Cliffords Inn, Fetter Lane, London, EC4A

History to 1900

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Clifford's Inn was the oldest of the Inns of Chancery. The Inns of Chancery no longer exist, but there used to be a number of them, including Clement', Lyons's, Thavie's , Furnival's, Barnard's, Staple's, and New Inns. Their original function was to provide the first stages of the training of new lawyers, who would then move to one of the Inns of Court to continue their education and thence called to the Bar. The inns of Chancery were often attached to a particular Inn of Court. Unlike the Inns of Court, they had no monopoly, no Chapel, no large libraries, and no major endowments.

In 1642, at the outbreak of the Civil War, all legal education ceased, and it was only resumed after the Restoration by the Inns of Court, and not by the Inns of Chancery. The latter continued more as professional associations, but this role diminished with the foundation of other associations, notably the Law Society. They became more and more moribund and anachronistic, supported by eccentrics. They vanished one by one, starting with Thavie's Inn in 1762 and ending with the winding-up of Clifford's Inn in 1903. The buildings, including a hall remodelled in 1767 were put to other uses, and were finally demolished in 1934. The gatehouse is the only building remaining of Clifford's Inn today.

The history of the property on the site of Clifford's Inn dates back to 1344 when Isabel de Clifford let it to law students at a rent of £10 a year. The freehold was purchased by the Society of Clifford's Inn in 1618. In the sixteenth century, Clifford's Inn was formally affiliated to the Inner Temple, but was allowed to keep its own rules and customs. In the nineteenth century, Clifford's Inn featured in the novels of Charles Dickens and Charles Lamb.

The Great Fire_of London in 1666 devasted the City upto and including the east side of Fetter Lane. o Clifford's Inn escaped, and its hall was a natural place for the Fire Court Judges to sort out the numerous property disputes in the following years. The table at which they sat still exists in the Museum of London. read more

It was thought until recently that nearly all of the records of Clifford's Inn had been lost, but a chance discovery in 1998 revealed a mass of hitherto unknown material relating to the period 1619 to 1885, Clifford's Inn has left a number of legacies, including the £77,000 raised from the sale of the site and given to the Attorney General for the purposes of legal education, the Clifford's In prize offered by the Law Society, the Clifford's Inn room at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Gatehouse, and these rediscovered archives which are held by the Archivist of the Inner Temple. This short summery is based on an article which originally appeared in the Inner Temple Yearbook 1998/99, and is now available on the Inner Temple website . There is also an article in Wikipedia which may be of interest.

They have kindly made available a number of old maps of the Cliffords Inn site, which was considerably larger then than now

This picture comes from an interesting website Chest of Books at http://chestofbooks.com/ and is reprduced with permission. There are many other pictures of Cliffords Inn (current, immediate past, and the orignal buildings which can be accessed on the web here

 



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