XV. and XVI.—NOS. 55 AND 56 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.
The London County Council.
General description and date of structure.
On 1st April, 1641, a deed (fn. 1) was entered into between William
Newton and John Gorst, citizen and merchant tailor of London, whereby
for £100 Gorst bought a piece of ground 47 feet wide "designed and sett
out for two dwelling houses to be built thereupon." Included in the transaction was an additional piece of ground 15 feet wide, "and in depth backward as shalbe convenient," intended for the formation of a "way to
leade to Princes Streete," which ground was "designed, sett out and
intended for a gate and gateway for passage to be there made, with
buildinges over the same gate." Liberty was granted to build the two
messuages "besides other roomes … over the said gate and way aforementioned observing uniformity in the front." According to the provisions of this deed and that mentioned in connection with No. 54, it will be
noticed that a space of 20 feet over the archway was to belong to the latter
house and 15 feet to No. 55, and, as a matter of fact, the recent boundary
between the two was rather to the northward of the centre of the arch.
The date of erection of the original No. 55, therefore, lay between
1641 and 1648, the date mentioned on the arch.
The exterior of the house (see Plate 67) follows the lines of No.
54. Most of the ground storey and bases to the pilasters, and probably
a considerable amount of the walling, are original. It is doubtful whether
the upper portion dates back to the 17th century. More probably it is
subsequent to the partial destruction of the building by the fire which
destroyed the Sardinian Chapel in 1759. (fn. 2) The omission of the decorative
bands would appear to confirm this.
Speaking generally, the interior of the premises is uninteresting,
the only objects of note being a carved chimneypiece in the second floor
back room, and an ornamental cast lead cistern (Plate 71), dated 1673.
The face of the cistern is divided into 27 panels, several of which contain
ornamental devices, and on a shield in the centre panel, surrounded by
scroll work, are the letters "A H C." (fn. 3)
In the case of No. 56, no part of the original building is in existence.
The only external feature of interest is an 18th-century door case, constructed in wood (illustrated in Plate 72). The designer has effectively
used Roman Ionic columns with entablatures, to support a bold pediment,
below which has been placed a semi-circular fanlight to give light to the
passage. The interior is uninteresting.
Condition of repair.
The state of repair of both the houses is good.
According to the rate books, the occupants of the two houses up to 1810 were
|In 1700. (fn. 4) ||The Hon. Mary, Lady Dowager of Abergavenny.|
|In 1703 and 1708.||Richard Snow.|
|In 1715 and to 1739.||W. Guidot.|
|1745–1767. (fn. 5) ||Sir Thos. Denison.|
|1768–1779.||Sir William Blackstone.|
|1795–1807.||J. R. Baker.|
|In 1700 and 1703||Sir Thos. Millington.|
|In 1708 and 1723||John Richardson.|
|Before 1730 to 1731.||Geo. Baker.|
|1732–1739.||Dr. Thos. Rundle.|
|1770–1784.||Sir Walter Rawlinson.|
The list of occupants at the beginning may be completed thus from other
| (fn. 6) From date of erection to some time before 1st July, 1667.||Launcelott Lake. (fn. 7) |
| (fn. 6) From some time before 1st July, 1667, to at least 1675.||Henry, Lord Arundell of Wardour.|
| (fn. 8) In 1683 Lady Rider.|
| (fn. 9) From date of erection to some time
after 1st July, 1667.||Sir Ralph Bovey, Bt.|
| (fn. 9) From some time after 1st July, 1667,
to at least 1675.||Robert Blayney.|
| (fn. 10) In 1683 Sir Thos. Millington.|
Of these, the undermentioned deserve special notice.
Henry Arundell, third Baron Arundell of Wardour, one of the chiefs of the
Roman Catholic aristocracy, fought throughout the Civil War on the side of the
king. In 1652 he acted as second in a duel between his brother-in-law, Henry
Compton, and Lord Chandos. Compton was slain and Arundell, with others who
had taken part in the transaction, was arrested. He subsequently took refuge in
France. At the Restoration, on payment of £35,000, he was confirmed in all his
family estates, "many of which had been sold by the Commonwealth to one
Humphrey Weld," (fn. 11) who, as may be seen from the above, was Arundell's predecessor
in the house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. We may, therefore, date his occupation of
No. 55 from about 1660. In 1669 he was sent to France as the king's agent, and
there negotiated with Louis XIV. the infamous treaty of Dover, which was signed
in the following year. <But note that the 1666 Hearth Tax Roll shows the house empty.>
HENRY, LORD ARUNDELL OF WARDOUR.
It was not to be expected that a man so distinguished by his rank among the
Roman Catholics of the day would escape the notice of Titus Oates and his associates.
In the "Popish plot" which they professed to have discovered Arundell was stated
to have borne a leading part. With four other Roman Catholic lords he was committed to the Tower, where he remained for over five years, not being released until
From the evidence above quoted, we know that his residence at No. 55
terminated some time between 1675 and 1683, and it would seem that he continued
to occupy the house until his imprisonment in 1678. (fn. 12) During the reign of James
II. Arundell was, in spite of his religion, admitted to the Privy Council and appointed
keeper of the Privy Seal. On the Revolution he retired from public life, and died
in December, 1694, at the age of 88. He was the author of five religious poems said
to have been composed during his imprisonment in the Tower.
Sir Thomas Denison, the younger son of a wealthy merchant of Leeds, was born
in 1699. He entered the Inner Temple in 1718. Without filling any of the minor
offices of his profession, he was made judge of the king's bench in 1741. His
residence at No. 55, Lincoln's Inn Fields seems to bave begun in 1745, the year which
he received the honour of knighthood. After 23 years of judicial duties, he resigned
in February, 1765, and died in the following September. (fn. 13)
Sir William Blackstone was the son of a London tradesman, and was born in
July, 1723. Taking up the profession of the law, he was called to the Bar in 1746,
and three years later became recorder of Wallingford. His progress was, however,
so slow that he practically retired to Oxford, having obtained a fellowship of All
Souls. (fn. 14) Here he was induced to deliver a series of lectures on English law, which
were so well received that they led to the founding of a chair of English law, and in
1758 Blackstone became the first professor. In 1763 he became solicitor-general
to the queen. His occupation of No. 55 would seem by the rate books to have begun
in 1768. In 1770 he was appointed judge and received the honour of knighthood.
His great work, Commentaries on the Laws of England, was completed in the second
year of his residence in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Much of his time there must have
been occupied by his Reports of Cases determined in the several Courts of Westminster
Hall, 1746–1779. He was taken ill shortly after the Christmas of 1779 and "expired
on Monday, 14th February , in the afternoon, at his house in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, in the 57th year of his age." (fn. 15)
Sir Thomas Millington was one of the most eminent practitioners of the latter
half of the 17th century. He was from 1696 to 1704 president of the Royal College
of Physicians. (fn. 16)
"At your approach the baffl'd tyrant Death,
Breaks his keen Shafts, and grinds his clashing Teeth." (fn. 17)
He took part in the scientific meetings which led to the formation of the Royal Society,
of which he was one of the original members. He was knighted in 1680, and was
then living in York Buildings. (fn. 18) His removal to No. 56, Lincoln's Inn Fields dates
therefore from some time between then and 1683, the Jury Presentment List of that
year showing him as in occupation. He apparently resided there until his death,
which occurred on 5th January, 1704, when he was 75 years old.
Thomas Rundle, bishop of Derry, was born in Devonshire about 1688. On
leaving college he was for a time a member of a Society formed by William Whiston,
the translator of Josephus, "for promoting primitive Christianity," but his intention
of taking orders led to a breach which lasted many years. He was ordained in 1716,
and received rapid parochial and diocesan preferment from William Talbot, bishop
of Salisbury, and afterwards of Durham, with whose younger son Edward he had been
intimate since his Oxford days. On the bishop's death in 1730 his eldest son,
Charles, the lord chancellor, still continued the family patronage, and, when in
December, 1733, the see of Gloucester became vacant, nominated to the vacancy
Rundle, who had in the previous year come to reside next door to him in Lincoln's
Inn Fields. Gibson, bishop of London, interposed, ostensibly on the grounds of
Rundle's deism (an accusation resting on somewhat slender evidence) but in reality
because of his ecclesiastical politics. As a compromise, the nomination was cancelled,
and Rundle was appointed in 1735 to Derry, a much wealthier see, and containing
only thirty-five beneficed clergy. Swift celebrated the appointment with the lines:
"Rundle a bishop! Well he may—
He's still a Christian more than they!
I know the subject of their quarrels—
The man has learning, sense and morals."
The remainder of Rundle's life was spent chiefly in Dublin, though he does not seem
to have given up No. 56, Lincoln's Inn Fields until 1739. He died in 1743, leaving
most of his fortune of about £20,000 to a younger son of Lord Talbot.
William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield, fourth son of the fifth Viscount Stormont,
though intended, as the younger son of a poor Scottish peer, for the church, adopted
the profession of the law, and by his Scottish connection rapidly obtained a good
practice. He entered Parliament in 1742 as member for Boroughbridge, which
constituency he continued to represent until his elevation to the Bench. In the
same year he was appointed solicitor-general, and in 1754 attorney general. The
rate books show that he took up his residence at No. 56, Lincoln's Inn Fields, in 1739
or 1740. "Here he received his professional friends, whom he entertained with
elegant hospitality and genuine kindness." (fn. 19) Pope was in the habit of spending his
winter evenings in the library of Murray's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and a few
days before his death was at his own desire carried from Twickenham to dine with
Murray. "The only other guests invited were Bolingbroke and Warburton.
O, for a Boswell to have given us their conversation!" (fn. 20)
Murray's residence lasted until 1755 or 1756. In the latter year he was made
lord chief justice (a position which he held for 32 years), and created Baron Mansfield
of Mansfield in the County of Nottingham. In 1776 he was advanced to an earldom
by the title of Earl of Mansfield in the County of Nottingham, a new patent being
issued in 1792 by which he was created Earl of Mansfield of Caen Wood in the County
of Middlesex. As a parliamentary debater he was second only to Chatham, and as
a judge was one of the greatest. By his broad-mindedness and love of fair play he
incurred considerable unpopularity, and on the outbreak of the Gordon riots in 1780
experienced the fury of the mob, his house in Bloomsbury Square being sacked and
burnt, with all his books, manuscripts, pictures and furniture, while he and Lady
Mansfield only managed to escape by a back door shortly before the mob effected
an entrance. In 1786 he returned to Lincoln's Inn Fields, renting the much larger
house next door (No. 57–8). This was two years before he resigned office, after
which event he seems to have spent most of his time in retirement at Caen Wood
until his death in March, 1793.
His successor at No. 56, Lincoln's Inn Fields, was Charles Pratt, afterwards
Earl Camden, particulars of whom are given under No. 34, Lincoln's Inn Fields.
In the Council's collection are:—
* Ornamental cast lead cistern in No. 55 (measured drawing).
* Doorcase to entrance of No. 56 (photograph).