From Dominican monks to exiled legal scholars, Lincoln’s Inn has witnessed plenty over the course of its 800-year history.
For the last 700 years, the inn has been home to the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Court, a legal association that counts Herbert Asquith and Tony Blair as alumni. Before this, however, it was owned by Henry de Lacy, the 3rd Earl of Lincoln, from whom it derived its name.
The earl himself took over the land after it was vacated by an order of Dominican monks in the late 13th-century. They were moving to a site within London’s city walls—Blackfriars, as it would soon come to be known. Traveling in the opposite direction were another group of lawyers after King Henry III decreed in 1234 that no institutes of legal education should be allowed within the city of London.
These lawyers went on to form four separate legal associations or “Inns of the Court.” All four resettled in Holborn, and one of them was later bequeathed to the Earl of Lincoln’s land—the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.
Over the following centuries, Lincoln’s Inn developed into something of a museum of English architecture. Its Old Hall dates back to as early as the 13th-century, the gatehouse was built between 1518-1521, and the chapel was constructed between 1620-1623. Remnants of the oldest part of the building can still be seen adjacent to the underground vaulted crypt, these include a wooden door and timbers of the gatehouse.
All of these buildings have witnessed numerous alterations and repairs since their construction. As a result, Lincoln’s Inn boasts architectural features from the last few centuries. Highlights include a vaulted 17th-century underlay of the chapel crypt, the Victorian Great Hall with its turret and diamond patterns, and the oldest part of the inn, the Old Hall.
Know Before You Go
Lincoln’s Inn is a five-minute walk from Chancery Lane Underground Station. It is closed to the public on weekends, but its precincts are open to visitors on weekdays: 7 am-7 pm.
Its chapel is open weekdays: 9 am-5 pm.
On the first and third Friday of every month, there is a guided tour at 2 pm.