Lincoln's Inn Fields

Category: Parks and Open spaces

Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest public square in London. It was laid out in part by Inigo Jones in the 17th century and opened to the public after its acquisition by London County Council in 1895. It is today managed by the London Borough of Camden and forms part of the southern boundary of that borough with the City of Westminster.

It takes its name from the adjacent Lincoln’s Inn, but should not be confused with the private gardens of Lincoln’s Inn itself. Lincoln’s Inn is separated from Lincoln’s Inn Fields by a perimeter wall and a large gatehouse.

At number 13, on the north side of the square, is Sir John Soane’s Museum, home of the architect. Organizations with premises on the south side of the square include Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Surgeons (including the Hunterian Museum exhibiting the intriguing medical collections of John Hunter) and HM Land Registry. There is a blue plaque marking the home of the surgeon William Marsden at number 65. There is a statue by Barry Flanagan, an abstract called Camdonian, in the North East corner of the square.

The grassed area in the centre of the Fields contains a court for tennis and netball and a bandstand and is used for corporate events in the summer.

There was a theatre in the Fields from 1661 to 1848, originally the Duke’s Theatre in what was originally Lisle’s Tennis Court, replaced by the New Theatre in 1705.

When originally laid out, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was part of fashionable London. The oldest building from this period is Lindsey House, 59-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was built in 1640 and has been attributed to Inigo Jones. It derives its name from a period of ownership in the 18th century by the Earls of Lindsey.

Another seventeenth century survival is now 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was built for Lord Powis and known as Powis House. The charter of the Bank of England was sealed there on 27 July 1694. It was in 1705 acquired by the Duke of Newcastle (whereupon it became known as Newcastle House) who had it remodelled by Sir John Vanbrugh (following earlier work by Sir Christopher Wren after a fire in 1684). It remains substantially in its circa 1700 form although a remodelling in 1930 by Sir Edwin Lutyens gives it a curiously pastiche appearance.

As London fashion moved west, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was left to rich lawyers who were held there by its proximity to the Inns of Court. Thus, the former Newcastle House became in 1790 the premises of the solicitors Farrer & Co who are still there: their clients include much of the landed gentry and also Queen Elizabeth II.

In Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, the sinister solicitor to the aristocracy Mr Tulkinghorn has his offices in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and one of its most dramatic scenes is set there. The description of his building corresponds most closely to Lindsey House.

From 1750-1992, the solicitors Frere Cholmeley were in premises on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, after which their buildings were taken over by a leading set of commercial barristers’ chambers, known as Essex Court Chambers after their own former premises at 4 Essex Court in the Temple. Essex Court Chambers now occupy five buildings between 24-28 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Other barristers’ chambers have since then also set up in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, although solicitors’ firms still outnumber them there.

Cricket and several other sports are thought to have been played here in the 18th century.


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