Abraham Lincoln

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , London, City of,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This entry explores a more historical side of London's and England’s law traditions. A quick note before that though, I did swing by the American Embassy just in case I should ever need to seek asylum.  Across from the American Embassy is the Grosvenor Square which is a nice open grass area.  This square also has a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as a 9/11 memorial garden.

The London Inns of Court include four inns: Lincoln’s Inn (the oldest), Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple.  These are the traditional places where students would attend in order to practice bar in England and Wales.  England does not have lawyers, per se, rather they have "Solicitors" and “Barristers” which together essentially to the same thing as an American lawyer.  The word “Inn” is not the same as the word inn that we know today.  Back in the early days of London, a well-off family would send their son (these are days before women could learn or do anything for that matter) to live with an established lawyer who would teach him the ropes.  As time went on this system of learning evolved into the Inns.  The Inns all consist of residences, a church, refectory (dining hall), and rooms for lectures.  Lincoln’s Inn has been keeping records since 1422 to this very day.  The others came about shortly thereafter.  A lot has changed since the 15th century, but, at the same time, a lot of the customs at the Inns of Court have remained the same.

The first Inn I visited was Lincoln’s Inn which is adjacent to Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest traditional square in London.  It’s open to the public and the houses that surround it almost all museums or law offices.  After crossing the street to Lincoln’s Inn, I made my way to the chapel. The chapel is raised a floor off the ground and beneath it is a little area called the undercroft.  In the old days, poor individuals would sneak into the undercroft and leave their baby with a little note attached hoping that one of the lawyers or priests would take care of it and help it lead a better life.   Well, the lawyers and priests often did take these children in as their own, and, because of where they were found, they were given the surname Lincoln.  This was one of the ways the name Lincoln emerged as a last name.

The other Inns are less distinct in their locations, though they are all in the same area.  Inner and Middle Temple both use the same church, Temple Church.  This church has recently been famous as one of the locations in the book, The Da Vinci Code.  It was also used in the filming of the movie as well.  The Knights Templar used Middle Temple as their headquarters until they were disbanded in the 14th century.  There are effigies of the Knights Templar along the floor in the church.

There is a grand refectory at Middle Temple as well.  Along the walls and windows are the coat of arms of all the lecturers that have ever attended Middle Temple.  In fact, on the stain glass windows, directly beside each other, are the coat of arms for Josephus Jekyll and Roburtus Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson would have seen these when he was invited as a visitor to Middle Temple and, perhaps, were the inspiration for the names of his characters in his novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The refractory was a very integral part of each Inn.  Students would have a chance to sit and talk with some of the best minds at the time and be treated as an equal.  Formerly, a student would eat all of their meals here.  Today, students that attend the London Inns of Court must attend at least 12 dinners at their respective refractory in order to be “called to the bar” to practice law.
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