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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Streets, Squares, and Buildings

Gray’s Inn Estate

Estates in Bloomsbury

1 Duke of Bedford
2 City of London Corporation
3 Capper Mortimer
4 Fitzroy (Duke of Grafton)
5 Somers
6 Skinners' (Tonbridge)
7 Battle Bridge
8 Lucas
9 Harrison
10 Foundling Hospital
11 Rugby
12 Bedford Charity (Harpur)
13 Doughty
14 Gray's Inn
15 Bainbridge–Dyott (Rookeries)

Area between the Foundling and Harrison estates: Church land

Grey areas: fragmented ownership and haphazard development; already built up by 1800

About the Gray’s Inn Estate

Gray’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London, which control admission to the Bar for lawyers in England and Wales

Its estate in the south-east corner of Bloomsbury is on the edge of the legal district of London and has its origins in the manor house of Purpoole (www.graysinn.info)

The Inn developed and prospered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not only as a place of training for lawyers, but also as a place of entertainment and celebration (www.graysinn.info)

It was a residential place of training akin to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, with a Hall, Chapel, Library, accommodation, and extensive gardens, all arranged around Squares

As an Inn of Court it was also extra-parochial, or outside the boundaries of local parishes, and exempt from their taxes

It continues to operate as a place of legal training and a base for barristers’ chambers


Gray’s Inn Square

Also known as Cony Court/Gray’s Inn

It was developed in the seventeenth century on the site of the original manor house of the de Greys

In addition to the Chapel and Hall of Gray’s Inn, it held mainly professional chambers in the nineteenth century

No. 9 held the chambers and book collection of of scholar and editor Alexander Dyce from 1829 to 1859 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 4 contained the conveyancing practice of lawyer and poet Bryan Waller Procter around the 1840s (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 14 was the residence of Catholic priest Pius Melia from the 1850s until his death in 1883 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

The firm of Sandys and Knott was based here; its head from 1861 to 1873 was William Sandys, solicitor, musician, and writer on music (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 7 held the practice of the church architect G. F. Bodley from the time of his marriage in 1872; after his death the practice was inherited by his pupil Cecil Hare, and their successors continued to occupy the same office until it was bombed in World War II (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In the 1870s no. 4 held the chambers of Henry Spencer Ashbee (“Pisanus Fraxi”); his family home was in nearby Bedford Place (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

It was here that Ashbee housed his European erotic book collection, which was enjoyed by visitors including Richard Burton, publishers John Hotten and Jules Gay, and Philobiblon Society founder Richard Monckton Miles (the collection was eventually left to the British Museum) (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

No. 2 held the chambers of author and journalist Edward James Stephen Dicey, cousin of Sir Leslie Stephen, in the late nineteenth century; called to the Bar in 1875, he never practised, and he died there in 1911 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

In 1895 the poet, scholar, and Catholic convert Lionel Pigot Johnson moved here when he was asked to leave 20 Fitzroy Street, west of Tottenham Court Road, because of his drinking; his ODNB entry says its “cloistral and academic mood suited his increasingly solitary lifestyle” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Some of its houses were rebuilt after being destroyed in the Second World War

It remains primarily a home to chambers of barristers

This page last modified 14 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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