London Legal History Tour with The Four Inns of Court

Penetrate the intrigues and idiosyncrasies of London’s ancient legal history
From US$509 privately
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Tour Details
Duration
3 hours
Product Type
Tour
Venues
Lincoln's Inn
Photos & Highlights
  • Inns of Court Tour led by a barrister or expert in British legal history
  • Examines history and development of British law
Select a date
Tour Description
Just a few paces from the bustle of the Strand lays one of London’s best-kept secrets: a patchwork of secluded squares, alleyways, and courtyards that has been home to the legal profession since the Middle Ages, when students first came to study and live at the ancient Inns of Court. Today the four great Inns—Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, and Gray’s Inn—still form thriving communities providing a base for most of the country’s barristers within easy walking distance of the nation’s principal courts. This Inns of Court Tour, led by an expert in British legal history, explores the history of the law profession in Britain, as well as the development of the Inns.

Inns of Court Tour

This 3-hour Inns of Court Tour traces the development of the English legal system, explaining and illustrating its many quirks, from the history of the barristers’ horsehair wigs—still worn for most trials—to the role of Queen’s Counsel or the Lord Chancellor. 

Visiting the Inns

Each of the Inns, laid out on much the same pattern as an Oxford college, boasts its own dining hall, chapel, and gardens, together preserving much of the spirit of a bygone London. Architectural treasures range from the 12th-century Temple Church and the Tudor gateway at Lincoln’s Inn to the Georgian splendors of New Square and the Victorian grandeur of the Royal Courts of Justice.

The Inns Through History

This area is steeped in cultural and political history: the first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was staged in the Middle Temple (for those interested, we also offer a London Theater Tour), and the young Charles Dickens worked unhappily here as a young clerk—in fact, the opening passage of Bleak House is set in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. No fewer than 15 Prime Ministers have been members of Lincoln’s Inn; both Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher once practiced as barristers. 

On The Walk

We'll begin our walk at the foot of the Middle Temple Lane beside the Thames and pass through the center of the Inn, taking in the Temple Church—once the headquarters of the medieval Knights Templar and later remodeled by Sir Christopher Wren—as well as the 16th century Middle Temple Hall.

Royal Courts of Justice and Lincoln's Inn

Continuing north, we'll enter the imposing hall of the Royal Courts of Justice, which houses both the High Court and the Court of Appeals of England and Wales. Here, we'll visit one of the courts, discussing both the building's historical importance and day-to-day operations. Moving on, we'll have the opportunity to visit Lincoln’s Inn—itself home to a wide array of architectural styles due to continual additions throughout the centuries—to admire the hall and chapel.

Finally, we'll move to West End's Holborn district, where we will visit the Staple Inn, which boasts the only timber-framed façade to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666, as well as Gray’s Inn, famous for its "Walks" or gardens. 

Take Aways

 In the company of our guide, we will learn about century-old traditions and rules that have defined the distinct character of the legal profession in Great Britain. At the end of our walk, we will have gained a deeper understanding of the role of the Inns and the past and present of barristers in London.

FAQ

Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins in the area near Temple tube stop and ends at Gray’s Inn. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map.

What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.

Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 1 mile overall. There are occasional opportunities to sit if needed.
Where You'll Start
(4.92) 41 Reviews

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Emma knew we were very interested in both the legal and literary history of the Inns, and came prepared with a variety of insights that intrigued us.
Very knowledgeable guide, who managed to impress by his personal stories. A truly remarkable experience!
There were no dull moments. I found the entire three hours thoroughly enjoyable and riveting.