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Gray’s Inn Gardens, known as “the Walks,”  were first laid out by Sir Francis Bacon in 1608. 

In 1609, Bacon had a summerhouse built upon a mount on the Upper Walks, where No. 5 Raymond Buildings stands today. The roof was supported on slender pillars and topped with a lofty gilt griffin. The house was dedicated to the memory of his friend and fellow Bencher, Jeremy Bettenham (donor of much of the Inn’s early silver). To the north and south of the house were flower gardens, which were later replaced by rows of trees. 

The avenues of trees, clipped into shape, lasted throughout the 17th century, and the Walks became a place of fashion, a popular location for the elite of London to visit. For example, diarist Samuel Pepys mentions his visits to the Walks in his diary.” 

In 1701, the Walks were the scene of a duel between Captain Greenwood and Mr. Ottway. This unfortunate encounter resulted in the killing of Mr. Ottway, the trial of Captain Greenwood, and his conviction for manslaughter. 

In 1723, wrought iron gates leading into the Walks from Field Court were erected by the Treasurer of the time, William Gilbey. These gates still stand today, and Gilbey’s initials can be seen, alongside a T for Treasurer, in the gates. 

In 1802, the Walks themselves fell prey to development with the start of the Verulam Buildings, and by 1825, the Raymond Buildings were completed. Raymond Buildings was home to the solicitor’s office where trainee solicitor Charles Dickens first started work; the high desk he used there can now be seen in the Doughty Street Museum. 

On the west side of the Great Walk, there is a single twisted trunk of an ancient catalpa, the remains of a greater tree crushed beneath an up-rooted plane tree in the hurricane of 1987. Legend has it that this tree was planted by Sir Francis Bacon; however, it is most likely that it was an import from the Orient a hundred years later. 

Today, the Walks are still open to be enjoyed by members of the public. Being one of the largest privately owned gardens in London, they are open from 12 to 2.30 p.m. on weekdays. 

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