Gray's Inn

Benchers

Benchers from 1700 to 1970

Pension once consisted not of Benchers but of Readers. The position of Bencher originated as an expedient, at first rarely used, for co-opting men onto Pension who were deemed necessary but for whatever reason - poor health, excessive external commitment or the like - were unable to undertake the onerous duties of Readers. Francis Bacon was an early example, but by no means the first: he was elected a Bencher in 1586 without first serving as a Reader, although he did later do so, in 1588 and again in 1600. Benchers had replaced Readers as the governing body of the Inn by the mid-17th century. Even without the duties of readership, the post was unpopular, and the Pension minutes contain long lists of members who preferred to be fined rather than to serve: in 1727 two had their chambers padlocked by order of Pension in an attempt to force them to accept the call to the Bench.

During the late 18th and the greater part of the 19th century there were so few Benchers that those that there were often had to take two turns at the Treasurership. It was also apparently occasionally necessary to import them from other Inns.

The following lists provide the names of the Inn's Benchers for the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries (up to 1970):

Royal Benchers are also included in the lists, but for convenience of reference their names are repeated here:

  • HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn - 4 July 1881
  • HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught - 12 June 1907
  • HRH Prince Henry, later Duke of Gloucester - 28 Apr 1926; Treasurer 1954
  • HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales - 3 Feb 1975
  • HRH The Duke of Gloucester - 14 Nov 2000
  • HRH The Duchess of Cornwall - 15 Feb 2012
  • HRH The Duchess of Gloucester - 18 Oct 2018

Also, HRH Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg was elected an Honorary Bencher on 15 June 1988.

See Masters of the Bench for a list of current Benchers.