The inns of Court

The Inns of Court are a group of institutions that have historically been responsible for legal education in London, England. They consist of the Inner Temple and Middle Temple (both housed within The Temple), Lincoln’s Inn, and Gray’s Inn—all of which are located in the general vicinity of The Royal Courts of Justice.

The Inns of Court have been around for over 800 years, and they're still a bit of a mystery.

Since their inception in the Middle Ages, they have been devoted to the technical study of English law, rather than Roman law, which was taught in universities. Previously, the law was learned in the course of service—the first rudiments possibly in private clerkship to some official. By the mid-13th century when common law had become extensive and intricate there arose a class of men literate but lay who created and dominated the legal profession and set up Inns.

And while they might not be very well-known outside of England, they've actually been responsible for educating some of the most famous legal minds in history—including Oliver Cromwell and William Blackstone!

You can tell how important these institutions are to English culture just by how seriously everyone takes them: until recently, you weren't considered a "real lawyer" unless you'd been called to the bar at one of these four Inns.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
The Royal Courts of Justice
Located on the Strand, this majestic building is just a few minutes away from London’s Theatreland. Founded in 1873, it was designed in the style of a cathedral and decorated with beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics marble floors leading to enchanting corridors for an exciting visit to one of London’s best-kept secrets.
Temple Church
The Temple Church is a historic church in London, England dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, and sits adjacent to the Inner Temple.
Home of inventors, authors, artists, and hauntings, Holborn’s history is salacious.
Red Lion Square
Developed by an unscrupulous property developer, the square’s stories are hallmarks of Holborn’s history.
Grays Inn
For over a year, Charles Dickens clerked at Grays Inn in the heart of Holborn.
Australia House
Australia House, is the oldest Australian diplomatic mission and serves as the High Commission of Australia in London.

Related Tours

The Inns of Court: London's Legal History Private Walking Tour
Discover the hidden secrets and fascinating history of the buildings and courts that make up the Inns of Court in London while you learn from a knowledgeable guide about how this unique part of London’s legal history went from being home to barristers to becoming a marvellous sightseeing spot for tourists from all over the world.

On your private walking tour, you will:

  • Immerse yourself into Holborn, famous as a law quarter of London;
  • Explore the Inns of Court and discover the legacy of these ancient legal institutions in London;
  • View perfectly preserved courtyards, chapels and libraries – many unchanged since medieval times; 
  • Hear of gripping trials and the brilliant advocates who made them, figures such as Lord Mansfield, FE Smith, Edward Carson, and Marshall Hall;
  • Visit Staple Inn, one of the Inns Of Chancery lodgings for lawyers;
  • Discover Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four remaining Inns of Court;
  • Stroll down Carey Street, where lawyers go for a drink and admire one of London's most magnificent views;
  • See the Royal Courts of Justice, a Gothic Revival masterpiece and learn about its history and court structure;
  • Sneak into a secret passage and discover the Middle and Inner Temple, the structure of legal services in England and Wales between cobbled lanes, sparkling fountains and beautiful gardens;
  • End your tour at the Temple Church, which became very popular after being featured in the book and the film The Da Vinci Code.

The Inns of Court, also known as the “Inner Temple” and “Middle Temple,” are three historic legal institutions located in Central London. The Inns are privately run and have trained barristers since 1450. Along with Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn and the Inner Temple (Middle Temple), they are often referred to as “The Inns of Court.”

Built upon the legacy of the Crusades and shaped by the ancient traditions of the English common law, these cloistered precincts have witnessed generations of change and upheaval, while the nearby Royal Courts of Justice and Old Bailey have played host to the most gripping trials in English history. 

This tour will explore the ancient roots of England’s legal profession and their connection with the Knights Templars; revolution, wars and reform; and the changing face of crime, punishment and mercy through the ages.

Hear the stories of the first lawyers, who would meet in taverns to discuss legal cases, tour courtyards and learn how these locations became important in shaping British law and how they are still used today.


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