Gray’s Inn

Gray’s Inn and Gray’s Inn Road, Camden

One of London’s Inns of Court since the 15th century, and a historic street running north-north-west from Chancery Lane station to King’s Cross

Grays Inn Fields

The 12th-cen­tu­ry manor house that stood on this site belonged to Sir Regi­nald de Grey, Chief Jus­tice of Chester and Con­sta­ble and Sher­iff of Not­ting­ham, cre­at­ed Baron Grey de Wilton in 1295. He died in 1308 and some time in the fol­low­ing 50 to 60 years a learned soci­ety of lawyers based itself at the manor house. The present cen­tral hall dates from 1558.

Around 1606 the inn’s trea­sur­er, Fran­cis Bacon, laid out the gar­dens (shown in the pho­to­graph above) with a net­work of foot­paths called ‘walks’, which were some­thing of a nov­el­ty at the time.

Dur­ing the 1680s Robert Ross­ing­ton pulled down most of the prop­er­ties in what was then Gray’s Inn Lane and replaced them with plain, four-storey ter­raced hous­es. The one sur­viv­ing exam­ple of Rossington’s devel­op­ment is at 55 Gray’s Inn Road.

The Calthor­pe estate, built around 1820, was the first hous­ing project of Thomas Cubitt, who went on to become London’s great­est spec­u­la­tive builder; among his achieve­ments are much of the orig­i­nal hous­ing in Bel­gravia, St Pan­cras and Clapham.

The present incar­na­tion of the Blue Lion dates from 1936 but there had been a pub of this name on Gray’s Inn Road for near­ly four cen­turies.

Gray’s Inn’s library, con­tain­ing some 30,000 vol­umes and man­u­scripts, was destroyed in an air raid in May 1941. The hall, too, was very bad­ly dam­aged but was after­wards restored, while the chapel had to be whol­ly rebuilt.

More recent struc­tures of note include the ITN Build­ing, designed in 1991 by Fos­ter and Part­ners, and the UCL Ear Insti­tute, which opened in 2005 next to the Roy­al Nation­al Throat, Nose and Ear Hos­pi­tal.

The prince of Purpoole was the sovereign of an imaginary kingdom within Gray’s Inn who intermittently reigned over Christmas festivities held here in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Gray’s Inn occupies the approximate site of the ancient manor house of Purpoole.

Charles Dickens lived nearby at 48 Doughty Street, now the home of the Charles Dickens Museum.

Postal district: WC1
Websites: The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and Gray’s Inn Banqueting


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