Chancery Lane

Chancery Lane, City/Camden/Westminster

A focal thoroughfare for the London legal profession, running between Fleet Street and High Holborn

Chichester Rents

Soon after the mid­dle of the 12th cen­tu­ry the Knights Tem­plar cre­at­ed New Street as a route between their old head­quar­ters in Hol­born and their ‘New Tem­ple’.

In 1232 Hen­ry III found­ed the Domus Con­ver­so­rum on New Street, which occu­pies a bleak place in the his­to­ry of Jew­ish per­se­cu­tion. It was England’s prin­ci­pal house of indoc­tri­na­tion, where Jews who had been coerced into renounc­ing their faith were interned away from their com­mu­ni­ty and instruct­ed in the Chris­t­ian reli­gion.

Hen­ry also closed the schools of law in the City, an act which led to the foun­da­tion of Inns of Chancery (a con­trac­tion of ‘Chan­cellery’), where legal stu­dents served appren­tice­ships.

In 1377 Edward III gift­ed the for­mer Domus Con­ver­so­rum to the Keep­er (lat­er Mas­ter) of the Rolls of the Court of Chancery and by the ear­ly 15th cen­tu­ry New Street was becom­ing known as Chancery Lane.

The Inns of Chancery ceased to serve an edu­ca­tion­al role after the Civ­il War and there­after func­tioned as pro­fes­sion­al clubs.

By the 1770s the lane had tak­en on a decid­ed­ly urban char­ac­ter and it retains many Geor­gian build­ings, which form part of the Chancery Lane con­ser­va­tion area. With the steady rise of the legal pro­fes­sion, solic­i­tors took premis­es here, as did sup­pli­ers such as wig mak­ers, strong­box mak­ers, law sta­tion­ers and book­sellers.

Hidden London: Lincoln’s Inn chambers on the west side of Chancery Lane

The Inns of Chancery closed one by one and some of their build­ings were replaced by pub­lic insti­tu­tions with legal con­nec­tions.

The Pub­lic Record Office was built in stages dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tu­ry. After the office moved to Kew, its build­ing was skil­ful­ly adapt­ed to house King’s College’s Maugh­an Library.

The Patent Office was estab­lished in 1852 and based in Southamp­ton Build­ings, where it shared accom­mo­da­tion with the Sec­re­taries of Bank­rupts and Lunatics. The office expand­ed to fill sev­er­al neigh­bour­ing build­ings and remained on Chancery Lane until the late 1990s.

The Law Soci­ety of Eng­land and Wales is head­quar­tered at 113 Chancery Lane. Chancery Lane is also home to the Offi­cial Solic­i­tor and Pub­lic Trustee.

Chancery Lane is a con­ser­va­tion area and lit­tle rede­vel­op­ment is allowed here but a recent scheme at 40 Chancery Lane has replaced a series of 1950s and 60s build­ings with a taste­ful set of linked office blocks that have been let to Pub­li­cis Groupe, the French mar­ket­ing con­sor­tium that owns the Saatchi & Saatchi adver­tis­ing agency.

Also, the pas­sage­way called Chich­ester Rents was revamped in 2014–15 with new retail units at ground floor lev­el (main­ly for food pur­vey­ors) and addi­tion­al office space above, as shown in the pho­to at the top.*

The Lon­don Sil­ver Vaults are an under­ground store­house for antique and mod­ern sil­ver­ware. They are open to the pub­lic and 30 sil­ver spe­cial­ists sell their wares here.

‘Long Chanc’ry-lane retentive rolls the sound / And courts to courts return it round and round;’ wrote Alexander Pope in The Dunciad.

Izaak Walton, the ‘father of angling’, worked as linen draper in Chancery Lane from 1627 to 1644.

Postal districts: WC2 and EC4
Station: Central line (zone 1)
Further reading: AK Bruce, Chancery Lane and its Memories, Butterworth, 1949
Website: Chancery Lane Association
* The picture of Chichester Rents at the top of this page is modified from an original photograph, copyright Matt Brown, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.