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The first Inn’s first porter was Edward Ingram, appointed in 1591 and given just one duty: “to keep the gates”. However, by 1651, it was no longer feasible for one man alone to oversee the safety of the Inn at night, therefore a further two officers were appointed on rotation throughout the week to help the porter shut up the gates and patrol the grounds, searching for suspicious persons. 

From 1708, the porters were ordered to control entry into the chapel, they were also directed to stop idle people from lurking about the Inn, and to prohibit horses and hackney coaches from riding through or turning into the Inn.  

It is unknown when the title ‘Head Porter’ was first created, the role developing naturally as the Inn employed a greater number of porters, but it was first mentioned in Pension in 1720. In 1895, the Inn hired William Finn as Head Porter, Finn’s background was within the military, and he worked until well into his 70s, being one of the longest-serving Head Porters when he retired in 1929. 

Finn was replaced by Harry Ivey who served as Head Porter for over twenty years and, like Finn before, was well-liked and respected by members of the Inn. During World War II, Ivey distinguished himself at the Inn for fighting the fires that caused so much damage to the Inn’s buildings. As a gift to mark his retirement in 1951, a portrait of Ivey in his robes was painted by H. Kennedy McElwee, a Member of Hall. 

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The archives of Gray's Inn form a compact collection relating mostly to the Society's conduct of its own business

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