1388 - Origins of the Inn

The precise date of the establishment of the Inn in the premises of the Greys’ manor house is not documented. The earliest known reference to the existence of the Inn as a lodging of lawyers appears to be in 1370, when it is referred to as a “hospitium”. The first definite reference to Gray’s Inn … Continued


1530 - First Treasurer

He was the Autumn Reader 1530, and first Treasurer of Gray’s Inn from Michaelmas in the same year. He is, however, mostly notable as the father of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s famous, and notorious, Principal Secretary, himself admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1552. The Walsingham arms are pictured above.

1541 - Lord Burghley

William Cecil, later Lord Burghley (1520-1598), admitted 1541 and elected an Ancient 1547.

1588 - Armada Screen

Defeat of the Spanish Armada led by the Admiral Lord Howard of Effingham, a member of the Inn. The Armada Screen at the west end of Hall (pictured above) is believed, in part at least, to contain wood salvaged from a Spanish galleon and was the gift of Queen Elizabeth I (the Inn’s patron lady).

1600 - The Griffin

Around 1595-1600 the Inn ceased to use the arms of the de Grey family and instead adopted the griffin as its official badge. There is no definite explanation for this, but the most likely possibility is that the griffin (perhaps borrowed from the arms of Richard Aungier, repeatedly Treasurer in the late 16th century) was … Continued

1608 - The Walks

The Inn’s gardens, known as ‘the Walks’, were laid out by Sir Francis Bacon in 1608. The Walks today remain one of the largest privately owned gardens in London.

Bradshaw Cook

1649 - The Regicides

Members John Bradshaw (1602-59; called 1627) and John Cooke or Cook (1608-60; called 1631) were the judge – President of the High Court of Justice – and prosecutor respectively at the trial of Charles I in 1649.

1684 - Disastrous Fires

In the late 17th century the Inn suffered a series of disastrous fires, which taken together substantially depressed its fortunes, already weakened by the Civil War and the changes in the legal system, and impoverished it for years. The most damaging was that of 1684, which destroyed among other buildings the library and its contents. … Continued

Sir John Holt

1689 - Sir John Holt

Sir John Holt (1642-1710; called 1663) was Lord Chief Justice from 1689. He declined the Great Seal in 1700. In a time when the legal system was notoriously corrupt and inefficient, Holt was famous for his enormous integrity and fairness in judgment. He was particularly influential in ending the prosecution of witches.

1702 - Revd Adam Buddle

Revd Adam Buddle (1662-1715) was appointed Gray’s Inn Chapel Reader in 1702. Buddle was not only an impoverished clergyman but also a noted botanist, especially expert in mosses. Linnaeus named the buddleia in his honour.

1723 - Gates to the Walks

The present gates to the Walks are erected bearing the initials of the Treasurer at the time, William Gylby or Gilby. The Walks today remain one of the largest privately owned gardens in London.

Sir Samuel Romilly

1783 - Sir Samuel Romilly

Samuel Romilly (1757-1818; called 1783) was one of the most distinguished Inn members of the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Robert Lush

1840 - Sir Robert Lush

Sir Robert Lush (1807-81; called 1840; Treasurer 1860) was one of the few prominent members of the Inn of the 19th century. He was known in his day for his unassuming character, sharp intellect, clarity of expression and complete lack of interest in politics. His son Sir (Charles) Montague Lush (1853-1930) was also a distinguished … Continued

Lord Atkin

1891 - Lord Atkin

James Richard Atkin (1867-1944), later Lord Atkin, was called to the Bar from the Inn in 1891.

Bust of Birkenhead

1899 - Lord Birkenhead

F E Smith (1872-1930; called 1899), later Lord Birkenhead, was equally well-known for his successful career at the Bar and his subsequent political career.

1918 - Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt first met in 1918 at a dinner in Gray’s Inn Hall. Both were elected Honorary Benchers of the Inn in World War II, and Churchill’s son was admitted to Gray’s Inn. Churchill’s bust (pictured) is displayed in Hall.

Edith Hesling

1920 - Women Admitted

Edith Hesling (1899-1971; later Bradbury), admitted on 4 October 1920, the first woman called to the Bar at the Inn, on 13 June 1923.

1922 - Dr B. R. Ambedkar

Dr B. R. Ambedkar was a crusader for social justice and was the chief architect of India’s Constitution which secured social and fundamental legal rights and equality for its citizens. A barrister, economist, politician and reformer, he was the first Law and Justice Minister of independent India. He was commonly known as the ‘Champion of the Untouchables.’  The … Continued

1941 - The Blitz

The Inn suffered extensive damage during the Blitz, particularly in the raid of 10/11 May 1941. Fortunately the stained windows in both Hall and Chapel had been previously removed and stored away from the Inn for safe-keeping, as had the Treasurers’ panels, the portraits and the rare books, manuscripts and archives. The 16th-century ‘Armada Screen’ … Continued

1941 - Frances Claudia Wright

Frances Claudia Wright was the first Sierra Leonean woman to be called to the Bar. She was the first Black woman called by Gray’s Inn and the second Black woman to be called to the Bar of England and Wales. Admitted: 1938 Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1941

1945 - Essi Matilda Christian

Essi Matilda Christian was the third Black woman called to the Bar of England and Wales and the first Ghanaian female lawyer.  Christian, later Mrs Forster, was the daughter of George James Christian (1869-1940, admitted 1899, called 1902), an early Black barrister of Gray’s Inn. She was admitted as Essi Matilda Christian on 3 Dec 1942 aged … Continued

1955 - Dame Joyanne Bracewell

An eminent champion of family law, Dame Joyanne Bracewell was the High Court judge responsible for drafting, and then overseeing the implementation of the Children Act 1989 – a significant piece of reforming legislation. Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1955.

1956 - Gesta Grayorum

The “Gesta Grayorum” entertainment was performed in Hall in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 13 November 1956. The entertainment was based on the installation of the Prince of Purpoole during the Christmas revels of 1594, and the “Masque of Proteus” performed before Queen Elizabeth I at Shrovetide 1595 (opinions vary as to … Continued

1956 - Benedicto Kiwanuka

Benedicto Kiwanuka was the first Prime Minister of Uganda (while it was not yet fully independent). He was the first Chief Justice of Uganda who was a native Ugandan. Born 1922, died 1972 Admitted: 1952 Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1956

1959 - Lord Bingham

Master of the Rolls 1992-96, Lord Chief Justice 1996-2000, President of the Supreme Court 1996-2010. A champion of judicial independence and the Rule of Law and heralded as one of the greatest lawyers of our time. Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1959.

1960 - Post-War Reconstruction

On 11 May 1960 the rebuilt Chapel was re-dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Geoffrey Fisher, thus bringing to an end the Inn’s post-war reconstruction. Of the non-residential buildings, the Hall had been reopened on 5 December 1951 by HRH the Duke of Gloucester and the first dinner was served on 16 … Continued

1969 - John Anthony Roberts

John Anthony Roberts was one of the first Black barristers to become a QC at the Bar of England and Wales in 1988. Born 1928, died 2016 Admitted: 1964 Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1969

1969 - Lady Hale

 Educated at a state school in Yorkshire, Brenda Hale was appointed Professor of Law at Manchester (1986), Queen’s Counsel (1989), Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and Baroness Hale of Richmond (2004) and, in 2017, the first woman President of the Supreme Court. Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1969.

1969 - Lord Thomas

Appointed Queen’s Council (1984) President of the Queen’s Bench Division (2011) and Lord Chief Justice (2013). Sir John Thomas was the most senior judge on the three-man panel that in 2016 ruled the Government could not trigger Article 50 without the authority of Parliament. Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1969.

1974 - Sir Terence Etherton

 Sir Terence Etherton is the Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, the second most senior judge in England and Wales. Britain’s first openly-gay senior judge, he has been praised for “enlightened thinking” on many sensitive and vital areas of the Law. He was also a judge on the Article 50 panel. Called … Continued

1976 - Dame Nicola Davies

 Specialising in medical cases, including the Bristol Heart Surgeons Inquiry in 1998, Dame Nicola Davies was appointed High Court judge in 2010, Court of Appeal judge in 2018 and was the first Welsh woman judge in the Court of Appeal. Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn:1976.

1981 - Dame Linda Dobbs

Dame Linda Dobbs, a Bencher of the Inn, was the first Black senior judge of England and Wales (High Court Judge 2004-2013).  Admitted: 1980 Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1981  

Rose Heilbron

1985 - Rose Heilbron

Dame Rose Heilbron (1914-2005; called 1939) was one of the country’s most famous barristers and the Inn’s first female Treasurer.

1989 - Dame Bobbie Cheema-Grubb

The Hon. Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb is a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and the first Asian woman to serve as a High Court judge.   Called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn: 1989.

1997 - Expansion of the BVC

The Bar Vocational Course (BVC), now known as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), is expanded to additional providers throughout the UK. The Bar Vocational Course (BVC), known as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) from the 2010-11 academic year, was provided solely by the Inns of Court School of Law until 1997. From the … Continued