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The life of the Inn is very much focused on the Hall, and this was particularly so during the 15th and 16th centuries. During this period, students resided in the Inn; lunch and supper attendance in Hall was compulsory, as were teaching and practical sessions. 

The Hall has been its present size and shape since it was rebuilt in 1556–8, apart from the Screen at the west end of the Hall, which was added at a later date. It was traditionally claimed that the Screen, or part of it, was made from the wood of the captured Spanish Galleon of 1588 and that the wood was a gift of Queen Elizabeth I, owing to its name, the Armada Screen. 

Many plays and performances have been staged in the Hall. Famously, on December 28, 1594, the Inn made theatrical history; the first known performance of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” took place in Gray’s Inn Hall as part of the Inn’s Christmas festivities. 

In 1815, in order to heat the Hall more efficiently than a fireplace in the wall, a heavy iron stove with three sides and a flat top was installed in the centre of the Hall. Each side formed a fireplace, with the smoke being drawn away through flues led under the floor and connected to a chimney. 

The Inn was badly damaged during the Blitz, and although partially destroyed, the Hall’s 16th-century walls managed to survive. Thankfully, the stained glass, paintings, and Treasurers’ shields had already been removed to a place of safety and were replaced on the reconstructed walls. 

The Hall has always been the hub of the Inn and continues to be today, used for a variety of events across the year, including Call to the Bar, Revels, and daily lunches. 

The walls and windows of Hall are adorned with stained glass and the Treasurer’s Armorial Panels. Some of the stained glass can be traced back to the 16th century. The earliest commemoration is dated 1462, which can be seen on the top left-hand side of the north-side oriel window. In the centre of that window at the top are the great arms of the Duke of Albermarle (General Monck), who led King Charles II’s army into London at the Restoration. 

The Armorial Panels run around Hall, representing those who have served the Inn as Treasurer since 1775, which is the oldest panel, although the position of Treasurer runs back further. To this day, the Inn continues the historical tradition of displaying the Treasurer’s personal coat of arms, accompanied by some of their achievements inscribed in Latin. 

Find out more

History of Chapel

Historical information about the Chapel

The Walks

Take a look at the history of The Walks

The Archives

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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