City of London guide Ian Bevan delighted a packed main hall at the Christian Centre with his talk on the capital’s legal district, writes Lionel Cartlidge
It is always a pleasure to absorb new information as learning is a principal purpose of the U3A. Most of us have always been aware of the existence of the Inns of Court and had an idea of their function but otherwise they have been a part of secret London.
So it was that Ian Bevan was able to cast some light in our darkness as he described and illustrated the four main Inns of Court, each of which bears a very distinctive emblem.
Many of the buildings were originally constructed in the 15th century. The Temple, for example, owes its existence to the Knights Templar who occupied the site for two centuries.
A lot of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged by the Fire of London in 1666 or more recently in the London Blitz. The Inns have, however, been sensitively restored, so much so that it is often difficult to distinguish the new from the old.
All of the Inns have five features in common, namely a library, a treasury, a chapel, a hall and gardens. The hall of the Middle Temple is of original construction and possesses an outstanding double hammer beam roof.
The Temple housed some well-known characters including Dr Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding and, more recently, the Blairs. Lincoln’s Inn is known for John Donne and Gray’s Inn for Sir Francis Bacon.
There are many attractive courtyards and the gardens and some of the buildings are accessible to the public, providing a delightful spot for City workers to spend a brief time away from the pressures of the everyday. It would also be an interesting place for a U3A visit.