Houses of students of the common law

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

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'Houses of students of the common law', in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) pp. 76-79. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

Houses of Students in the Common Lawe.

An vniuersity of students in and about this Citie.; Houses of students of the common lawes and Iudges.; Of euery these Innes, ye may read more in their seuerall places, where they stand.

But besides all this, there is in and about this Citie, a whole Uniuersitie, as it were, of students, practisers or pleaders and Iudges of the lawes of this realme, not liuing of common stipends, as in other Uniuersities it is for ye most part done, but of their owne priuate maintenance, as being altogither fed either by their places, or practise, or otherwise by their proper reuenue, or exhibition of parents & friends: for that the yonger sort are either gentlemen, or the sons of gentlemen, or of other most welthie persons. Of these houses there be at this day 14. in all, whereof 9. do stand within the liberties of this Citie, and 5. in the suburbs thereof, to wit:

Within the liberties Sergeants Inne in Fleetstreete for Iudges & Sergeants only
Sergeants Inne in Chancery lane
The Inner Temple in Fleetstreete, houses of Court.
The Middle Temple
Cliffords Inne in Fleetstreete house of Chancerie.
Thauies Inne in Oldborne
Furniuals Inne in Oldborne
Barnards Inne in Oldborne.
Staple Inne in Oldborne
Without the liberties. Grayes Inne in Oldborne houses of Court.
Lincolns Inne in Chancerie lane by the old Temple.
Clements Inne houses of Chancerie, without Temple barre, in the liber-tie of Westminster.
New Inne
Lions Inne.

A Sergeants Inne in Oldborne.

There was sometime an Inne of Sargeants, in Oldborne, as yee may reade of Scrops Inne ouer against Saint Andrewes Church.

Chesters Inne, or Strand Inne.

There was also one other Inne of Chancerie, called Chesters Inne, for the nearenesse to the Bishop of Chesters house, but more commonly tearmed Strand Inne, for that it stoode in Strand streete, and neare vnto Strand bridge without Temple barre, in the libertie of the Duchie of Lancaster. This Inne of Chancerie with other houses neare adioyning, were pulled downe in the raigne of Edward the 6. by Edward Duke of Sommerset, who in place thereof raised that large and beautifull house, but yet vnfinished, called Sommerset house.

There was moreouer in the raigne of king Henrie the sixt, a tenth house of Chancerie, mentioned by Iustice Fortescue, in his booke of the lawes of England, but where it stood, or when it was abandoned, I cannot finde, and therefore I will leaue it, and returne to the rest.

Houses of court what they be.

The houses of Court bee replenished partly with young studentes, and partly with graduates and practisers of the law: but the Innes of Chancerie being as it were, prouinces, seuerally subiected to the Innes of Court, be chiefly furnished with Officers, Atturneyes, Soliciters and Clarkes, that follow the Courtes of the Kings Bench, or Common pleas (fn. 1) : and yet there want not some other, being young students that come thither sometimes from one of the Uniuersities, and sometimes immediately from Grammar schooles, and these hauing spent sometime in studying vpon the first elements and grounds of the lawe, and hauing performed the exercises of their own houses (called Boltas Mootes, and putting of cases) they proceed to be admitted, and become students in some of these foure houses or Innes of Court, where continuing by the space of seuen yeares, or thereaboutes, they frequent readinges, meetings, boltinges, and other learned exercises, whereby growing ripe in the knowledge of the lawes, and approued withall to be of honest conuersation, they are either by the generall consent of the Benchers, or Readers, being of the most auncient, graue, and iudiciall men of euerie Inne of the Court, or by the speciall priuiledge of the present reader there, selected and called to the degree of Vtter Barresters, and so enabled to be common counsellers, and to practise the law, both in their chambers, and at the Barres.

Of these after that they be called to a further steppe of preferment, called the Bench, there are twaine euerie yeare chosen among the Benchers of euery Inne of Court, to bee readers there, who do make their readings at two times in the yeare also: that is, one in Lent, and the other at the beginning of August.

Apprentices at the law.

And for the helpe of young students in euerie of the Innes of Chauncerie, they do likewise choose out of euery one Inne of court a Reader, being no Bencher, but an vtter Barrester there, of 10. or 12 yeares continuance, and of good profite in studie. Nowe from these of the sayd degree of Counsellors, or Vtter Barresters, hauing continued therein the space of fourteene or fifteene yeares at the leaste, the chiefest and best learned are by the Benchers elected to increase the number, as I sayd, of the Bench amongst them, and so in their time doe become first single, and then double readers, to the students of those houses of Court: after which last reading they bee named Apprentices at the lawe, and in default of a sufficient number of Sergeants at law, these are, at the pleasure of the Prince, to be aduaunced to the places of Sergeants: out of which number of Sergeants also the void places of Judges are likewise ordinarily filled, albeit now and then some be aduaunced by the speciall fauour of the Prince, to the estate, dignitie, and place, both of Sergeant and Judge, as it were in one instant. But from thenceforth they hold not any roome in those Innes of Court, being translated to one of the sayde two Innes, called Sergeantes Innes, where none but the Sergeants and Iudges do conuerse.


  • 1. pleas] place 1598, 1603