Cliffords Inn, Fetter Lane, London, EC4A

History 1900 to 1930

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An account of the state of Cliffords Inn was publised in 1912. At that time, the inhabitants of Cliffords Inn were engaged in a wide variety of trades and professions: literary work, sculpture, painting, architecture, theatre management, law, shorthand, typing, photography and tailoring. It also contained the headquarters of the Art-Workers Guild the Positivist Society, and the London Typographical Society, and the Society of Women Journalists.

No 3 Cliffords Inn was occupied by a Mr. Fenn; one of the rooms was panelled with exceptionally fine carving in the style of Grinling Gibbons. The room had been rebuilt by John Penhallow who lived there from 1686 to 1716. When Mr. Fenn died, the Victoria and Albert Museum bought the panelling (see picture....................) The last principal of the Inn, Mr. E.R.Arden was elected in1890.

In 1902, the Court of Appeal held that the freehold of the Inn was held subject to a trust for charitable purposes and not, as four of the sixteen remaining members ha d hoped, to the individual members in their personal capacity for their own personal benefit. The Society now decided to sell the Inn altogether, since it was no longer fulfilling its original function, and to let the proceeds of sale go towards helping legal education in whatever way the Attorney-General thought best. The extensive site of 38,000 sq.ft. was therefore sold as one lot by auction to Mr. Willett for £100,000. Part of the site facing Chancery Lane was sold to an insurance company, who erected a large nuing now occupied by a firm of solicitors. The plan below was attached to a further sale in 1911. It shows clearly the gatehouse, at the foot of the pink area on the map, with the hall, modernised in 1767, behind it. The hall was surrounded by a number of , some of which had been sold off prior to this date, Leonard and Virginia Woolf took a room in no. 13, at the bottom right of the plan, when they were first married in 1913.

The Society of Knights Bachelor acquired the ownership of the Hall, the Lodge, the Old Court Yard, and the adjoining buildings at a later date.

A "History of Cliffords Inn" by William Page was attached to the Particulars of Sale when Cliffords Inn was to be sold by auction in 1920; it contains more detail, and is reproduced here

The old buildings remained until 1934, when they were deomolished to make way for the current Cliffords Inn.

The four photographs below are taken from "Images of England - The City of London" by Brian Girling, who published a large number of books of historic photographs of different areas of London. Many of these are still available through

The hall of Cliffords Inn was close to the Gatehouse (which still survives). The curve of the arch appears at the top of the picture

The picture below shows the rear side of the hall, and some of the individual houses within Cliffords Inn. Originally, these were houses for individuals and families, but by the 1900s the whole place had gone downhill, as can be seen from the building to the left of the hall, portably now a common lodging house which let out individual rooms.

The picture above shows Ludgate Circus and Fleet Street; note the number and size of the advertisements, none of which would be allowed under the current City planning regulations., The picture below is of Temple Bar which stood just to the right of Cliffords Inn Passage on Fleet Street. The road has been widened since Temple Bar was moved, originally to Epping Forest and later to Paternoster Square.

Sources: Chapter X of "A History of Cliffords Inn" by CM Hay-Edwards, 1912
"Images of England - The City of London" by Brian Girling

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