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INNS OF COURT

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Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 587 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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INNS OF COURT. The Inns of Court and Chancery are voluntary non-corporate legal societies seated in London, having their origin about the end of the 13th and the commencement of the 14th century. Dugdale (Origines Juridiciales) states that the learned in English law were anciently persons in holy orders, the justices of the king's court being bishops, abbots and the like. But in 1207 the clergy were prohibited by canon from acting in the temporal courts. The result proving prejudicial to the interests of the community, a commission of inquiry was issued by Edward I. (1290), and this was followed up (1292) by a second commission, which among other things directed that students " apt and eager" should be brought from the provinces and placed in proximity to the courts of law now fixed by Magna Carta at Westminster (see INN). These' students were accordingly located in what became known as the Inns of Court and Chancery, the latter designated by Fortescue (De Laudibus) as " the earliest settled places for students of the law," the germ of what Sir Edward Coke subsequently spoke of as our English juridical university. In these Inns of Court and Chancery, thus constituted, and corresponding to the ordinary college, the students, according to Fortescue, not only studied the laws and divinity, but further learned to dance, sing and play instrumental music, " so that these hostels, being nurseries or seminaries of the court, were therefore called Inns of Court." Stow in his Survey (1598) says: " There is in and about this city a whole university, as it were, of students, practisers or pleaders and judges of the laws of this realm"; and he goes their wigs and gowns), in the " parliament," " pension " or " council " chamber of the benchers. The benchers sit at a table round which are ranged the students to be called. Each candidate being provided with a glass of wine, the treasurer or senior bencher addresses them and the senior student briefly replies. " Call Parties " are also generally held by the new barristers; at the Middle Temple they are allowed in hall During the reign of Edward III. the Inns of Court and Chancery, based on the collegiate principle, prospered under the supervision and protection of the crown. In 1381 \Vat Tyler invaded the Temple, and in the succeeding century (1450) Jack Cade meditated pulling down the Inns of Court and killing the lawyers. It would appear, moreover, that the inmates of the inns were themselves at times disorderly and in conflict with the citizens. Fortescue (c. 1464) describing these societies thus speaks of them: " There belong to the law ten lesser inns, which are called the Inns of Chancery, in each of which there are one hundred students at least, and in some a far greater number, though not constantly residing. After the students have made some progress here they are admitted to the Inns of Court. Of these there are four, in the least frequented of which there are about two hundred students. The discipline is excellent, and the mode of study well adapted for proficiency." This system had probably existed for two centuries before Fortescue wrote, and continued to be enforced down to the time of Sir Thomas More (1498), of Chief Justice Dyer (1537) and of Sir Edward Coke (1571). By the' time of Sir Matthew Hale (1629) the custom for law students to be first entered to an Inn of Chancery before being admitted to an Inn of Court had become obsolete, and thenceforth the Inns of Chancery have been abandoned to the attorneys. Stow in his Survey succinctly points out the course of reading enforced at the end of the 16th century. He says that the Inns of Court were replenished partly by students coming from the Inns of Chancery, who went thither from the universities and sometimes immediately from grammar schools; and, having spent some time in studying the first elements of the law, and having performed the exercises called " bolts," " moots " and " putting of cases," they proceeded to be admitted to, and become students in, one of the Inns of Court. Here continuing for the space of seven years or thereabouts, they frequented readings and other learned exercises, whereby, growing ripe in the knowledge of the laws, they were, by the general consent either of the benchers or of the readers, called to the degree of barrister, and so enabled to practise in chambers and at the bar. This ample provision for legal study continued with more or less vigour down to nearly the commencement of the 18th century. A languor similar to that which affected the church and the universities then gradually supervened, until the fulfilment of the merest forms sufficed to confer the dignity of advocate and pleader. This was maintained until about 1845, when steps were taken for reviving and extending the ancient discipline and course of study, bringing them into harmony with modern ideas and requirements. The fees payable vary slightly at the different inns, but average about £1 So. This sum covers all expenses from admission to an inn to the call at the bar, but the addition of tutorial and other expenses may augment the cost of a barrister's legal education to 400 or £Soo. The period of study prior to call must not be less than twelve terms, equivalent to about three years. Solicitors, however, may be called without keeping any terms if they have been in practice for not fewer than five consecutive years. It has been seen that the studies pursued in ancient times were conducted by means of " readings," " moots " and " bolts." The readings were deemed of vital importance, and were delivered in the halls with much ceremony; they were frequently regarded as authorities and cited as such at Westminster in argument. Some statute or section of a statute was selected for analysis and explanation, and its relation to the common law pointed out. Many of these readings, dating back to Edward I., are extant, and well illustrate the importance of the subjects and the exhaustive and learned manner in which they were treated. The function of " reader " involved the holder in very weightyexpenses, chiefly by reason of the profuse hospitality dispensed—a constant and splendid table being kept during the three weeks and three days over which the readings extended, to which were invited the nobility, judges, bishops, the officers of state and sometimes the king himself. In 1688 the readers were paid £200 for their reading, but by that time the office had become a sinecure. In the present day the readership is purely honorary and without duties. The privilege formerly assumed by the reader of calling to the bar was taken away in 1664 by an order of the lord chancellor and the judges. Moots were exercises of the nature of formal arguments on points of law raised by the students and conducted under the supervision of a bencher and two barristers sitting as judges in the halls of the inns. Bolts were of an analogous character, though deemed inferior to moots. In the early history of the inns discrimination was exercised in regard to the social status of candidates for admission to them. Sir John Ferne, a writer of the 16th century, referred to by Dugdale, states that none were admitted into the houses of court except they were gentlemen of blood. So also Pliny, writing in the 1st century of the Christian era (Letters, ii.14), says that before his day young men even of the highest families of Rome were not admitted to practice except upon the introduction of some man of consular rank. But he goes on to add that all barriers were then broken down, everything being open to everybody—a remark applicable to the bar of England and elsewhere in the present day. It may here be noted that no dignity or title confers any rank at the bar. A privy councillor, a peer's son, a baronet, the speaker of the House of Commons or a knight—all rank at the bar merely according to their legal precedence. Formerly orders were frequently issued both by the benchers and by the crown on the subject of the dress, manners, morals and religious observances of students and members. Although some semblance of a collegiate discipline is still maintained, this is restricted to the dining in hall, where many ancient usages survive, and to the closing of the gates of the inns at night. Each inn maintains a chapel, with the accompaniment of preachers and other clergy, the services being those of the Church of England. The Inner and the Middle Temple have joint use of the Temple church. The office of preacher is usually filled by an ecclesiastic chosen by the benchers. The principal ecclesiastic of the Temple church is, however, constituted by letters patent by the crown without episcopal institution or induction, enjoying, nevertheless, no authority independently of the benchers. He bears the title of Master of the Temple. It has already been stated, on the authority of Fortescue, that the students of the Inns of Court learned to dance, sing and play instrumental music; and those accomplishments found expression in the " masques " and " revels " for which the societies formerly distinguished themselves, especially the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. These entertainments were of great antiquity and much magnificence, involving very considerable expense. Evelyn (Diary) speaks of the revels at the Middle Temple as an old and riotous custom, having relation neither to virtue nor to policy. The last revel appears to have been held at the Inner Temple in 1734, to mark the occasion of the elevation of Lord Chancellor Talbot to the woolsack. The plays and masques performed were sometimes repeated elsewhere than in the hall of the inn, especially before the sovereign at court. A master of the revels was appointed, commonly designated Lord of Misrule. There is abundant information as to the scope and nature of these entertainments: one of the festivals is minutely described by Gerard Leigh in his Accedence of Armorie, 1612; and a tradition ascribes the first performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to a revel held in the Middle Temple hall in February 16o1. The hospitality of the inns now finds expression mainly in the " Grand Day," held once in each of the four terms, when it is customary for the judges and other distinguished visitors to dine with the benchers (who sit apart from the barristers and students on a dais in some state), and " Readers' Feast," on both which occasions extra commons and wine are served to the members attending. But the old customs also found some renewal in the shape of balls, concerts, garden-parties and other entertainments. In 1887 there was a revival (the 28,000 volumes, dates from 1641, when Robert Ashley, a member of the society, bequeathed his collection of books in all classes of literature to the inn, together with a large sum of money; other benefactors were Ashmole (the antiquary), William Petyt (a benefactor of the Inner Temple) and Lord Stowell. From 1711 to 1826 the library was greatly neglected ; and many of the most scarce and valuable books were lost. The present handsome library building, which stands apart from the hall, was completed in 1861, the prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII.) attending the inauguration ceremony on October 31st of that year, and becoming a member and bencher of the society on the occasion. He afterwards held the office of treasurer (1882). The MSS. in the collection are few and of no special value. In civil, canon and international law, as also in divinity and ecclesiastical history, the library is very rich; it contains also some curious works on witchcraft and demonology. There was but one Inn of Chancery connected with the Middle Temple, that of New Inn, which, according to Dugdale, was formed by a society of students previously settled at St George's Inn, situated near St Sepulchre s Church without Newgate; but the date of this transfer is not known. The buildings have now been pulled down. Lincoln'slnn stands on the site partly of an episcopal palace erected in the time of Henry III. by Ralph Nevill, bishop of Chichester and chancellor of England, and partly of a religious house, called Black Friars House, in Holborn. In the reign of Edward II., Henry Lacy, earl of Lincoln, possessed the place, which from him acquired the name of Lincoln's Inn, probably becoming an Inn of Court soon after his death (in 131o), though of its existence as a place of legal study there is little authentic record until the time of Henry VI. (1424), to which date the existing muniments reach back. The fee simple of the inn would appear to have remained vested in the see of Chichester; and it was not until 158o that the society which for centuries had occupied the inn as tenants acquired the absolute ownership of it. The old hall, built about 1506, still remains, but has given place to a modern structure designed by Philip Hardwick, R.A., which, along with the buildings containing the library, was completed in 1845, Queen Victoria attending the inauguration ceremony (October 13). The chapel, built after the designs of Inigo Jones, was consecrated in 1623. The library—as a collection of law books the most complete in the country—owes its foundation to a bequest of John Nethersale, a member of the society, in 1497, and is the oldest of the existing libraries in London. Various entries in the records of the inn relate to the library, and notably in 1608, when an effort was made to extend the collection, and the first appointment of a master of the library (an office now held in annual rotation by each bencher) was made. The library has been much enriched by donations and by the acquisition by purchase of collections of books on special subjects. It includes also an extensive and valuable series of MSS., the whole comprehending 50,000 volumes. The prince of Wales (George V.), a bencher of the society, filled the office of treasurer in 1904. The Inns of Chancery affiliated to Lincoln's Inn were Thavie's Inn and Furnival's Inn. Thavie's Inn was a residence of students of the law in the time of Edward III., and is mentioned by Fortescue as having been one of the lesser houses of Lincoln's Inn for some centuries. It thus continued down to 1769, when the inn was sold by the benchers, and thenceforth it ceased to have any character as a place of legal education. Furnival's Inn became the resort of students about the year 1406, and was purchased by the society of Lincoln's Inn in 1547. It was governed by a principal and twelve antients. In 1817 the Inn was rebuilt, but from that date it ceased to exist as a legal community and is now demolished. The exact date of Gray's Inn becoming the residence of lawyers is not known, though it was so occupied before the year 1370. The inn stands upon the site of the manor of Portpoole, belonging in ancient times to the dean and chapter of St Paul's, but subsequently the property of the family of Grey de Wilton and eventually of the crown, from which a grant of the manor or inn was obtained, many years since discharged from any rent or payment. The hall of the inn is of handsome design, similar to the Middle Temple hall in its general character and arrangements, and was completed about the year 156o. The chapel, of much earlier date than the hall, has, notwithstanding its antiquity, little to recommend it to notice, being small and insignificant, and lacking architectural features of any kind. The library, including about 13,000 volumes, contains a small but important collection of MSS. and missals, and also some valuable works on divinity. Little is known of the origin or early history of the library, though mention is incidentally made of it in the society's records in the 16th and 17th centuries. The gardens, laid out about 1597, it is believed under the auspices of the lord chancellor Bacon, at that time treasurer of the society, continue to this day as then planned, though with some curtailment owing to the erection of additional buildings. Among many curious customs maintained in this inn is that of drinking a toast on grand days " to the glorious, pious and immortal memory of Queen Elizabeth." Of the special circumstances originating this display of loyalty there is no record. The Inns of Chancery connected with Gray's Inn are Staple and Barnard's Inns. Staple Inn was an Inn of Chancery in the reign of Henry V., and is probably of yet earlier date. Readings and moots were observed here with regularity. Sir Simonds d'Ewes mentions attending a moot in February 1624. The with its first since the 17th century) of the Masque of Flowers at both the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. The Royal Horticultural Society's annual exhibition of flowers and fruit is held in May in the Temple Gardens. Plays are also occasionally performed in the Temple, Robert Browning's Sordello being acted in 1902 by a company of amateurs, most of whom were either members of the bar or connected with the legal profession. The Inner and the Middle Temple, so far as their history can be traced, have always been separate societies. Fortescue, writing between 1461 and 1470, makes no allusion to a previous junction of the two inns. Dugdale (1671) speaks of the Temple as having been one society, and states that the students so increased in number that at length they divided, becoming the Inner and Middle Temple respectively. He does not, however, give any authority for this statement, or furnish the date of the division. The first trustworthy mention of the Temple as an inn of court is found in the Fasten Letters, where, under date November 1440, the Inner Temple is spoken of as a college, as is also subsequently the Middle Temple. The Temple had been the seat in England of the Knights Templars, on whose suppression in 1312 it passed with other of their possessions to the crown, and after an interval of some years to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, who in the reign of Edward III. demised the mansion and its surroundings to certain professors of the common law who came from Thavie's Inn. Notwithstanding the destruction of the muniments of the Temple by fire or by popular commotion, sufficient testimony is attainable to show that in the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. the Temple had become the residence of the legal communities which have since maintained there a permanent footing. The two societies continued as tenants to the Knights Hospitallers of St John until the dissolution of the order in 1539; they then became the lessees of the crown, and so remained until 1609, when James I. made a grant by letters patent of the premises in perpetuity to the benchers of the respective societies on a yearly payment by each of loo, a payment bought up in the reign of Charles II. In this grant the two inns are described as " the Inner and the Middle Temple or New Temple," and as " being two out of those four colleges the most famous of all Europe " for the study of the law. Excepting the church, nothing remains of the edifices belonging to the Knights Templars, the present buildings having been almost wholly erected since the reign of Queen Elizabeth or since the Great Fire, in which the major part of the Inner Temple perished. The church has been in the joint occupation of the Inner and Middle Temple from time immemorial—the former taking the southern and the latter the northern half. The round portion of the church was consecrated in 1185, the nave or choir in 1240. It is the largest and most complete of the four remaining round churches in England, and is built on the plan of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Narrowly escaping the ravages of the fire of 1666, this beautiful building Is one of the most perfect specimens of early Gothic architecture in England. In former times the lawyers awaited their clients for consultation in the Round Church, as similarly the serjeants-at-Law were accustomed to resort to St Paul's Cathedral, where each serjeant had a pillar assigned him. The Inner Temple, comprehending a hall, parliament chamber, library and other buildings, occupies the site of the ancient mansion of the Knights Templars, built about the year 1240, and has from time to time been more or less rebuilt and extended, the present handsome range of buildings, including a new dining hall, being completed in 187o. The library owes its existence to William Petyt, keeper of the Tower Records in the time of Queen Anne, who was also a benefactor to the library of the Middle Temple. The greatest addition by gift was made by the Baron F. Maseres in 1825. The number of volumes now in the library is 37,000. Of the Inns of Chancery belonging to the Inner Temple Clifford's Inn was anciently the town residence of the Barons Clifford, and was demised in 1345 to a body of students of the law. It was the most important of the Inns of Chancery, and numbered among its members Coke and Selden. At its dinners a table was specially set aside for the " Kentish Mess," though it is not clear what connexion there was between the Inn and the county of Kent. It was governed by a Principal and twelve rulers. Clement's Inn was an Inn of Chancery before the reign of Edward IV., taking its name from the parish church of St Clement Danes, to which it had formerly belonged. Clement's Inn was the inn of Shakespeare's Master Shallow, and was the Shepherd's Inn of Thackeray's Pendennis. The buildings of Clifford's Inn survive (Ig10), but of Clement's Inn there are left but a few fragments. The Middle Temple possesses in its hall one of the most stately of existing Elizabethan buildings. Commenced in 1562, under the auspices of Edmund Plowden, then treasurer, it was not completed until 1572, the richly carved screen at the east end in the style of the Renaissance being put up in 1575. The belief that the screen was constructed of timber taken from ships of the Spanish Armada (1588) is baseless. The hall, which has been preserved unaltered, has been the scene of numerous historic incidents, notably the entertainments given within its walls to regal and other personages from Queen Elizabeth downwards. The library, which contains about picturesque Elizabethan front, faces Holborn. It was sold by the antients in 1884 for 68,000. It is in a very good state of preservation, and it is the intention of the purchasers, the Prudential Assurance Company, to preserve it as a memorial of vanishing London. Barnard's Inn, anciently designated Mackworth Inn, was an Inn of Chancery in the reign of Henry VI. It was bequeathed by him to the dean and chapter of Lincoln. It is now the property of the Mercer's Company and is used as a school. The King's Inns, Dublin, the legal school in Ireland, corresponds closely to the English Inns of Court, and is in many respects in unison with them in its regulations with regard to the admission of students into the society, and to the degree of barrister-at-law, as also in the scope of the examinations enforced. Formerly it was necessary to keep a number of terms at one of the Inns in London—the stipulation dating as far back as 1542 (33 Henry VIII. c. 3). Down to 1866 the ccurse of education pursued at the King's Inns differed from the English Inns of Court in that candidates for admission to the legal profession as attorneys and solicitors carried on their studies with those studying for the higher grade of the bar in the same building under a professor specially appointed for this purpose,—herein following the usage anciently prevailing in the Inns of Chancery in London. This arrangement was put an end to by the Attorneys and Solicitors Act (Ireland) 1866. The origin of the King's Inns may be traced to the reign of Edward I., when a legal society designated Collett's Inn was established without the walls of the city; it was destroyed by an insurrectionary band. In the reign of Edward III. Sir Robert Preston, chief baron of the exchequer, gave up his residence within the city to the legal body, which then took the name of Preston's Inn. In 1542 the land and buildings known as Preston's Inn were restored to the family of the original donor, and in the same year Henry VIII. granted the monastery of Friars Preachers for the use of the professors of the law in Ireland. The legal body removed to the new site, and thenceforward were known by the name of the King's Inns. Possession of this property having been resumed by the government in 1742, and the present Four Courts erected thereon, a plot of ground at the top of Henrietta Street was purchased by the society, and the existing hall built in'the year 1800. The library, numbering over 50,000 volumes, with a few MSS., is housed in buildings specially provided in the year 1831, and is open, not only to the members of the society, but also to strangers. The collection comprises all kinds of literature. It is based principally upon a purchase made in 1787 of the large and valuable library of Mr Justice Robinson, and is maintained chiefly by an annual payment made from the Consolidated Fund to the society in lieu of the right to receive copyright works which was conferred by an Act of 18ot, but abrogated in 1836. In discipline and professional etiquette the members of the bar in Ireland differ little from their English brethren. The same style of costume is enforced, the same gradations of rank—attorney-general, solicitor-general, king's counsel and ordinary barristers—being found. There are also serjeants-at-law limited, however, to three in number, and designated 1st, 2nd and 3rd serjeant. The King's Inns do not provide chambers for business purposes; there is consequently no aggregation of counsel in certain localities, as is the case in London in the Inns of Court and their immediate vicinity. The corporation known as the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh corresponds with the Inns of Court in London and the King's Inns in Dublin (see ADVOCATES, FACULTY OF).
End of Article: INNS OF COURT
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