King
We left the museum just as they were closing -- no security guard escort this time -- and walked up to Kensington Gardens.  To continue with the Victoria and Albert theme, we went past the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial
Royal Albert Hall

Albert Memorial
It was rainy and we were running out of steam, so we made one last stop before taking the Tube back to Wimbledon: Whole Foods.  A lot of Americans live in Kensington, so this is where the first Whole Foods in London opened up.
Whole Foods

If you think Whole Foods is expensive in the US, it's even more so in the UK.  But, they sell a lot of American products that are hard to find in British grocery stores.  In fact, some things I saw there I don't think you'd find at a Whole Foods in the US -- Pace salsa, French's mustard -- but I imagine there's enough demand for them here that they can sell them at a premium.  A jar of Pace costs £4.39 -- that's $7.15!  Anyway, we picked up a flank steak (a cut of meat that's hard to find here) a bottle of Soy Vey, and some salad fixings for dinner and cooked a nice meal.  I lived 4 blocks from Whole Foods in Arlington and rarely shopped there, so I imagine I won't be making too many trips up to Kensington just to shop at that one, but it is nice to have something familiar every now and then.

1 comment:

  1. Whew quite a day! I LOVE the ketchup bottle on the breakfast dress, I can't imagine how much the dress weighs, or the staring one would get while wearing it!


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