Ask anyone who has ever walked through the legal areas of London, be it Inner or Middle Temple, Lincoln’s or Gray’s Inn what’s most striking about them and generally the answer will be the quietude. Given that they all sit next to major roads the atmosphere is one of calmness.
I can remember the first time I walked through Fountain Court in the Middle Temple on a warm midweek morning. Gone was the traffic noise of the nearby Strand, just the lapping of the water from the fountain that gives the court it’s name accompanied by the chirping of the ubiquitous London Sparrow (unhappily still in decline).
There’s also the architecture to take into consideration whether it be the undercroft in Lincoln’s Inn or the legal bookshop of Wildy and Sons in the same location. The bookseller has been here since 1830, a source of new and second-hand legal books to many generations of lawyers. It’s been located in Lincoln’s Inn Archway since it opened, although another outlet in the Temple was lost during bombing in the Second World War.
I’m indebted to Anastasia Cohen of Wildy’s, who was able to give me a pointer to deciphering the letters and dates on the front of the building. In all cases the “T” stands for “Treasurer”, the letters are the Treasurer’s initials and the date usually denotes some type of building work.
1697 William Dobyns, 1818 Nathaniel Gooding Clarke, 1848 C T Swanston
It’s always been on my to do list to compile a guided walking tour of London’s legal areas for my London Miscellany Tours. However, what to include and what to leave out in the given time of a tour has proved somewhat of a struggle and on several occasions the full weight of the Law and it’s London enclaves have proved too much, and I’ve put it on the back burner. Last week I steeled myself and reopened the case and if it pleases the court, I would like to call….. What I mean to say is that I’ve picked it up again and there is now the makings of a new tour, just have to put in the hard yards to make sure it hangs together.